The 2014 season was upon us! Over the NZ summer it had seemed like an eternity since I last raced.
Chula Vista WC (September) was the end of the 2013 season for me and since then it had been nose to the grindstone for 5 months building strength for the upcoming season. Five months with not a breath of racing had been gruelling and tough, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was time to get back into competitive racing to see if all the summer’s hard work had paid off, so I was super excited coming into Manchester.
As a team, we headed off a week early as we had a training week on the World Cup track before the event started. As soon as we arrived it was freezing cold and we all knew we should have packed warmer clothes. The weather was overcast and gloomy which was quite a change from the warm NZ summer!
We had 3 sessions on the SX track leading into the event. Coming into the first session we were all so nervous! We had watched so many videos, which in hindsight was not a great idea as most of the videos were of crashes. The 2nd straight pro section was big and steep, which was all doing our heads in. The rest of the team all looked to me to jump the 2nd straight first because they knew that if anyone was going to make it through there first it was going to be me. After I had been through the rest of the guys did as well and we got into the session. The track was super fun and fast! The big jumps and high speeds were right up my alley and I was having a blast all week! Big smile on my face. The Great Britain and Aussie teams joined us on a few occasions and it was great to be able to ride with buddies and get a feel for the track before the World Cup kicked off.
Before we knew it, the first practice was upon us. Having all ridden the track the week before, all the nerves of the first practice were pushed aside. I just went out there and had fun, threw some whips and enjoyed myself before qualifying. With the 2014 came a new qualifying format. In the past you had to do a single Time Trial to make the top 64 cut, but now they gave away the TT for a 3-moto format. Manchester was the first race they were débuting this new format. Personally, I would prefer the TT format because it is strength of mine but racing would make it more exciting.
There was mixed emotions about getting back in the gate, but it was good to know the 2014 season was underway. I struggled with my first heat race with a 5th, but finished strong with a 2nd and a 1st in the other heats to qualify through to tomorrow night’s finals in 31st. There were 150 riders trying to qualify to 48 spots in only 3 heat races. There were some big names that failed to qualify so it was a relief to make it through.
Saturday night brought round race night. With racing not starting till 7pm it was hard to fill the morning without getting anxious about that night. The stands were full and the atmosphere inside the arena was spectacular.
An outside lane in my first round got me squeezed into the first turn but managed to climb my way back to finish 4th. 2nd round was a little bit better and I managed to get a good start and clean run through the first turn. Holding on through the 2nd straight was the key to doing well as so many riders came in too hot and over jumped the big step up. A clean lap saw me end up 3rd with 1 round left. I was lucky enough to have an inside lane next to Connor Fields and we both got out great and I slotted behind him into the first turn. From there it was follow the leader to the finish line in hopes of a good lap time to qualify me high for the quarterfinals.
My 3rd round lap got me into 3rd pick for the quarter and I lined up between Joris Daudet and Barry Nobles. I got a good snap but Joris beat me out and fell into my lane to shut me off. Being on the back foot on the start I raced towards the inside of the first turn to get a good line but it was not to be. As I dove under I collided with another rider, which put me to the ground. I could only watch as the rest of the field raced on. No injuries for me but I came up a little short of the goal of making the semi-final. Never the less, I had loads of fun riding the track and there were many work-ons to come out of the event. It was awesome to watch the rest of the kiwi guys make it through to the semi with impressive riding! New Zealand is really starting making their stamp on the international scene and it is super exciting to be a part of.
Next race for me is in the USA where I will compete at 2 National Series Rounds before heading to Berlin for the 3rd World Cup of the year. Can’t wait for what the rest of the season holds!