Spring in to Summer

Home sweet home.

I grew up in a beautiful, quaint, typical English village, deep in the hills of Shropshire, the gateway to the mountains of North Wales. I’ve always appreciated where I was brought up, but the appreciation bumped up a fair few notches over the last 7 years, as I started running and mountain biking, I truly saw every aspect this tiny village, full of heart and soul had to offer.

My passion for biking started like an explosion.  Thanks to encouragement from my brother, my life changed dramatically. For years I was trapped in an abusive relationship, constantly walking on eggshells fearing for my life. Mountain biking gave me the strength I’d lacked for years. With each new day, each pedal stroke, every crash, fall, bruise, came with another smile; until I finally saw myself stepping out of my own shadows. Before I knew it, I was strong enough to break through the barrier I’d been trapped behind for years, and it’s been full speed ahead ever since.

This is my story..

There was a lot of lost time to make up for, life’s goal had one purpose, be happy, love and be loved. The mountains, family and friends came first; I’d been riding a downhill mountain bike for one week, and felt it was time to enter my first race… I instantly became hooked. Within a year I ranked number one in the UK in the 18-30’s UCI downhill category, and moved into the elite category. My life was unrecognisable from my previous self, I was me again. That’s when I took off to New Zealand, skipping a British winter to have a Southern Hemisphere summer, full of mountains, bikes, sun and fun.

I found my home away from home, riding the bike park every day, slotting in to the Queenstown biking community. New Zealand was incredible, I’d drastically improved on the bike after just a few weeks, and there was no doubt about who I was, or what I was about. During my last 2 months in NZ I happened to meet a nice Canadian boy called Mike… The rest is history.

Mike and I continued seeing each other, carrying on with the peaks and valleys of a long distance relationship for 4 years; it was a combination of the most romantic love story and a god damn emotional rollercoaster. At times we would spend up to 5 months with the Ocean between us, until I made the move to live in Canada. I moved there in October 2016 and had not only the first winter for years but the longest winter ever. We lived in Revelstoke, the gateway to the Rocky Mountains, and when the snow was good, the place was insane, powder and tree skiing for days; I was a beginner skier but picked it up fairly quickly and loved how similar it felt to biking.

Then spring hit town… After growing up in the country hill side of Britain, whenever I think of Spring; I think of lambs, bluebells, bright yellow fields, lighter days, sunshine with the smell of flowers and freshly cut grass. However, Revelstoke had another idea for spring; the only thing blossoming was all the dog poop that hadn’t been picked up over winter, the snow was starting to melt, good ski days were over, still too much snow for biking, lots of rain, and lots of poop. My job was seasonal and finished in April, so I got a ticket back to the UK for a couple of months.

I know us Brits are renowned for complaining about the weather, but I’ve never been more appreciative of the blossoming weather the UK offers. I feel lucky to be torn between two beautiful countries, Canada has extreme seasons, awesome skiing and looks magical over Christmas, and in Britain we have mild seasons, which never stop you getting out on your bike.

As soon as I arrived home it was exactly what I imagined, early wakeup call from the singing birds, sun was up till 9pm, biking trails were in prime conditions, coated with beautiful bluebells, baby lambs everywhere, every other field was full of bright yellow flowers. I was happy to be home, so decided to capture the beauty of everything I love about a proper British Spring. With my new DiamondBack Haanjo Carbon Cyclocross Bike, which allowed me to travel on and off road capturing as many aspects of spring as possible.

So here it is, a short and sweet edit showing my favourite parts of a British spring.

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Summer Rush … Making it Count! – Final

fullsizeoutput_14Not even home for a week and there was another race, the last race of the season, the last race before I pack up and leave for Canada. At the time we didn’t know it, but it was also the last ever round of the British Enduro Series, at Innerliethen, Scotland. I thought I’d allowed myself to recover from my head injury, I didn’t feel great during practice, but I just put it down to needing to warm up on the bike, as I rode up to my first race run I started to see spots, felt lightheaded and nauseas … I hadn’t recovered. Game over, again. So once again I took the opportunity to spend time with Joel and I rode with him on his stage transitions. Joel did his usual finish on the podium, then we booked it home.

The next day the countdown really began, Mike arrived in Heathrow from Canada, I excitedly booted along the motorway, until … Pfffft, BANG, rattle, Smoke… lots of black smoke. Recorded death of Blueberry (aka, shitty bus) – Monday 10th October 2016, 10:00am. Mike sat waiting for me in the airport, while I posted up on the side of the motorway waiting for AA recovery. Just when I thought I couldn’t be busier, I had less than 2 weeks to plan my leaving/birthday party, fit in all my clients (for my mobile hairdressing, massage and beauty business) one last time, get ready to move to Canada, and get ready for my brother’s wedding!   All without my little blue van.

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Canadian Themed leaving party

^Photos thanks to – Dan Wyre Photography^

We pulled it off, Joel and Corinna had a beautiful small wedding the day before I left, making for an extremely emotional day with 52 of our family members being there on Joel and Corinnas special day, and saying bye to me and Mike.

It’s been a jam packed year, truly making the most of the British summer, with my friends, family and little pooches. Stay tuned to hear how things shape up in British Columbia, Canada.

THE END

Summer Rush … Making it Count! – Part Five

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Me, my Uncle Luke and Dad, racing in Eastridge

There wasn’t time for any catching up when I got home, back just in time to compete in the Welsh Gravity Enduro, in Eastridge… my back garden.

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Before I’d unpacked from Canada, it was time to load up the van and head back to Europe. I spent the next three weeks on the road, competing in the final two rounds of the EWS (Enduro World Series) and a regional french race, run by 1001 Sentiers Enduro, which I ended up winning.

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Joel and I living out the back of the van

My brother, Joel, and I headed to Valberg-Guillaume together, It was an epic week of riding and racing in another quaint town in the French Alps.

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After the race I dropped Joel off at the airport so he could get back to his extremely new family, he had a 10 week old baby, 2 hyper dogs and a very patient newly proposed to Fiancé waiting for him in their construction site home.

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Joel and my beautiful little Niece

I spent just over a week on my own in the south of France, I camped, slept in the van, entered random races, won them; my favourite memory was waking up at 6am, sliding the van doors open, and lying there watching the ever changing colours of the backlit mountains as the sun rose into the sky.

After a week of nothing but bliss, alone on a mountain top, with nothing but my bike and the shining sun, I headed back to the rush of the city where I picked up Joel and our Friend Dan from the airport. The three of us cramped into the questionably three seater van (myself being the only one who could really fit in the middle seat) and headed straight to Finale Ligure, Italy, for the final round of the EWS. We met up with our friends Fay and Lee, who hooked us up with a local guy doing shuttles for practice, everyone was on their own program and if you didn’t sort out anything… tough luck! We were very lucky that Fay had done this before and had everything dialled, Joel and I aren’t known for our planning and organisation skills… we have much more of a “wing it and sing it” kind of style, which seems to work, mostly because we have some very organized friends who watch over us like angels (thanks buds).

We were living the dream in Italy; dry, long, technical, fast tracks, guided by a local, he even booked us in to a local restaurant for lunch, it was tucked away in the middle of the mountain, disguised as a locals home… in-fact, I’m pretty sure it couldn’t of been any more of a stereotypical Italian family’s home, a family run restaurant literally from their home, making their own wine, jam, olive oil, pesto, this place was magic. We sat in the patio area eating a 5 course lunch, whilst picking at the juicy grapes hanging over our heads.

Unfortunately things took a turn for the worst, I crashed during practice, it didn’t seem like it was a bad crash, I’ve definitely had worse. I landed straight on my head from a 5ft drop with speed, (suppose it’s not ideal) but I just brushed off the dust and carried on riding, it wasn’t until a few hours later I realised I was loosing my vision. I’ve had concussions before and always knew they were coming, but this one seemed to come from nowhere, as my vision narrowed, I started to feel nauseous with a splitting headache. I rested and drank a boat load of water, I really hoped I’d be ok to ride the following day, I was having so much fun riding with my brother and our friends, I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.

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The realization I can’t ride, but still hoping there’s a chance.

However, I woke up with the headache and nausea still lingering, the thought of crashing again and hitting my head just wasn’t worth it, Joel then told me he wouldn’t of let me ride anyway, he just hoped I’d figure it out on my own. Head injuries are not something to chance! So for the rest of the trip I became chef cheerleader; my parents were due to arrive, having planned their holiday around this race, which turned me into their guide, we got hold of some bikes and managed to follow Joel in the race by riding to starts and finishes of select stages.

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I suppose that’s the silver lining, I couldn’t race, but got to hang out with my parents and show them parts of the race they would never have been able to see without me. On Sunday morning I left early with Joel as he started the two hour climb to stage one of day two, Mum and Dad followed proudly in the car, Dad even got inspired and ran with us for the last few miles.

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Me and Mum

As soon as Joel finished the race we took our parents to our favourite Italian restaurant for Mums birthday, we were so happy to be able to show them this magical spot. The family showed us where they make their wine and even gifted us with some home made jam and wine for Mums birthday.

Joel and I headed back to the tent and got ready for an early exit, come 5am we were up and on the road, we had a long, cramped, hot and sticky drive back from Italy to Calais, Joel had a great time, but was now on a mission to get home.

END OF PART FIVE

My top 5 international riding spots

Thinking about it it’s actually pretty hard picking my top 5 riding spots, I’ve been fortunate enough to ride all over the UK, with killer spots in Shropshire, Wales, The Lakes, Scotland, Canada, New Zealand.. I could write a book of hot spots, but here is the short list:
Eastridge: Shrewsbury, England.
How can I not love my back garden, literally stepping out of my front door and into some of the most technical and raw terrained trails in the UK, however amazing an adventure I’ve had somewhere, I always love coming home.
Hopton: Shropshire, England.
This is where my first ever downhill race was, and the tracks are insanely fun, now with a full cross-country loop, where you can link in the downhill tracks, it would be rude not to.
Sunshine Coast: Canada.
I’ve been lucky enough to be guided around by the Coastal Crew boys, and not only do they have a sick bike park (Coast Gravity Park), they know all the hidden gems too, turning a logging road into the fastest playground I’ve ever ridden, riding flat out hopping over fallen trees and through Canada’s great Cedar.
Coronet Peak: Queenstown, New Zealand.
I’ve spent 3 summers in New Zealand and each year I explore the country finding a new favourite place.. But Coronet Peak still holds the ultimate trophy. With the QT crew constantly adding new tracks it’s only getting better, trails deaking off from every angle and being able to descend on some of the funnest tracks you’ll ever ride for a solid 30 minutes.
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Seven Summits: Red Mountain, Rossland, British Columbia, Canada.
35km of pure single track, taking you across Canada’s Alpine through 7 Mountains, and not one fire-road in sight! The climbs are beautiful, exciting, challenging, and then you get to the descents.. You earn every single rad descent. I feel like a kid again. The entire ride is exciting with constant stunning views of Canada, greeted by chipmunks, whilst warning off any bears; there’s also a continuous supply of wooden cabins, welcoming you in with a log fire and matches, take some sausages or cheese sarnies in foil and you’ve got yourself one epic Back-Country feast.