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GUEST BLOG: HEATHER KAY

Posted on July 31 2014

4X Pro Tour Rd 5 – JBC Revelations, Jabalonec Nad Nisou, Czech Where to start? The journey was long and pretty boring involving lots of queuing, sitting, and waiting, eventually our friendly Jaegermeister bus driver Stanley dropped us off at the hotel in Jabalonec, we quickly unpacked and rebuilt our bikes to head up to the track for track walk and practice. The track looked amazing, loose surface, some interesting line choices and a gnarly step down straight out of the start gate. We were soon raring to go, first challenge… drag lift. For my first run I took it easy, I couldn’t believe how loose the track was, sections I wasn’t worried about took on a whole new light. When I got to the top for my second run Alex Metcalfe dragged me up to the top of the start ramp, I wanted to warm up a bit more and get comfy but he knew I’d need encouragement to give it a go (and he was right!). I sat on the gate and took several deep breaths, I knew I could do it, that all I had to do was let go of the brakes and commit to it, but it took some serious will power… The first attempt was a bit sketchy so I stopped and went straight back up for another go, and nailed it. Now for the rest of the track! After a few more runs I was starting to get up to pace when I got a flat and crashed on a fast section. Feeling pretty sore I headed down to the vans to repair my bike, with some much appreciated help from Mike Beaumont I was soon back on track, but my confidence had been bruised and before I could get back on form practice was over. A quick shower, dinner and then we headed to the welcome ceremony, it was pretty much all in Czech but it was great to soak up the atmosphere and there were some great videos and a firework finale before heading off to bed. wt2 Photo by Charles the Tog Friday was quali day, after a late breakfast I headed out for a walk around Jabalonec taking in the amazing architecture and scenery, relaxing and making the most of the experience, after lunch we were soon headed back up to the track for practice, my confidence was still pretty battered from the previous day so I got a few runs in before trying the start ramp, when I got up there to give it a go I saw someone had crashed on it and the start was shut, this didn’t help the mental state so I carried on practicing the rest. I soon realized it was Katharina, one of the other girls that had crashed, Nat and Helene were with her as she was suffering from concussion and not sure where she was. Everyone was concerned for her but also for whether or not we would be allowed to race with only 3 of us. I found the commissar and the series organizer to see what the situation was, they said that we could race but it wouldn’t be an official UCI race. When I told the girls Nat decided that she wanted to race and that to do so she would have to try the start ramp too, I gave her some support and advice but didn’t want to force her to do it if she didn’t want to. She had a go but braked and knuckled the landing, throwing her forwards off the bike so hard it snapped her brake off, she was pretty badly bruised and seemed to have sprained her knee, so then we were 2… Helene and I really didn’t know what to do, we’d come all this way to race but with only 2 girls it was a bit of a non race. We were all pretty gutted but eventually Helene and I decided that we would do our qualification runs and then decide if we would race or not. Decision made we realized that there was barely 5 minutes of practice left, and I still hadn’t done the start ramp that day! We headed up to the start and got a couple of gates in, both of us relieved that the other hadn’t crashed! We had a short break before our runs and then it was back up to the start, I was first out, Cooper was sitting in the commentary box, the cameras were rolling and it was time to go… I climbed onto the gate, nerves pounding, trying to stay calm and focused. The gate dropped, and I was off, I survived the first straight and headed into the steep loose run in to the huge doubles, as I was slowing down to roll the first double I realized I had a flat tire. I couldn’t believe my bad luck, I knew I had to keep going so being mindful of my rims and trying not to wash out I rolled through the whole track. I got to the bottom and quickly got out of the way to watch Helene come down, she was looking pretty good and clocked in a nice run. She was gutted for me but we were both glad we had decided to do it. I grabbed some spares and headed up the track to watch the men’s runs. Before long it was shower and dinner time, a few people were heading out to the party but I decided to head back to the hotel and get an early night after all the emotions of my first Pro Tour qualification! wt1 Photo by Charles the Tog Saturday we had arranged to meet at 10am to head for a swim in the lake, it was a beautiful day and I couldn’t wait to get in the refreshing water, it was an ideal temperature and there was a floating raft to do flips and jumps off, it was great relaxing and having a laugh with the guys, Helene and I had a good chat about what we were going to do and decided that having come all this way we were going to race just the 2 of us, it was exciting and deflating at the same time. Yes the track isn’t easy, the start is scary but it’s not difficult, everything else is roll able, even if the track is loose and the wood and rock sections are hard there are easier lines through them, it is an impressive track and not for the faint hearted but there are plenty of girls on the circuit capable of riding it so where were they? We left the lake to get a quick lunch before heading back up to the track. After a few runs I was feeling pretty comfortable on track and knew that I’d reached a point where I was going to start pushing myself to the point of crashing, not wanting to risk injury I decide to finish practice early and soak up the atmosphere. I caught up with Nat and Katharina who were both gutted but great support. The afternoon was a bit of a blur, presentations, air displays, huge crowd, sun beating down, and cameras everywhere. I took refuge in the commentary box with Cooper getting a great view of everything and being able to relax a bit. As it neared the finals the nerves started to kick in, so having learnt from Austria that the best thing to do is to get on your bike I set of to do some warm up laps along the road. Then Hannes Slavik crashed, the atmosphere amongst the riders changed dramatically, a crash like that really brings home to everyone the risks of what we are doing, and you could see it in all of our faces. Praying for him to be ok the guys lined up for the B final, Helene and I knew we were next, trying to put images of the crash out of my mind I lined up ready to race, as we stepped up to the gate, the Czech commentator obviously told the crowd it was ladies racing because all of a sudden there was a massive roar of support. The gate dropped and we were off, Helene got a head start out of the gate plus the inside line in the first corner but I was hot on her heels, she pulled away a bit in the woods but once we were out I could feel myself gaining on her again, as we headed up the slope for the drop into the rock garden I lost my marker point and caught a rock just to the left of my line. It flicked my front tire out and I was eating dust. I jumped back on with twisted bars and smashed number board and set off in hot pursuit knowing anything could happen on that track, once I saw she had finished I relaxed a bit which was a fateful error as I slid out in the next corner, picking myself up I focused on getting across the line. Helene was great, she had been so worried I’d hurt myself. We headed out of the finishing area only to see all of the other British guys with massive grins on their faces, so stoked with what I’d achieved in my first ever Pro Tour, suddenly it sank in that I’d been on pace and holding my own (until the crash) on the World circuit! With barely any time to prepare I headed back up to the wall ride for podium presentations. Standing back there with the World’s top riders, looking out at the crowd, hearing the buzz of energy this event creates was awe inspiring. The podium is a total blur, I remember standing with Helene on the top step and her saying to me “enjoy it!” the crowd were wild, the sun was beating down, all the dust was creating a misty haze and I was trying really hard not to make a fool of myself! After presentations I managed to find Pete Newman, unload all of my prizes on him and ride back to the hotel. Everyone was already ready for the restaurant so I quickly grabbed a shower, dismantled and packed my bike and headed off to join them, and boy did that first pint taste sweet! If you want to know how good the after party was, just watch the videos! Let’s just say I don’t remember how I got back to the hotel… Sunday morning came with a sore head, luckily I didn’t have much left to pack. We sat out in hotel reception waiting for Stanley and the Jaegermeister bus to take us to the airport. How we all squeezed in with all our kit is beyond me. As we left Jabalonec the heavens opened, in no time all the roads were rivers, luckily Stanley was not daunted by it all and he soon got us to Prague. It was time to say goodbye to the Czech Republic, and start the long journey home, I left with some amazing souvenirs, the welcome we received and the friendliness of the other riders was incredible, all I knew was that I couldn’t wait until the next opportunity to race a Pro Tour, maybe round 7 in Bulgaria, who knows…
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