WC RD8 Schladming, Austria

Schladming is a track that Ben can do and has done well on in the past, and with this years track being just a fun as previous years, he was super excited to get up there as soon as practice started. The bike was working perfectly for this track and he was feeling comfortable with his line choices very early on which allowed him to keep an eye on how they changed with the huge number of riders throughout the weeks practice.

Ben managed to put in the fasted time of the day in top 80 ┬átimed practice and when qualifying came around he knew he had the ability to seed well as long as he stayed safe and didnt crash which would have ruined his chances of making the top 80 cut. Seeding started in the afternoon so we checked his start time and began the warm up process with loads of time to spare…Or so we thought.

I told ben his run was at 2:59:30 but muct have misread the sheet as his proper start time was 2:49:30 unknown to us. So after getting ready and double checking every bolt on the bike, we sent him off to the gondola with what we thought was an easy 20 minutes before his run. On the way up above the track he felt that something was wrong, given the numbers that were passing beneath him were getting closer and closer to the 41 that he had for this race. As the gondola reached the top of the hill and was swinging into the gondola station, he saw number 39 leave the start hut! S**T!

He kicked the doors open, raced down to the start line and had to barge in front of rider 42, Nathan Rankin, who was in there ready to set off for his run. Ben had 20 seconds to get his goggles on and then away he went! After all the panic and raised heart rates sitting in the gonodla, Ben managed a clean fast run and qualified in 8th spot. for the race on sunday. Things were looking good at last.

Race day came about in what seemed like a blink of an eye and we made sure he left the pits with plenty of time to spare this time. Ben started off, knowing that the rider that would be following him down the hill was current world champion, Steve Peat. He got off to a good start and nailed the first top section, but just after the first road crossing, he attacked a loose right hand rut and as he popped out of it, the front wheel just pushed away from him sending him down a grassy bank and a few metres away from the track. He tried to pick himself up as quickly as possible and get going again but he knew it was over from there on.

He came across the line in 38th spot in the end and was bitterly disappointed knowing that he could have been easily inside the top 10 and quite possibly on a podium spot had things been different. at least this shows what is possible for next year here and luckily all of the tracks should be a similar style to Schladming so that is something to look forward to over the off season.


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