B2 Reading Gapped Text Exam 11
From skiing to mountain bike fame
Anna Jones, The famous mountain bike rider, learnt to ski at seven, and was competing internationally at the age of fourteen. But when she was eighteen, a close friend of hers had a serious skiing accident and this led to Anna giving up competitive skiing. Very soon she started missing her sport, and decided to take up downhill mountain biking instead. She progressed rapidly up the ranks, and is now one of the top five downhill racers in the country. Her first race was a cross-country race in 1995, which wasn't an amazing success.
She continued competing and entered a few more cross-country races, when she was given a downhill bike to try by a local bike shop. She entered a downhill race, fell off, but did reasonably well in the end, and so switched to downhill racing. Undoubtedly the experience she gained from skiing, such as cornering and weight balance, was very helpful. Her good luck continued and she was chosen to ride for a famous British team which required her to compete almost every weekend from March through to September.
She spends a lot of her time helping to set up tents in muddy fields and doing all the other jobs necessary.
Last season she was selected to represent Great Britain at both the European and World Championships, but both events were completely different from the UK race scene.
This was her first time in these conditions and the atmosphere was electric because she was racing against riders whom she had previously followed in magazines. She finished about the middle but was very proud of herself. Mountain biking is a great sport to be in, but it is also very scary. Every time she races she scares herself silly but then when she finishes she is ready to do it all over again. She says that when she's riding well, she is right on the edge, as close as she can be to being out of control.
The secret however is to quickly learn how to fall so as not to injure yourself, and this is part of the learning process, as you have to push yourself and try new skills to improve. Initially, downhill racing wasn't taken seriously as a mountain-biking discipline.
But things are changing and riders are now realising that they need to train just as hard for downhill racing as they would do for cross-country. The races are run over ground which is generally closer to vertical than horizontal, with jumps, drop-offs, holes, corners and nasty rocks and trees to test your nerves as well as technical skill. At the end of a run, which is between two and three minutes long in this country, your legs hurt so much they burn.
In a race the riders are so excited that they switch off to the pain until the race finishes. There is a common misconception that downhill mountain bike racing is an expensive sport.
A reasonable beginner's downhill bike costs about £400 and the basic equipment, a cycle helmet, cycle shorts and gloves, costs around £150. A you improve, you may want to upgrade your bike and get a full-face crash helmet, which is a wise investment, since riders are now achieving speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour.
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