Epic Scottish Weekender – (pm) 3rd June

One of the flatter sections of the Red Downhill run – There was no way I was going to try and stop to take photos on the steep sections!

Ben staggered into the cafe after riding the Black World Cup Downhill course, sat on the floor, and just said “Oh, my God!” Now I’ve ridden with Ben quite a bit and to be honest not much phases him…. but the look on his face said it all. He’d probably just ridden the most extreme 2.8km of his life!

Bruce came in soon after, 3rd run on the Red done and he was learning the lines, he was grinning, and the look of a man high as a kite on natural adrenalin. He said he need a rest and offered his uplift pass. James didn’t want it, but just looking at Bruce’s manic grin, I wanted a piece of that action. Kit on, and round to the gondola up lift.

The lift went up next to the Black World Cup course, I could quickly see why Ben had been in the state he was earlier…. talk about extreme! Well it is being used on the weekend of 8/9/10th June for the Downhill World Championships!

As the gondola climbed I could now see the Red run, it looked fantastic! Dropping 543m (1780ft) in about 3 miles, this was going to be on a par with Alps riding! I was buzzing as I got off the Gondola and rode to the start. A quick photo and post on Facebook and I was ready.

The first section gradually decended on swoopy gravel singletrack shooting towards the boardwalk that crosses Aonach Mor. The boardwalk was pretty wide, but you’re hitting it speed, and some of the really crazy almost tabletop jump sections had me hanging on for dear life. In places it crested rocky outcrops that I used as jumps, but the gusting wind meant getting your tyres back on the boards pretty quick was a priority before it took you off the side.

Soon it starting dropping away pretty quickly, the bike wanting to accelerate as the boardwalk ran round the side of a rocky outcrop….. The boards dropped again, and again, then suddenly kicked up and left…. a glance to the right and there was nothing… just down! Oh, Shit! Go off the side here and the bike would cartwheel a couple hundred feet down!

Now a flatter section dropping onto some bedrock, just time to get your head together before the bedrock starts to point down. Follow the red dots for the line down. Steep rocky sections interspersed with boardwalk took me to the top of a ridgeline. The trail now dropped steeply in a series of rocky sections….. my god my legs were going to explode!

Halfway down I thought that if Bruce didn’t want another run I had to convince James to have a go. It would blow his mind! If not, I’d have another run…

Dropping through the tree line the trail turned very loamy, but got steeper still, I was now almost falling from one corner to the next… “Bloody hell, this is mental!” Soon the trail ‘leveled out’, well not exactly leveled out, more got less steep! A series of berms and rollers then out onto a fire road that rolled down to the car park.

Looking at my cycle computer I’d done it in around 14 mins, although I’d had to stop for a rider walking on a boardwalk section, and on the very steep ridgeline section I’d had to slow to pass a group of 3 riders wobbling down on their full suspension Orange 5s….. “Hardtail rider coming through…… Losers!”

Walking into the Cafe with a manic grin Bruce was kitting up ready to go again. I gave him his lift pass and he and Ben headed for the gondolas. I can’t remember the conversation with James at that point, I was high as a kite, but the end result was we were getting kitted up and ready to pay for a single uplift! It was 3.30, the uplift finished at 3.45 so we raced round, got our tickets and up we went.

My plan was to try and beat my 14mins descent, but I ended up having to stop several times as my legs were shot. Soon we were at the bottom, James grinning like a loon, “That was amazing, I’m so glad I rode it!”

The drive back to Aviemore was a gradual adrenelin comedown with all the talk of how mental the downhill riding had been…

Ride – #97     Bike – Gary Fisher Paragon 29’er

Miles – 6.6     Total 2012 miles – 1953.5

“Epic Scottish Weekender” miles – 84.4


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