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SHAMBHALA26th OCT 2010

"SHAMBHALA"

Bulgaria 7TH - 11TH October 2010

After a bit of late planning the trip was sorted, I headed down to London with Alex (Alan/Aled) Bond and James stock . We were flying out from Gatwick at 6am and meeting 8 other Brits at the airport. Al's family treated us well and drove us to the airport for check in at 4. The mighty Easyjet managed to get our bags on the plane and get us in the air on time. We landed in Bulgaria to rain and a cold temperature of 6 degrees, not the 25 degrees I was expecting and had packed for.


Even the dogs were feeling the cold !

The guys from RAM bikes had organised everything for us and picked us up from the airport. They gave us a tour of Sofia and there new factory. These guys are some of the nicest and most helpful people I have ever met in mountain biking and they all worked hard to make sure everyone had everything ready for the race. Some of them have many hidden talents and could be on our TV screens soon stunning Simon Cowell with there singing talents ! We headed to Sopot which is around two hours from Sofia late Thursday night ready for Practice.


Ready to ride after surviving the Easyjet treatment

Friday practice, we woke to some very strong winds and views of snow on the tops of the surrounding mountains. The old Russian chairlift had a bit of a swing on with the sidewinds so we couldn't use it to get to the top, so we decided to head up by foot and have a look at the track and do a little riding. A nice easy day we packed up and headed back to the Hotel fingers crossed that the wind would drop for Saturday.

Saturday Practice. The Sun was out melting the ice on the top of the hill and the wind was gone so we could hop on the Russian chairlift and cruise to the top of the mountain. This track is one of the best I have ridden all year, with 3 minutes of track to the start of the 4 half minute race track we all got plenty of riding in.


Practice

It was great to be riding with some of the guys who just enjoy the event and have a great laugh ! Everyone should spend a day riding with the South's finest Tom Gatton ! Saturday didn't end well with Joe, who had helped organise everything for us having a nasty crash and severely braking his arm. He later returned to the hotel with some great stories. He asked for some pain killers in the hospital after being operated on and was handed a bottle of Bulgarians finest beers !!!


Joe easing the pain with the Docs !

Race day. Two practice runs a seeding run and the final race run was the order of the day. On my last practice run I managed to blow my rear shock on the last drops, which covered me and the bike in oil and left me trying to find a replacement for the seeding run. After a bit of a rush Scotland's ALI Macbeth Maclennan pinkbikes favourite fan lent me his shock for the seeding and race run. It was a bit of a rush swapping them and I was a little worried about breaking it as he was using it as well, but thanks Ali, greatly appreciated.


About to blow some suspension !

I went into the lead with a time of 4.16 and waited to see if anyone could better my time. James and Alex were the last two riders left and I was still leading, James didn't appear, but Alex did and he set a stormer of a time 4.13. James rolled in with his rear tyre hanging off. So a 2nd place for me which I was pretty pleased with after a stressful day. Alex won and got a good washing with champagne on the podium and we celebrated Josh's and Oggy's birthday with a massive Bulgarian birthday cake.

After some cracking banter between the South and north we packed up and headed to Borovets bike park for some riding on Monday. Al Bond was starving and against all of our wishes we had to pull into McDonalds for him to stock up on junk. Tom was doing his best to avoid the potholes but didn't quite miss one which squared one of our wheels and blew the tyre, some more entertainment trying to change it at midnight and -1 degrees !

Borovets bike park. our hotel was at the finish of the track, but sadly the chairlifts weren't running yet so we had a army truck take us up the slope, this got a little interesting when we starting spinning and sliding back down the hill. Finally we made it to the top and started to ride the track. Another amazing track littered with roots, this place could host a world cup event if it could get the sponsorship backing.


Dropping into the finish at Borovets bike park

That was it, we packed up ready for our flight home, And I cant wait to go back out again and do some more riding in 2011. We waited for our flight home in Sofia airport with about 300 US marines heading out to Afghanistan, good luck guys.


US marines

Thank you to the Ram crew for sorting everything out especially Niki. Get well soon Joe and I look forward to some more entertainment from Tom and friends soon.

For the latest antics and updates follow me on Twitter @robsmithdh
Season review coming soon.
Cheers
Rob Smith

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