Chill On A Swiss Hill
About an hour and a half south east of Zurich, as you enter the Swiss Alps, small villages and beautiful twisty roads liter the valley. About half way between Chur a medium sized town of about 10,000 people and Thusis with a population of about 2500 lies a nice twisty road.
The valley is very beautiful
but mostly agricultural. The nearest hotels are in about 10 minutes away in Thusis, although there are B&B's closer.
The course is about 2.5k with 5 very sharp hairpins, and no real straights! The start is just straight enough to get started, then there is a gentle left turn leading into the first right hand hairpin, Angelina. A couple of gentle curves lead to the second hairpin, a left hander, Bettina. From here to the next hairpin is a set of chicanes, all but the last turn can be navigated without brakes. The top speed on the course reached 50+ mph as one approached the hard left hand turn. This turn was probably the most dangerous, as it was high speed, and there wasn't much to protect you if you missed the turn.
Unfortunately there wasn't a lot of room to shore up the defenses. This was also a deceiving corner, because many people thought they could take it without braking. Almost immediately after this turn, with very little time to set up was turn Claudia, a right hand hairpin.
The road continues to twist and turn to the next hairpin, another very tight left hand hairpin.
Dropping out of this turn leads to one of the longest straights heading to a very tight chicane, barely makeable without slowing down. With just enough time to get set up, the final and widest hairpin comes up.
The finish line was about 50 feet past the exit of the last turn.
Monday, July 17
I was supposed to be flying from Berlin to Zurich at 6:00 AM. It wasn't quite an hour flight, and about an hour and a half drive to the race, I should be able to make it before morning practice started. Well I was 3 hours late. I decided to drive straight to Thusis and look for a hotel.
There was one main street with a few hotels on it. I decided to park the car, and pulled into a parking lot. I didn't expect a pay parking lot in such a small town, but I didn't feel like backing out. So I went ahead and parked the car. I didn't have any money, but I needed to get some anyways.
The first hotel didn't have room Saturday night, fortunately the second hotel and room. I guess this is what I get for expecting there to be plenty of rooms available. Next year I'll make my arrangements online. Then my card didn't work in the bank machine! I had no Swiss Francs, and I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I THOUGHT I had some money from last year in my suitcase. So I was heading back to my car when I ran into Scott Peer. They were on lunch break and he had come into town to grab some water and food at the store. He loaned me a couple of coins to get my car!
I showed up at the campsite
just as people were starting to load the truck. I still needed to assemble my board! I think if I hurried I could have made it, but with my knee still bothering me (from the wreck in Berlin yesterday) I decided to take it easy today. I spent most of the afternoon sitting in the final corner watching the practice.
After practice I checked out the camp. The camp was about a couple hundred meters down a dirt road
from the finish line. The land belong to one of the local farmers. The base of operations was some sort of house. The mess tent
was the porch of the house. Unfortunately it was a little too small. The mess tent also housed a bar
serving good old fashioned Miller Genuine Draft! I gave them a hard about this, apparently MGD gave them the best deal. Showers were set up.
Next to the shower was a washing station. The main purpose I think was to do dishes, although I know some people did laundry.
A couple of port a potties were nearby. There was also a charging station in the house for those with electronic equipment. Finally an odd looking tent was erected.
I don't know if the purpose was some shade during the day, or what. It was odd because it was on a hill with the roof sloping towards the hill, so there wasn't a lot of standing room.
After I checked out the campsite, I went and got registered.
We got this cool wrist bands made out of a bendable metal. The bands were easily unwrapped, but wanted to naturally curl up. These bands had our numbers on them.
Dinner was a catered affair, and unfortunately required ordering it earlier in the day.
I gathered up a couple
of the other Americans
and we headed into town for dinner.
On the way back to the camp, we saw a very spectacular sunset.
Most of the people at the camp had already eaten dinner and were just chilling out wait for the open ceremony.
As usual the Opening Ceremonies start late. A stage had been set up off the hill side,
in sort of an open air amphitheatre way. The Opening Ceremonies began with a parade of the flags
from each country represented
at the race.
There were fifteen in all!
The flags were propped up onstage. And then a very long presentation was given, in THREE separate languages,
discussing mostly the rules of the camp.
The first part of the Opening Ceremonies was pretty cool. It was neat to see the flags parade up on stage. The second part lasted a little too long. After the festivities some people headed off to bed, and others milled around the bar. I needed to get back to my hotel, I still had to unload my car and put my board together!
Tuesday, July 18
The truck was supposed to leave the campsite at 9:00 AM. I got to their in time to chat with a few people, and of course it didn't leave right on time. Although it wasn't too late. It was a decent hike up to the finish line from the campsite, so most everyone was on the truck when it left.
As the day wore on, it got quiet warm in the sun, so people tended to congregate in the shade.
They also provided some much needed water both at the top and bottom of the course.
One of the things I heard the most yesterday, were people running around looking for shoes or extra soles.
The course was pretty rough on shoes, especially if you are trying to take it easy, as many were the first few days.
Fortunately at lunch the were frying up some sausages. I also noticed they had a beautiful skateboard with the COASH logo over the bar.
They were selling raffle tickets for 1 franc each. I bought a few. We had about 2 hours for our lunch break. People mostly chilled
and trying to stay out of the sun.
The British guys were keep a tight camp.
The afternoon session started during probably the hottest part of the day. A few people elected to sit it out, as it was pretty warm. Apparently there was also an evening session. But the evening session was run with hardly any course workers, and mostly an open road! The road is long, and the average speed is pretty low. In addition there are probably 150 riders. It takes a while to get everyone down the hill.
There was a group out filming for a Swiss show.
We ended up getting 5 runs in for the afternoon session.
A couple of us rode on down to the local store,
which was down the hill on the way back to the camp.
Ahhh nothing like a mostly luke warm Coca-Cola.
About midway through the session just as I get to the bottom, I hear that there was a wreck up top. We had to wait for the ambulance. A new rider from Brazil was having some problems with the technical course. He made some changes to his board and ended up going straight into the wall in the hard left hand turn. It looks like he broke both of his legs! His board wasn't in great shape.
Apparently the front "fender" was embedded into the wood that was in the corner! I don't think this board would pass tech inspection. That fender is just too dangerous. One of the problems with this board is the angle of his base plates. Apparently he was using 35 degrees.
Which makes it almost impossible to turn on this course.
I also got a good look at Samy's helmet.
He is the organizer of the event and participated in last nights evening session. He was taking the course easy, slaloming down. He doesn't know what happened but his board came out from under him slamming his head hard onto the pavement. While his helmet saved his head, we wasn't wearing leathers.
By the time we got back to camp, some people were already cleaning up.
I'm not exactly sure what today's dinner is.
I don't like the fact that I have to decide the night before if I am going to eat dinner here.
So we headed into town for dinner. As an American, I like my Coke to be ice cold, and have ice in it. Of course in Europe this is usally not practiced. Every now and again you will find some ice in your drink, and yes we took a picture of it.
I think it was gone after the third sip.
There was some entertainment planned for every night. So we went back to the camp. As usual people were chilling out.
Some people were still cooking.
Of course most were already drinking.
Tonight's entertainment was going to be the first installment of the Gravix Award. It was late getting started, as they had some technical issues.
Everyone gathered around to watch the movies. The Gravix Awards was an idea dreamed up, partially to provide something to do in the evening. Movies were submitted, and we watched a few of them. The movies had to be based on gravity sports. A few of the movies were taken at recent events. One was put together by a dirt surfer team. But my favorite was an impressive video put together by some base jumpers. The were jumping from a cliff, but thy had multiple angles of each jump. It was put together very well, and looked quite impressive.
Wednesday, July 19
Once again I got to the camp just in time to put my leathers on and get on the truck.
The truck is normally a cattle carrier,
of course that meant there was plenty of mooing. There were two trailers, both with ramps for easy access.
With over 200 racers, it is a tight fit. We got in several runs before the lunch break.
I decided to switch to my gumballs. With a technical course and no long straights gumballs appeared to be the right wheels to go for.
It was nice to have a two hour lunch. Gave you some time to get something to eat,
as well as make equipment changes,
and cool off.
The story of the week was soles, or the lack of them. Everyday someone was resoling their shoes.
The standup guys had it the worse, as they like thinner soles.
After a relaxing lunch, we went back up for the afternoon practice.
While it was nice in the shade, in the sun and leathers it was just too hot.
I forced myself to get a drink every time down the course. I didn't want to get heat stroke. We got in another 5 or 6 runs for the afternoon session. Camping is free, but there is something about having your own warm shower at the end of a long hot day. After a shower and another great dinner in town, we went back to the camp mainly to find out tomorrows schedule.
Because there are over 100 standup riders, the plan is to practice in the morning, begin qualifying Thursday afternoon, finish on Friday. If there is time on Friday the first round of a 128 man bracket would be run! Otherwise it will be a 64 man bracket run on Saturday.
Tonight was Swiss night. There was a band playing traditional Swiss music.
They were also serving some sort of traditional Swiss food, some sort of cheese on toast. It smelled pretty bad, but apparently it was very tasty.
When I went to my first Hot Heels a few years ago, I turned the TV on as I was unpacking, and there was a special on Bobby Car Racing.
Apparently a popular form of racing, at least in Germany. Apparently one of the racers brought a Bobby Car tonight.
These cars are designed for little, I mean little, kids.
Thursday, July 20
Today is the last day of practice, as well as the first day of qualifying. With one of the largest fields ever and a long course, they figured they would need a day and a half to do the qualifying. We got a few decent runs in before breaking for lunch.
At lunch I made sure to get my equipment teched.
I was one of the first people to the tech area, beating out the long line.
Dave Kessler fell in love with classic luge in Sweden and ordered a hand made board from Sc8.
His board arrived today, he was ecstatic.
The schedule for the afternoon was a warm up run for everyone, then qualifying for dirtsurfers and inline, then for buttboard and skullboard. I took the warm up run on my buttboard. We were going to do practice runs after the qualifying runs. Since there were only about a 12 dirtsurfers and inliners, I figured it wouldn't take too long. About an hour later they let the freeriders go down the hill. Turns out they were having problems with the timing system!
I decided to take the rest of the day off, and go check out the local lake. There was a small lake about a 5 minute walk from the camp.
There was a small fee to swim in the lake, plus the guy had some drinks and other refreshments.
It was very refreshing to take a dip in the cool pond after a hot sweaty day. But now I needed to wash the pond scum off me! After another delicious meal at the same restaurant
we went back to camp for the next installment of the Gravix Awards.
Several more skateboard and luge related videos were show, with perhaps the coolest being a video of luging an old ice luge course! It looked like a lot of fun, but the course looked bumpy, almost as if it was made out of cobble stones!
Through out the week the British camp was nice and orderly, with their luges all lined up. After several days of riding I guess even the finest discipline falls apart.
When we got back to the hotel Kessler
couldn't wait to test out his brand new board.
Friday, July 21
Well qualifying yesterday was pretty much a bust. There were too many problems with the timing system, and the dirtsurfers got ONE run in! The entire field would have to qualify today. With over 200 riders, some in multiple disciplines, I don't see how it can happen. A new schedule was posted, with nine runs.
In the sun it is quite warm, and I like to keep my equipment in the shade.
I got in three runs before buttboard qualifying started.
Once we started, things moved along pretty quickly. They had a new timing system set up.
Every 30 seconds it would beep, indicating you had to go. It took us a few tries to figure out, if we were on the line, and it beeped, we should go. Occasionally they would hold someone, but things moved along pretty quickly.
Because there was no stoppage for lunch they moved the sausage grill up to the starting line.
They also ran the women's dirtsurfer race in the afternoon, as apparently one of them had to leave.
I'm not quite sure I liked the idea, but they wanted us to put our numbers on the side of our helmets. They had these washable markers to draw on our helmets.
They had several different colors. The stuff seem to come off pretty easy, I ended up getting a bit on my leathers. But I hope it doesn't stain the helmet. Some people put their numbers on their leathers.
It was still pretty early when we got to the luge qualifying.
Almost every run had a group of riders do a training run. This meant a lot of waiting around.
On my second qualifying run I was doing really good, and felt like I hit the first three turns perfectly. As I approached the hard left hander, I was trying to decide how hard I was going to take it. I felt like it was a good run so far, and I didn't want to mess it up by braking too much, but of course I didn't want to mess it up by slamming into the fence. Just as I was getting set up for the turn I noticed the course worker was standing in the MIDDLE of the road frantically waving the red flag. I slammed on my brakes, and slow down, then cruised around the corner. I wanted to see if the rider was ok. I noticed the crew was rebuilding the wall, but there was no rider. This corner sits on the edge of a cliff, I'm thinking the guy went off and is on the side of the hill! My next run wasn't quite as good, but still better than my first.
After the luge qualifying I was done for the day. There were still two standup runs to go, and with over 100 riders it would take a while. It was still early and I wanted to try and do some sight seeing. A couple of us drove into Chur, about 20 minutes away. Chur is a small town with a nice little old town that we wandered around in.
Actually the main purpose of the trip was to get something cold, something preferably with ice. So we stopped at a McDonalds and I got a fanta with ice.
When we got back to the camp a few sprinkles were hitting the windshield! I was worried that the standup riders were getting rained on. But it turns out they just finished! They got both of their runs in, in just over 2 hours. Once again we headed into town for dinner. The skies were getting dark, it didn't look good.
As we pulled into town we saw some lighting hit the mountain top, and then it POURED. Our usual restaurant was full inside, and it was raining too hard to eat outside. We ended up eating in the hotel. I dropped everyone off at the front, and then pulled the car around the back. As I opened the door I heard a loud crack. The lightning was close. Busse later said he saw it outside his hotel window. Whereever it hit, it knocked out the automatic front door!
Back in the camp people were just hanging out around a couple of fires near the bar.
Not long after we showed up the qualifying times were posted. Of course everyone gathered around to see if they made the cute. There a hand full of buttboards and lugers that didn't make the cut, but over 40 standup guys didn't make it!
I had been leaving my equipment at the camp, so I didn't have to cart it back and forth. I left some of it in Paul's tent, but I got to leaving my luge and leathers under the big tent. After the rain, I went to check that everything was ok, and out of the water. The tent was open just enough to get a bunch of water at the bottom. I think Busse's shoes got wet. I checked my luge as I had visions of water running under the tent. They were nice and dry, but there were a few bugs. The camp was invested with these things. Earwigs were everywhere, but this was the largest concentration I saw.
just make sure you shake out your pants before you put them on!
Saturday, July 22
The first race of the day would be standup, to get it over with in case it rained. I didn't take the truck up on the first run, I was planning on going up to the first corner
and watching the standup race. There was quite a crowd gathered there, and fortunately they set up a small snack bar.
We went up with the finals for our practice run. As we went up the course, I saw a group carrying up some alphorns to turn two. Unfortunately I never got to hear them, nor get a picture of them, as they weren't there for long.
and street luge raced next.
Skullboards started in a GP format. The start was very important as the first hairpin wasn't very far away, and being the first to the corner was important. I got beat out of the start, while the other three in front of me were side by side the entire way down. I was following pretty closely behind them when I broke a little too much for the hard left hand turn. At this point I pretty much gave up, figured I couldn't catch them, so I slowed a lot for the chicane near the bottom. As I exited the chicane I noticed two of the racers and spun out in the final turn! If I hadn't take the chicane so slowly I might have been able to pass them. As it was, one of the riders was spun completely backwards and tried to finish the race backwards! He ran off the road and I passed him, finishing 3rd.
Furlong ended up being DQ'd as he hit Rene from behind, so I advanced to the next round. I wasn't entirely thrilled. I was a little terrified of the course, the hard left hand turn is deadly, and I wanted to be able to race in Madison next week. With my left knee not at 100% I wasn't riding at the best of my ability. The other problem with the hard left turn, was the hairpin that followed. I had a problem getting through the hairpin, and I think it was because I couldn't move my left leg fast enough!
So I started my next heat, and of course got beat off the line. Although I was a little closer. Loic hit the wall in the first turn, enough to slow him down, but keep him on the course. I moved up to second when the next rider hit the wall in the next turn. I backed off in the third turn to let Loic pass me, so as not to go through the turn side by side, this was probably a mistake. I thought I had a shot, if I took the chicane with minimal braking. Well I don't know if the last rider broke in the hard turn or not, but he FLEW by me immediately after the hard turn. I was just happy to get down the hill safely.
Inline didn't run their race, since one of the four inliners made it pretty deep into the standup field, and was also racing streetluge. Buttboard was the final race of the day.
Of course I didn't advance out of my bracket, so I watched the rest of the race. I took a few pictures, but unfortunately the light wasn't that good, and the camera wasn't very good.
I don't know exactly what happened in the finals, but Robert came into too hot, and then at the end of the turn apparently his board went into the field.
It took him a few minutes, but he eventually found it.
Since I drove my car up to the finish line, throughout the day everyone seemed to store their stuff in my car.
I ended up making several trips to deliver everything and everyone. We didn't have much time, it was already late, and we were starving. But we had to be back for the party and the awards.
When we got back from dinner there was a band playing.
Before the awards
were given out a few prizes were drawn for the raffle,
with the grand prize one of the cool boards.
The awards ceremony finally got under way complete with emcee
The first prizes awarded were the 2005 World Cup Trophies.
Kessler, Dirt surfer
Peer, Women's Standup
Luginbühl, Men's Standup
Edstrand Dave Dean was the winner in the other two categories.
Labarthe, Lefevre, Peer
Debril, Bigourdan, Mottet
Gut, Brandholz, Tanner
Women's Dirt surfer
Gemperle, Müller, Hanimann
Burel, Heuberger, Kessler
Schmit, Nobre, De Ponteves
Zaccaro, Tournisac, Lämmlein
Women's Street Luge
Schmit, De Ponteves, Nobre
Zaccaro, Chaperon, Labarthe
Vogler, Nobre, Luginbühl
Siegrest, Barat, Lindström
After the ceremony it was time to party. We went back to listen to the band play for a while.
I joined in on some fire breathing,
although I think I need to work on my technique. The part lasted until dawn. It was time for me to pack up my stuff and head to the airport!
This road was the most technical road I've ridden. It was fast enough to be very dangerous, in fact that was the number one issue one everyone's mind all week, was the safety factor. I think a lot of people respected the course, and perhaps that was one reason there weren't that many injuries. There were a few sprained ankles and knees, and scrapes and bruises. But I think only the Brazilian ended up with a broken bone. Unfortunately he broke both of his legs.
It was really nice to have a six day event, with almost a dozen runs a day. Made it a bit more relaxing and easier to ease into the course. Of course it wasn't exactly "chill" as the temperature was fairly hot all week. As for a "hill", well if this is what the Swiss call a hill, I would hate to see what they call a mountain! I look forward to next years Chill On A Swiss Hill!