Åre Mountain Games
Åre is a small ski resort in the middle of Sweden. Somewhere between 500 and 1000 people live there year round, but during winter time the population sky rockets. The village is nestled between a wide river and a steep mountain. The town was gearing up for the 2007 World Ski Championships, so most of the town was being rebuilt.
The course was a high speed 1.5 mile run with two hairpins.
The course started off with a high speed straight with speeds getting close to 60mph as they approached a left hand kink. The kink required a small tap to get set up for the right hand hairpin that followed. Another long straight (with a couple of small chicanes, that were barely noticeable) brought speeds back up to 60 mph before the left hand hairpin. The finish line was just passed the exit of the hairpin. This course was mostly about drafting, and then taking the last corner properly.
The race was part of the Åre Mountain Games. This is one of many summer festivals that Åre hosts. It is a week long festival with events in many edgy sports. Kayaking, paragliding, rock climbing, mountain biking. A lot of the infrastructure, course workers, registration, and stuff, were provided by the Games.
Monday, July 3
Monday was the first day of practice, but I was traveling with Dave Auld and we were sight seeing in Stockholm, and decided to drive up on Monday. We got to the hotel just before 7:00pm just before the front desk closed. We got settled in and then took off for the race track. We tried to walk to the course, but it turns out its about a mile or so down the road from our hotel. So he jumped in the car, and headed up to the course, only to find everyone was packing up and heading in. Turns out the bugs come out in force about 8 pm.
It was off to find some dinner in town. The main area of town was a small square with a few restaurants off of it, with a path leading down to the old train station. Several tents were set up in a grassy area off this path for the Mountain Games. We spotted what looked like the podium.
Right off the main square was a small bar called +Asia
apparently they had a deal set up for a fairly inexpensive dinner for the riders.
We found the rest of the Americans
already hanging out at the bar.
Tuesday, July 4
Åre is fairly close to the Artic Circle and with the summer solstice just a couple weeks ago the sun sets fairly late, around 11:00 PM, and rises just after 3:00 AM. Which means it never really gets dark.
It started to get light again about 1:30.
Because it is light all day, it was decided to change practice to run from 4PM to 10PM! This gave me the opportunity to sleep in and then get registered in the morning.
We had a riders meeting in town about 3:00 PM, and then the buses transported the riders to hill. The view at the end of the run was quite spectacular.
We had two buses to take us to the top of the hill.
I think we averaged a run ever 20 minutes or so, so we got a ton of riding in. Since we started at 4:00 in the afternoon, there was no lunch break, so there was a lot of riding.
Late in the afternoon I got involved in an accident in a high speed straight. It is a shame that an accident occurred on what was essential day 1 of riding for several of us with two more days of practice. Dave Dean was behind me, and rode off the road trying to avoid me. When I got up from my accident, I knew some one else went off the road, but I stood up and looked around and saw no one. I was about ready to get on my board and head down the hill when I thought I heard something. I looked around and saw a path through the foot tall grass next to the road. I started to head over to the path, when I heard someone scream "I broke my leg and I'm in a stream." Dean ended up about 50 feet off the road, in the forest. If he hadn't screamed, I wouldn't have even known he was there. Dean was lying in a little ditch, and had hurt is knee. While we had some great paramedics on the course, we had to wait for the ambulance to arrive.
Dave was wearing brand new leathers, today was the first day they were being used, and of course the paramedics were talking about cutting them off! Of course Dave pleaded with them to not cut the leathers. The shot him up with something, and eased them off!
Despite ruining is Europe Trip and possibly breaking his leg, I am sure he felt a little better when his brand new custom leathers were removed in one piece, whole.
After Dean was loaded on the ambulance
and whisked off to the nearest hospital, about 90 minutes away.
I was a little shaken up after the accident. The whole time I sat with Dave, as the paramedics worked on him, I was thinking that could have been me. It wasn't his fault he wrecked, and we don't really know how he hurt is leg, he things he cart wheeled and his foot slammed into the ground. It is possible he hurt the foot when he tried to kick my board. Needless to say I decided I had enough riding for the day.
After dinner we went to +Asia to hang out. A little after midnight I went for a walk around cam, I wanted to get a picture of a clock in the middle of the night. As I was looking for a clock I found some of the skateboarders practicing their sliding.
While it was bright enough to slide, it wasn't quite bright enough to get a photo without a flash, which of course makes it look pretty dark.
The party and the bar was raging when I got back. Dean was back to the hospital,
word was nothing was broken, but he had a torn several ligaments. The bar closed at 2:00 am, and the party moved to off to one room or another in town.
Wednesday, July 5
The cool thing about a late start to practice is you can sleep in late, and still have plenty of time to do things. I got up early and had some pastries and one of the bakeries in town.
Fryer decided it was time to clean his bearings. Auld and I wanted to take the lift up to the top of the mountain, so we missed the slide competition.
(Thanks to Marc Dean for the picture.) We got up to the lifts only to find that the gondola to the top doesn't open till tomorrow, we would only be able to take the lift halfway.
Today was the last day of practice. Bettina showed up with some popcorn for her infamous popcorn song. With qualifying starting tomorrow Marcus was doing tech inspection.
I got my inspection taken care of in town shortly before the 3:00 riders meeting. With inspection going on all day, between runs, the line was always short. Once again we got a lot of rides in, but it threatened rain all day. We did get a promising sign though.
Many of us quit when the bugs showed up, but with almost a dozen runs in it was a decent day of practice. The American contingent headed to the Holiday Club, the largest building in Åre, for dinner. The Holiday Club is a large hotel with plenty of entertainment options (bowling, mini golf) right on the water.
There was supposed to be a riders meeting at the bar at 10, of course it started a bit late..
Of course everyone stayed afterwards to party.
Once the bar closed the party once again moved to the French's place. They actually rented a fairly large apartment, I don't know if it was a 2 or 3 bedroom, but there were a few riders staying there.
At one point, about 3 AM or so, someone thought it would be a good idea to attempt to hit golf balls into the river.
You can tell where I am standing from the photo, I discovered this is NOT a good place to stand. They hit a dozen balls, I think ONE went more than about 10 feet.
Thursday, July 6
We made it up to the top of the mountain this morning.
The paragliders were taking off from here for their competition.
Apparently you can do a tandem jump. We ran into Riley Neehan's dad, who was waiting his turn. Apparently Riley had just jumped shortly before we got to the top. The view from the top was spectacular.
I was able to get a decent view of the course on the way back down.
There was a riders meeting
at 3:00 to explain the schedule for the day.
We were given numbers that fit on the leg, not quite garter style.
Since standup was going to qualify first, we had some time to kill. I stopped off at Little America (where a good portion of the Americans were staying)
and visited Dave.
After watching some of the Tour De France (the coverage over in Europe is pretty good) we went up to the hill to get ready for our qualifying.
The standup guys had just finished their first run.
We had some time to kill, Kessler decided it was time to add a discipline and practiced some buttboarding.
A few stood
around watching the start.
Some worked on their equipment.
And some chilled out.
I think the ski resort provided the timing system.
As the afternoon progressed, we watched clouds roll in. There were quite a few standup riders, and we didn't start street luge until fairly late. But we got started just in time for it to rain! Fortunately we were able to take a warmup run on the wet course. I am not sure what happened, but both Busse and Auld spun out in front of me, on the straight section! Dave Dean, despite having an injured ankle wanted to take a qualifying run, so he could get points for the race.
The rain and stopped, but it was enough to soak the course. Unfortunately I was the second one to go. Not only was the course soaking wet, with the rains over and it being fairly late the bugs started to come out. Of course that meant sitting on the line for a while. The good thing is that we were clothed head to toe, but it was still warm, and I hate sitting with my visor closed. Which meant the bugs buzzed around the face, they were more annoying than truly bothersome. Both times down the hill, I just hoped there were no bugs inside my helmet when I closed the visor. I don't there was, but it sure felt like it. The course started to dry out for my second run, but it was still fairly wet. The road was almost completely dry for the last few lugers.
Waiting through the evening, people tried everything to keep the bugs away. The course workers wore nets. Others did what they could.
Kessler wasn't clapping because he was happy, he was trying to kill the bugs.
As soon as buttboard qualifying was over, we high tailed in into town. After a quick shower we decided it was too late to eat anywhere else in town as most restaurants closed at 10. We made it to +Asia to get the last of the athlete's dinners. We ate dinner and watched the World Cup semis of Italy vs Germany. The bar was fairly empty, I guess most stayed home to watch the game. Everyone was pleased that Italy won, apparently the Swedes were upset because Germany had beat them.
One of the coolest things about the apartments we were staying in, were these heater/dryers. Åre is a ski resort. Most of our rooms had boot heaters, and these cabinets that warm air was blown into. I am guessing that the dryers were for drying your fleece and other underclothing. I stuck my gloves in mine to dry. In Little America, their dryer was large enough that they stuck their leathers inside! Nothing like having nice dry equipment.
Friday, July 6
We woke up to race day. Because today's race was in the printed schedule, we had to have an early start. The plan was to start the standup race first, as it was currently nice, and it may rain later. It was supposed to be a 64 man bracket, which means it would take several hours to run the standup race. We decided to take it easy and head up to the track after the racing started. We showed up a little after noon, in time to watch the first round.
And then we waited.
Then waited some more.
Turns out the first round brackets of standup had been set up improperly, with several riders not on the list! Apparently the timers had handed over a list of times, in order of times, with no regard to who made the times. Which meant the person with two fast runs was on the list near the top twice. Unfortunately this made it more difficult for Marcus as he manually set up the brackets. While the bracketing was being figured out, they moved ahead with the races. Running the women's standup,
These races went quickly and we moved into the street luge races.
I raced fairly well, but got blown way on the start in my semi. In my consolation run, I passed Tyler as he wrecked in the final turn, only to be passed by Busse as he took a nice inside line. Tyler and a very excited Riley finished 2nd and 3rd.
By the way, Riley isn't exactly in perfect form here. Loic won the race by a nice margin.
Finally the standup bracketing was fixed. They restarted the standup race.
While the standup race was being run, the buttboarders chilled out
. meanwhile a soccer game broke out.
And then, after the first round of standup, it began to rain!
The standup race was put on hold, and the buttboard race was held. Kessler borrowed Busse's board
for his second run ever on a buttboard, he was pretty stoked, and I'm not sure he even came in last!
The track was pretty wet for the first round of buttboard. By the consolation is was drying up, a bit. I made a small mistake as I approached the first hairpin. I was breaking pretty hard, or rather I was pushing my feet into the ground pretty hard. But riding on a wet road feels like riding on ice. I spotted a dry patch, deep in the turn, I figured I would catch a piece of it, slow me down and then shoot through the turn. Well when you are pressing your feet into the ground as hard as you can and then slide into a dry spot, your feet stick! I lifted my feet before I did a face plant, but I did loose more speed than I intended. I managed to take 3rd in the heat. Fryer won the finals.
By the time we got back to the top the course was almost completely dry! They decided to finish the standup race. But it was 8:30, I was tired and hungry. We packed up, raced down the hill, cleaned up, and walked into the restaurant minutes before 10:00 PM. Thankfully the decided to server us!
We all packed into the small +asia for the awards ceremony and after party.
The room did not hold that many people and didn't have a real podium. It became very difficult to get a "podium" shot. Not too mention that with that many people, the temperature was rising! It also made it very difficult to carry the winners in.
Fryer, Forschner, Lang
Zaccaro, Fryer, Neehan
[my batteries died at this point, I got the rest of the podium shots, but I still need to get them]
The trophies were medallions with first place earning a nice bowl.
And then we partied. The bar was pretty small, and there was a lot of dancing going on. As the night wore on, apparently shirts came off.
The beer flowed, although I don't think we ran out (unlike earlier in the week)
The bar closed about 4,
and the party moved. Apparently it got moved 4 more times in the next few hours, as each one got shut down for being too noisy!
Saturday, July 7
Auld and I had planned to drive back to Stockholm today. But we decided to stay and go paragliding. But of course it rained all day! Instead I took my time packing and cleaning the apartment. Then we kind of just chilled out all day. I watched some of the Mountain Bike finals, as the finish line was right in the center of town!
We had dinner at an American Bar.
Then we hung out and had a beer
The bar had several sports items hanging on the walls.
I want to get something of ours in their. Maybe I can donate a buttboard or something?
That evening a the Mountain Games after party was held at the Holiday Club. The party was a little more mellow than our after party. But once again people had a bit too much to drink.
Since everyone was kicked out of the bar at the same time and some people had a little too much to drink, some tempers flared.
Even with only one healthy leg, Dean was ready to take on some locals who thought our sport was gay. It was about 3am, and the sun was coming up.
I needed to get some sleep for the long drive back to Stockholm tomorrow.
The Mountain Games was a pretty cool event. There is a small town with plenty of hotels, and restaurants. There was also a hardware store not far from where the riders meeting was held everyday. I even managed to find a new digital camera in town when mine broke! There is discussion of changing the course next year to have the finish line in town. As a complete package it was a very nice race to attend. While there were a lot of falls and scrapes and bruises, I think Dean's injury was the only serious one. In the end he ended up with a hairline fracture in his foot.