Joe went to Japan for the first time to race bikes. Here’s what happened.
I arrived in Osaka airport on Thursday afternoon, after 4 days of travelling from Schladming to home then straight onto 3 flights to Japan. Wing Hills resort was a 4 hour drive from the airport; I was asleep for most of it though. The next morning I walked down to the pit area at the bottom of the track. As I got there the guys from AKI corporation had built my bike up for me and after meeting every one from the company over there I nipped back up to the hotel to get my riding kit, so I could get riding.
The track was really fun; it started off with some off camber corners before dropping into some steep technical woods and then about half way down, the course blasts back into the open. From here down the track was really fast with some long straights down the hill to get you up to some serious speeds while trying to keep grip on your tyres around some long corners. The finish had some tight corners tapped in which worked really well as they got more and more cut up. The Friday practice was cool as it was only the riders in the elite category riding so it was easy to stop and look at things on the track with out being mowed down by rider after rider.
Practice started early on the Saturday morning and as I arrived at the track I knew it was going to be hectic during practice when I saw the queue for registration. My first couple of runs were ok, I was just chilling out and having fun on the track, then the queue moved from registration to the lift and practice was hard to ride with out catching some one. About midday there was a random little slalom race. It was way different to anything I had done before, you got to choose between two different tracks and then without practicing it was straight into 1 single race run. I don’t even know where I finished but it was a really fun little event, with no one taking it too seriously. In the afternoon they did some timed runs for the elite riders. I was on a good clean run just making sure I rode everything clean and then had a stupid crash at the end. I was in 13th which was ok considering I crashed in a bad place where you want to keep lots of speed.
Sunday was an early start again with elite only practice starting at 8.30 this was good however as it meant we got a clean run with out being held up. I went back up to try and get another run in before the majority of the riders got on the track I was trying to do a run similar to a race run when I slipped on the edge of a rut and slammed hard into a tree with my chest. After having a sit down on the side of the track for a few minutes I checked my bike over and set off down the hill even though I was feeling a little dizzy. I got to the bottom and had a long rest before heading up for a quick run before the seeding runs started. I managed to get a really smooth run with lots of pedalling in so I was happy going into the race.
I was second rider off in the elite category and had a clean run down and got most of my lines really cleanly. I had a little mistake in the bottom corners and lost a little speed but ended up seeding first 1.2 seconds up on 2nd position. I chilled out for a while at the bottom then headed up for finals. As I was up the top I was feeling the affects of all the travelling I had done to get here and the lack of rest but was confident I could put a strong clean run in. My run went really well and I pedalled really hard where ever I could, I was maybe holding back again due to my crash earlier but I was really happy with how it went. I crossed the line and went into 3rd behind the two top Japanese riders. I want to say a really big thank you to all the guys from AKI Corporation, they helped me out loads and I was really spoilt by there hospitality. I had a really good time over there and was a bit gutted to have to leave after only 3 days but after a long season it was good to be going home. I strongly suggest that if anyone gets the chance to go to Japan they should jump at the opportunity.