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GUEST BLOG: HEATHER KAY

Posted on June 26 2014

4X World Championships – Leogang, Austria I woke up, looked at the clock, 5:15am Tuesday morning, I knew there would be no more sleeping for me so got up, finished packing the van and headed to the service station on my way to work. Filled up, jumped in the van, key in the ignition…nothing, just a click, I couldn’t believe it. Managed to get a recovery truck to take me to Hi Line services in Tedburn St Mary, who dropped everything to help get me on the road, one starter motor later I was ready to leave work and get going. First stop Bristol, to meet Cara and Liz, pick up their bikes and kit then get on my way to pick up Clare near Cambridge, so about an hour away, bang on schedule and… the road is blocked, I only had her post code so my phone managed to get me back en route until… it crashed, blank screen, nothing happening, driving along with no idea where to go and a ferry deadline. I stopped in a small service station and the staff grabbed a computer from upstairs got me the address and made me a free cup of tea! Half an hour later I pulled up at Clare’s hoping that that was the end of my troubles. Walking up ready for race runs - photo Charles the Tog (Photo by Charles the Tog) Clare jumped in with all her kit and a delicious sausage sandwich for me, back on the road to Dover, arriving bang on time for the ferry. Passport control as per usual asked where we were going, I don’t think they expected us to pipe up with “The World Chamionships”, we were quickly waved through to get stopped by customs. “Can you open the back of the van?” I jumped out opened the doors and he literally took a step back at the mass of bikes. “Did you pack all these bags?” Hell no! I started indicating different bags packed by different people, the customs officer quickly gave up grabbed the nearest bag to pop through his machine, got me to walk through his metal detector and got rid of us pronto! As soon as we were on the ferry we grabbed a sofa, pulled our hats over our heads and got an hour and a half’s kip. All too soon we were woken and back on the road. The drive through France and Germany was long, uneventful, tiring and hot, very hot. 27 hours after setting off I arrived in Leogang with major truckers arm, a hot frustrated husky, and an excited Clare. We were welcomed to the Chalet by Liz and Bloomers, and headed into Leogang for dinner then bed. Thursday was practice day, we weren’t allowed on the track until 4:15pm, so I tried to have a lie in in the morning, relax in the chalet, then we headed over for a track walk followed by the team meeting to collect our number boards. The track was steep, with off camber sections, beasty rock gardens and huge jumps, I was excited and looking forward to getting out for practice, knowing my DH experience would hold me in good stead. We had barely 2 hours practice, and despite being hot and tired I really wanted to get more runs in as I was only just beginning to get a feel for it. Kay Heather Friday was qualification day, yet again no access to the track until 4:15pm, so it was all about keeping yourself occupied without exerting yourself on the bike. Tricky when you have mountains all around you and nerves flying. Eventually it was time to head into Leogang, practice flew by, and all of a sudden we were standing at the top of the track waiting our turn. The emotions running through you are undescribable, anticipation, fear, pride, adrenalin… I lined up for the gate, trying to work out the signals for each stage of preparation. I lined myself up in lane 3 (the best for riding alone in quails) waited for the signal, got my feet on the pedals and the gate was set… the gate dropped, and I froze, suddenly my brain clicked into action and I was off. I was fairly happy with my run and came through the gate to see myself in 8th with 5 left to run. At the end of quali’s I was in 12th place and anxious to see the draw for finals on Saturday. We got back to the chalet and the draws came through, I’d be racing Helene Valerie Fruhwirth from Austria, Lucia Oetjen from Switzerland (qualified in 4th and 5th) and Cara Murray from team GB, in my quarter final. I was pretty gutted, I knew I was going to be in for a really tough race, Cara has won all of the rounds of the National series so far and Helene and Lucia are seasoned international riders. Never the less anything can happen in 4X, in qualification I wasn’t far off the times of any of the girls so I knew I had to try my hardest and hope for the best. All of a sudden it was race day! Saturday morning, everyone in the chalet was trying to control their emotions, keep themselves occupied and focused. Tinkering with the bikes and taking slow bike rides alongside the river seemed the best solution to survive the nerves. Yet again practice wasn’t starting until 4:15pm and the day dragged on and on. We got to practice and the nerves disappeared as everyone focused on perfecting different line options. We had a pick up to get us back up to the top, and I will never forget getting a lift up on my own as a British guy shouted “Go on you Brits, smash ‘em” as I went past. Suddenly everything hit me. I was wearing the team GB jersey, representing my country, (something I’d dreamt of since I was a child) I looked up at the mountains in front of me, the blue sky and the wind through my jersey, and must admit a tear came to my eye. practice - photo Adam Richardson (Photo by Adam Richardson) The wait between practice and racing seemed interminable as we stood at the top of the start ramp watching the crowd gather. We watched the men’s racing 1/16 and 1/8 finals and then we were up, I lined up in gate 3 with Lucia and Helene to my left, Cara on my right, I tried to stay focused and not let the nerves effect me on the gate. The gate dropped and we were off I got a bad start and was then squeezed out by Helene. I came out of the 1st corner in 4th but hot on the heels of Cara and catching her, we approached the 1st rock garden neck and neck, I knew we couldn’t get through side by side but instead of taking the alternate line I’d practiced my brain froze and I ended up taking this ridiculously long line around the outside. Goodness knows why! Frustrated with myself I got straight on the pedals, I managed to catch up with Cara again but just didn’t have the time to make a move, all too soon the finish line arrived and I was out of racing. I was pretty gutted and angry with myself but managed to convince myself that it was a great experience and that I’d only been racing 4X for a year, but boy did it give me a fire in my belly to come back and do it again! I think Cara and Liz were also upset with their performances so we consoled ourselves and focused all our energy on Katy lining up for the ladies final. Standing in the finish area with the rest of team GB we watched with baited breath as she pulled one of the most awesome moves I’ve ever seen to come across the line ahead of Anneke and take the World Champion title. Words cannot describe the atmosphere and to then have her stand on the podium with the National Anthem of Great Britain playing lined up in our team GB shirts… it was a struggle not to shed a tear! With all the excitement over we went to get ready for the after party, where we might have celebrated a bit too much! I woke up Sunday with a sore head and a black eye from falling over on the walk home, so we headed up the mountain to watch the DH racing. It was great to have a day off without any pre race nerves where we could just relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Once we’d seen the Brits rule the downhill we headed back to the chalet to pack and get an early night for the long drive home. It was sad to say goodbye to Leogang but I’ll be doing everything in my power to have the opportunity to wear that GB jersey again.      
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