It was arm pump that saw each of them eventually drop back through the pack, the only thing separating them being which lap they blew up on. So our goal was fairly simple; to work with the bike rather than gripping the handlebars as though it was a snake they were trying to strangle.
Matt led the style stakes, standing low to the bike like he was running through a gun fight. His arms were definitely bent enough, he just needed to focus on three things. First was gripping the seat with his knees so hard that his lungs burned out before his arms did, the drops of sweat running from the front of his helmet being sure proof. Second he needed to adjust way forward for hard powering and back (and right down) for hard braking. Finally, and the reason for focusing on points one and two, he needed to then relax his grip on the bars. Never an easy thing to do in the middle of a showdown.
Sean showed that he was too trigger happy. All he wanted to do was get on the gas, and though he did use his pointing finger on the front brake like I recommend, he wasn’t using it to get him entering the turns with control, speed and confidence.
To encourage this kind of apparent recklessness it helped to set him up nice and wide before the turns so that there was less to do come turn time. Then I did some demonstrations to give them a target. The extra motivation seemed to work as Sean began attacking the turns with abandon. It was still hard to avoid powering too early but I kept cracking the whip and eventually the point got through that quick entry speed and never popping out of the rut too early is always going to be quickest, and most important was the energy that type of riding would save. Especially in those precious forearms.
Having only started riding late in his life, Ben was learning quickly, making us wonder what might have been had he begun racing in his younger years. His ruts were consistent and quick, but his weakness was the jumps. For good reason too, having been kicked off in a bad way on one of the turning jumps in the past when trying to whip it.
What I suspected was that he had leaned too early and started straightening before his wheels had left the ground. Asking him to go back to his plan of leaning into the jump again was always going to be tough with that kind of history rattling in his head, especially as I asked him to not chop his throttle then blip off the kicker like he usually would.
Showing his true colours, Ben not only managed to power right through the lip but also kept leaning the whole way through the jump. Sure enough he said it felt scary but very good, smooth with no hint of retribution. With jumps becoming less of a fear, hopefully his arms would last longer also.
My interest now lies in who beat whom that following Sunday, probably determined by who truly relaxed their grip on the bars the most.