Raceblog: Chapter 3 – Fort William

By Tim Butler – “The Adventures of the Non Work Boots”

Chapter 3

 

The third stage of the trip is the longest. We head to Scotland, Austria, France again, Switzerland, then I leave Pat in France and head home for daughter Jess’s birthday.

After getting home from the last trip we had the Aussie Champs on the Gold Coast, where Pat got third, then headed home for a couple of weeks to get ready to head off to the Scottish Highlands for the second round of the World Cup.

I purchase a new luggage bag, The Sled, from the boys at Lusty Industries, Pats old sponsor, Pat came with me to give them a signed jersey, they were very happy to see him. I got the brightest one I could find so it was easy to see on the airport carrisole. Jane being the awesome wife she is, packed it up ready to go. We didn’t have to take a bike again so it makes it easy to get around.

We caught the train from Morisset to the airport, because it is the least stressful ways to do it, and headed off on our next adventure. We flew Qantus this time, and had a very short stop over at Dubia. I’m slowly getting better at the flying thing, timing your sleep is important, watched a few really bad movies then slept. Fourteen hours to Dubia, then an hour stop, then another eight hours to Heathrow, about three hours into the second leg I was getting stir crazy again and wanted out, stuck in the middle seat sucks.

We land in Heathrow, and have to go through the passport check. The line at no word of a lie was about a kilometer long. I felt like doing a Shrek and walking through the tape corral things. It is normally hard to get through the passport checks if you put down that you’re an athlete, because they want to know if you are going to win prize money, how you are going to pay tax and all this other stuff, so I was a bit concerned. I saw a customs officer that looked like a good mate’s father, Brian McCabe, so I thought he’d be a good bloke, and he was, he knew all about the race and had a chat, wish Pat luck and sent us on our way, I think it helps being Australian, because most places are quite happy when they see an Aussie passport and a normally say why did you bother to come over here. Next was Customs, we pick up our bags and just walked straight through. Too easy.

We had to catch a bus to Luton which was an hour north, because the next plane that we had to catch was leaving from an airport up there. It was a bit over an hour’s drive. We got to the hotel but still had a few hours before we could check-in, so we went down the street to get some lunch and sat in a park for a while, we walked around for a while but were both knackered. We went back to the hotel early and they let us into the room. I went straight to bed, it was only two in the afternoon. Woke up at four had a shower and headed back to bed till seven then went and got pizza for tea, then went back to bed. Woke up at twelve then lay there awake for hours. In the morning decided to go exploring, as we didn’t fly out till three thirty in the afternoon, I headed in to the streets that had a lot of Wallace and Grommet houses in them, I had a chat to a local lady about things to look at and she gave me directions to some woods. They reminded of the woods Robin Hood lived in, big light green trees and not much undergrowth. I was walking along a saw a little furry creature run across the ground. It was a squirrel, I wasn’t expecting that, I didn’t know they had squirrels in the UK, I thought they were only in America. I kept walking and saw a heap more, they were everywhere. I took a few pictures and thought I should had back to see if Pat was up. Eddie sent through the plane tickets to Edinburgh and I noticed that the cargo luggage could only be 20kgs and they have a strict carry-on of one bag only. Pats was 23kgs and mine 28kgs, I stuffed as much as I could into my back pack but it wasn’t enough. The problem was in my sled was a prototype tyre trimmer that I was inventing that weighed about five kilograms. I managed to upgrade my luggage a couple more kilos.

We got to the airport and went to check-in, the lady at the counter was very happy when she saw our Aussie passports, and told us the bags were overweight, I told her that I just purchased more luggage but it hadn’t come up on the system, she said since we were Aussies she believed me and put them through. We spent 2 hours in Luton airport sitting on the floor because they only had limited seats. We boarded the plane, and they were very strict on their carry-on luggage, making ladies shove their handbags in their bags because they weren’t allowed to have two pieces, one lady in front of us said it wouldn’t fit, so the airline people told her to make a choice of what she wanted to leave behind, she managed to get into someone else’s bag.

I wish all flights took as long as this one, as soon as we were up we were getting ready to land. We landed at Edinburgh and met the Tommy and Kurt and headed north for our night stop, still suffering from jetlag we all went to bed early. I woke up at twelve with a stomach ache, all the airplane food is catching up to me, luckily, I got some anti-nausea drugs prescribed before I left, they were a life saver, got some more sleep then woke up feeling better.

We headed North west towards Fort William, on the way Tommy wanted Pat to do some testing on his bike, so we stopped off at Glencoe Mountain Resort to get my first taste of the Scottish Highlands and the midges. It was cool and damp, but not raining. The mountains were fairly treeless but very picturesque. I went for a walk up to the top, I got three quarters of the way up and started feeling dizzy. With Jetlag, a stomach bug and not eating all day I thought it would be a good idea to head back down. Arrived at the bottom just as it started to rain, so we packed up and headed to our Accommodation for the week at Fort William.

We drove through a valley to Fort William surrounded by massive mountains, all very green. We stopped in town to get some supplies and headed out of town a further twenty minutes along a very narrow roadway, that when you met another car there were little bays you had to stop in to let the other cars past. They were called passing bays, I thought over you were allowed to die on the road but only in the passing bay.

Arriving at the accommodation, it was at the Achnacarry Country Estate, with a castle, we stayed in the converted stables which was very nice, and recommend it, if you want to stay somewhere up there. Over the next couple of mornings, I did a bit of hiking around the estate’s sixty thousand acres. The estate was owned by the Cameron Clan and was one of the biggest in the area, the castle was built in the early eighteen hundreds’ after their original one was burnt down by the English in the Seventeen hundreds. There are still remains of it there. There is a river that runs in front of the castle, I went for a walk along it and saw an otter, but was to slow with the camera to get e picture. The woods were incredible reminded me of the foliage on the hunger games. The river flowed out of a Loch east of the estate down to another on the west, the water was glassy smooth and crystal clear on both, and no one was water skiing on them.

On Tuesday afternoon, we headed to the track to set up the pits, it was a lot easier this time compared to Lourdes and had it up in next to no time. The Intense team was just across from us, and they were having an easier time with theirs as well. On Wednesday, I went to the track early with Tommy and Kurt to finish setting up, and to mount some brackets that I made up at home to hold the flags. I was on top of the trailer mounting the last on the brackets, when Eddie showed up, he was by himself, I asked him what he had done with Pat. He had left him back at the estate, so he had to drive all the way back to get him.

Thursday was track walk day, we walked down with the team, George Brannigan from the Factory Commencal team and Sam Blenkinsop, from the Norco factory team. The track didn’t look that difficult just doing it fast would be, I’d ride it though, going around a few obstacles. Finished the track walk and met up with Anne-Marie for a coffee and some adult conversation. Anne-Marie had to head back to work, so I went back to the Café and ran into Scott Parsons, who is the father of Harry Parsons, one of Pats mates and rivals back at home, he has come over to race as a privateer, along with a few other Aussie boys, Jake Newell, Josh Clark, Jordy, Riley Horseman Ollie and Ben Zwar and Remy Morton. Scott and I sat down for lunch to some Haggis Narcho’s, which was really nice.

Practice day and also school kid’s day, there were so many kids there getting autographs from the riders. The manager’s 10-year-old son, of the estate we were staying, was star struck with us staying there and came and met us on the first night we got there. Eddie gave him one of his old jerseys and he didn’t take it off all weekend, he was walking around getting the riders to sign it. Morgane had her practice in the morning and went fairly smoothly, the boys were in the afternoon. Reece and Eddie were trying out a new wheel size twenty-nine inch instead of twenty-seven and a half that they usually run, they were having a lot of problems with flats and trying to run tubeless because the joint on the rims wasn’t sealed, it got to the point where Eddie changed back to the twenty sevens, while Reece persevered with the bigger wheels, much to Tommy’s disgust. Pat stayed on the twenty-sevens but they were trying out a foam tyre insert to see if would protect his rims a bit. They seemed to work he had the same rims the whole weekend with minimal damage and no flats. Tommy was still having troubles with sealing Reeces wheels, so I decieded to duck into town to get some sealent, the track was only 5 km from town, but the traffic was that bad it took me over hour to get there and missed the shop. So I headed back and went in the next morning. Pat had a big crash in the woods and Loic Bruni, the 2015 World Champ, had to pull him out of the trees. Because he was still clipped in and couldn’t get out.

The only bad part about Fort William was the Midges. They were horrible, they attack every part of the body that is exposed, not like mosquitos that don’t attack the face, these did. They seemed to like some people more than others. Doing the track walk they seemed to like Eddie more than me. So, I didn’t let him get too far away. They were that bad, I went and bought a pair of shorts that had extendable legs and a midge net. They were alright if it was windy, but when it stopped they were everywhere. But the accents of the locals seemed to override that negative. I will put this up the top of bring the wife too places lists.

We had to get up early the next morning for Pats Qualifying run, again he had to qualify in the top twenty out of forty-seven, he had a couple of practice runs and said the mud in the woods was getting worse. I grabbed the trainer and set up Eddies new trail bike so Pat could warm-up. We jumped on the gondolier and headed to the top. On the way up it started to blow a gale and rain. We found a place to set up the bike in a machinery shed out of the weather, but found out that the new bike doesn’t fit into the trainer, no matter how hard I tried it wouldn’t fit, I basically pull the whole thing apart but couldn’t get it to work. Pat had to do sprints. We went up to the gate, I saw him off and watched him head off the track. I left the trainer up the top for the others and headed down the bottom to change the bikes over and to see if Pat had finished. I saw Pat down the bottom so all was good, I sorted another warm-up bike for the rest of the team.

Pat qualified 15th, just 0.2 behind his mate Ben Zwar. which put him through to the finals, so he gets to ride another day, Poor Harry missed out on the finals by 0.2 to finish 21st. Morgane qualified 15th as well, Eddie and Reece just scraped in with only 80 qualifying, Eddie came in 80th and Reece 75th. The high light was my good mate Jack came down early in qualifying and got on top of the leader board. With a lot of the top riders still to come, it was quite interesting, I was giving regular updates to his mum who was back in Australia, he dropped down to second, then third, and that was it, he qualified third. I was so happy and so was his mum.

That afternoon we went back to the estate and the chief of the Clan invited us over to have a look through the Castle, It was very interesting, there were swords and battle axes on the wall that dated back hundreds of years and the view of the river was to die for. I would be a lot of up keep to have a castle, but I’d like one.

Sunday, Race day, again Pat was off first with only a limited practice time, he managed to squeeze two runs in before heading to the top with plenty of time, we watched one of the Junior girls get turned around at the start gate because she was a couple of seconds late, a bit harsh but suppose this is the World Cup.

I ran down the track a bit to watched Pat leave the gate again and take some photos, he flew past and roll out of view, jumped on the Gondolier and headed to the bottom. There he was, so all good again, he said he had a great run but stopped dead in the wood section but still improving his time by a second and came in 14th, great result.

Men’s Final, Eddie was to come down first, the best thing about coming down first you get to sit in the Hot Seat, even if it’s for one or two riders, you still made it. He was a bit dirty, he had an OTB (over the bars) moment in the woods, he was on for a good time too. Reece followed shortly after with a great time which let him sit on the Hot seat for ages till Sik Mik knocked him off. The woods were an absolute mess, the mud was so thick, hiding a lot of the tree roots,taking out a lot of riders as well as the best in the world.

Jack was third last down, he started his run and was down 0.7 at the first split, then 3 seconds at the second. He went through the third at only 0.8 down making up 2.2 seconds in that section, I was messaging Sally, his mum, the whole time, he came through the finish line 0.22 in the lead. With only two riders to come. Loris Vergier was next but crashed out, only Greg Minnaar. It was nail biting, but it sounds terrible but I wanted him to fall off, his run through the roots was amazing nearly 3 seconds up after the woods he was unstoppable and came across the line nearly 3 seconds ahead. But what a result for Jack, loving the new bike and team.

After all the excitement, it was time to pack up and start our long road trip to Leogang in Austria. Pat went back to Reece’s house, as they were flying to Munich and we were to pick them up from there.

 

>> Read more about the LEOGANG round – “Aussie Racers” report by Tim with pics here