Red Bull DHX
Cape Town, South Africa
The first race of the year, was the first race in IGSA's World Cup series. It was also the first street luge race to be televised LIVE. The race was held in Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town is a fairly large city located on the southern tip Africa (well it's actually about 80 kilometers from the tip.)
The race course started in the saddle between Table Mountain and Lion's Head and heads toward Clifton Beach. The course is just over a mile long, at 1.7 kilometers. It has one hard right that leads into two fairly nasty hairpins. Followed by a long series of chicanes, which lead to the finish line. This has got to be one of the best course I've ridden, couple with amazing scenery and Red Bull's hospitality, the DHX us a premier event.
Friday, February 23
When I travel to a race I like to spend an extra day or two to visit the area. I've already invested the time and money to get there. I generally don't include information from this extra time in these reports, or at least a whole lot of it. But this trip is a bit different, for one it took 24 hours of flying time, and Red Bull stuff started to happen on Monday. Because it takes so long to get to Cape Town I decided to leave Friday evening. Tobi had me (and most of the US guys) flying though Amsterdam. While this added a few hours of travel time, it had the added benefit of breaking the flight up, as we had long layovers in Amsterdam. Also Tobi negotiated extra baggage weight for us. Since I was due to arrive in Amsterdam at 8 am, and it was a 10 hour flight, I wanted to sleep for most of it. But I was actually leaving Seattle in the afternoon, and I would be arriving in Amsterdam midnight my time! I decided not to sleep Thursday night. Well my first problem was I twisted my ankle playing soccer Thursday night. Not a good thing if you are going to be spending the weekend sitting in an airplane, and walking around Amsterdam.
I discovered that, while Tobi negotiated extra baggage weight, it didn't mean extra baggage. Apparently they don't like to travel with more than two checked in items, and two carryons. I actually had five bags; my luge in a snowboard bag, my duffel bag of equipment, my suitcase of clothes, my camera and my computer. Somehow I lucked out and they only charged my $37.50! I learned my lesson and carried my suitcase on the return flight.
Saturday, February 24
Sitting in a plane for ten hours isn't good for a sprained ankle. I slept off and on, on the way over, but I've still got a ways to go before I can go to sleep in a bed. I've got a twelve hour layover in Amsterdam, so I take the train into the center of town and spend the day walking around. There are a couple of nice museums here, but even in winter there are a lot of tourists. I skip a couple because the line to get in goes down the block. One thing I don't understand is the bicycles. They are all the same.
Now I can understand why there are so many, the streets are narrow,
and parking is almost non existent
. But they are all the same, and they all look about twenty years old.
Amsterdam has three U shaped canals that are all connected with more canals.
As I wandered through Amsterdam, checking out the cool buildings,
and the extreme lack of space,
I noticed almost every restaurant served Heineken. I couldn't figured out why until I saw the brewery.
Apparently the Dutch are a little more open about going to a restroom.
Dave Auld has a picture of another toilet at www.auldovertheroad.com.
Sunday, February 25
A shower about now would be nice. A fourteen hour flight is a little harder than a ten hour flight, especially when almost all of it is a night. Sure I got some sleep, but it seemed like they brought more meals and snacks on the previous flight, probably because it start at 2pm. We had a short layover in Johannesburg, which I didn't know. As we flew in Johannesburg was being deluded with rain,. there must have been two or three inches on the tarmac. At this point I thought it was Cape Town, and because of the cloud cover I didn't know that it wasn't. I'm thinking great, I've got to put up with this for four days. Well hopefully it'll blow over by Friday. And then I noticed my seatmates weren't getting off!
I met Dani, aka Mama Bear, at the airport. Her and her fiance drove me to the Lion's Head Inn. Starting Monday we would have regular shuttles to pick up the arrivals, but I was getting special services coming in a bit early. She asked me if I wanted to see the hill, well of course! After getting checked in at the hotel I took a mini taxi down town. Mini taxis are a great, cheap way of getting around Cape Town. This things are more like miniature buses than taxis. They hold up to ten people (or more!) and pretty much have set routes. But alls you have to do is stand on the side of the road to have them pick you up. I headed to the Gardens, and had lunch. This is a nice peaceful place to have lunch. After going through the South African Museum (a strange collection of stuff) I decided to walk the race course.
At the top of the hill there were several signs proclaiming the road closures.
Kloof Road is the race course.
I followed those stairs and a trail a ways to try and get a picture of the race course, you can see the hairpins.
One of the first things you see along the course is a sign asking competitors to not practice on the hill.
There were actually several of these sings along the hill.
The first noticeable turn was so mellow its hard to even call it a turn.
About halfway between the start and the hairpins is th
e first real turn.
I had been in South Africa for about 5 hours, and I'd already seen three Red Bull cars. I tried to get a picture of one as it went through the hairpins, you can barely make it out.
We approach the most interesting part of the course. This course has only three hard turns, this road would be fairly straight and boring without them, and they are all in this section. First there is a hard right hander, notice the direction of the arrow on the sign.
Immediately after this right hander the first hairpin stars.
Followed quickly by the second.
This view is from the end of the right hander. The first hairpin is more than a 180.
There is a very short straight away between the two hairpins. Just enough to give you time to set up for the second.
Did I mention how beautiful this road is?
Unfortunately my camera battery died at this point. The rest of the course is a very long chicane. There were only two interesting points. The beginning of the chicane is a right/left across a bridge. Each direction was banked, which means there is a hump in the road you have to cross. And finally near the finish line were some bumps in the road. Waldo apparently got airborne hitting them!
The bottom of the race course isn't far from Clifton Beach.
By the way, La Med, is situated in the peninsula on the right. I got involved in a game of Ultimate on the beach, and then headed back to the hotel. One of the guys gave me a ride back in his Miata. These guys drive on the wrong side of the road, and car. Which gave us Americans a lot of trouble all week. Well I own a Miata, and sitting on the left side with no steering wheel has just weird.
Monday, February 26
It was great to finally sleep in a bed. The hotel was an ok hotel, its main problem, was no air. The room had a ceiling fan, but the fan wasn't over the bed. I headed over to the waterfront. This is a set of working docks,
that they are also turning into a tourist trap, complete with mall and hotels.
I found this sign on the docks.
Seattle isn't on there, but it has to be farther than Frisco. I took the tour of Robben Island, and saw the prison that held Nelson Mandela.
The area around Cape Town is apparently littered with shipwrecks.
When you are in Cape Town, you can't help but notice Table Mountain.
Lion's Head is the peak in the right, and the hotel is somewhere on the far right as well.
Dani opened up a Red Bull office at the hotel.
Tobi, who arranged most of the international flights also worked here for the week. The Red Bull was free!
Red Bull arranged dinner every night. The first night was at restaurant on the other side of the bay. Some of the Red Bull Girls beat us there.
I was the first American to arrive, a few Germans had arrived Friday, and a couple of South Africans had arrived over the weekend as well, a few more internationals were arriving today, but most would arrive latter in the week. So the first dinner there were about twenty of us.
Dani(on the left) and Julie.
Tuesday, February 27
A few of the guys decide to head out to some local hills for a little practice. I had already planned on going up to the top of Table Mountain today. I did get a couple of shots of them loading up.
I wished I got a picuter of them duct taping the boards to the car!
Because my ankle was still bothering me, I decided to take the cable car
up to the top of the mountain. There are a bunch of trails up there and you can get some spectacular views, of Cape Town,
the Indian Ocean, and Lions Head.
You can also get a great view at the race course.
I think the race course ends on the left of the picture, as the road starts to veer right. At the top of the mountain is a restaurant, where I met my first Dazzie.
On the way back to the hotel, I spotted this sign along the walkway next to the ocean.
It looks slightly suggestive. By the way the Ocean was only about a block from the hotel. Unfortunately there wasn't much of a beach.
Dinner time, people start to gather in the courtyard. We now have two vans.
Someone drove their truck down, with a nice DHX ad.
We had more people tonight, but only two vans. We squeezed in fairly tightly. I tried to get a picture, there are three people in the back.
I'm still the only American, but Nick from Australia, in the center, arrived today. We went to the mall on the waterfront for dinner.
I found some place that serves worse Mexican food than Seattle.
We used took two large tables.
And there still wasn't room for the Red Bull Girls when they arrived.
Less than a quarter of the athletes have arrived, what are we going to do later in the week? Some of the Germans partake of, I think, a Mexican Ocean.
The Rand is fairly weak against the dollar, just under 8 to 1 (7.8 or so.) This bowl of alcohol sold for 55 Rand. Which is about $7 US! You can barely buy a small drink for that price over here. They thought it was so cheap, they had another.
To my knowledge this was the only time everyone posed for a group shot.
Maybe next year we can try to do something when everyone shows up. After dinner we hit a small club downtown. It was so small that most of us hung out on the street by the Red Bull Mobiles.
Tom Mason arrived while we were out dinner, now I wasn't the only American.
Wednesday, February 28
I tried to log on every morning to check my email, and to send an update to streetluge.com. Today the line in the hotel, fortunately there are at least three internet cafes within a couple of blocks of the hotel. Apparently they are fairly popular with the tourists.
I wasn't the only one, a couple of the Germans were already there, and Rat Sult and Freeman had just left. I was wanting to try and go to the Cape today, so I could hang around on Thursday when everyone else is supposed to arrive. But I took to long to get organized, and I got roped into helping Dani out with some computer problems. She offered me some Red Bull. Turns out Red Bull was putting together a township tour. The townships are places they recommend tourists don't visit without a guide.
Before hitting the township, we stopped at Red Bull HQ to pick up a few people. I got a chance to check out some of the Red Bull Mobiles. Of course there were a couple of VW bugs,
including an old style convertible.
There were also some other vehicles, a Geo,
, a cool pickup,
, and a boom box on wheels (the one on the right)
Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty hot, if it kept up it wouldn't bode well for race today when we were in our leathers. It was taking a while at HQ, so we took umbrage in the shed, which was full of even cooler stuff,
a bunch of random marketing stuff.
We passed the shanty towns,
headed out into the township, were we stopped at a bar,
and had a beer with the locals.
Not only did they have a list of Red Bull drinks,
they also had an ad for the race.
We even played a round of pool, Ralph here played through the obstacles.
We drove across the street for lunch,
were I had some samp and beans. Samp is a dried corn that is then boiled. Tobi, our travel agent showed some legs as we left.
Sometime Wednesday morning a fire started on Table Mountain, we noticed it on the way out, it seems to have grown.
By nightfall this fire
covered most of the face of the mountain, making the mountain on the left look like a volcano.
After lunch we had a few hours for dinner. So I hopped a mini taxi to the Clifton Beach.
I figured on may back I would catch another mini taxi back. As I waited for the taxi I was putting my shoes back on, when I spotted a mini taxi coming my way. But it looked too nice to be a taxi. Did I mention that the mini taxi's are blocky VW vans. In fact it seems ALL vans in Cape Town are these VW vans, including our shuttles. Well I figured this van was too nice to be a mini taxi. I started looking away, to put my shoes on, when just as it past I noticed it was one of our shuttles! Fortunately Rat told me and had the driver stop, but not before they were well past me. So here I was, chasing the van down the road barefoot.
A few more people joined us for diner. We're now up to about five vans. We usually left the hotel right at sunset.
Tonight we had the entire restaurant to ourselves. The Banana Jam Cafe. A few more Americans arrived,
they even let Johno in.
Our announcer ate dinner with us all week.
Thursday, March 1
The party is about ready to begin, today is my last free day. I took a tour down to the Cape. They take us down and drop us off and let us mountain bike the last 20 kilometers to the cape. There were some beautiful views.
We saw some wildlife in the refuge, a couple of ostrich
there were even some windsurfers. Cape Point is the southern most tip of the continent.
Back at the turn of the century they built a light house fairly high on the cape. After they had several shipwrecks, they decided the light house wasn't doing very well, so they moved it down to sea level.
We then hiked over to Cape of Good Hope, about a half hour hike.
A quick stop at the penguin colony
in Simon's Town, before heading back. I love penguins.
Pretty much everyone had arrived, except for Waldo. Tonights restaurant was the
Sports Cafe in the Stadium, a large mall. The restaurant was fairly large, yet we took up a major portion of it.
Of course there were several TV's throughout the restaurant. We spend most of dinner watching last years Red Bull DHX tape.
There as a lot of sports memorabilia strewn throughout the restaurant, including a Red Bull DHX case.
Friday, March 2
Today the party begins, first with a practice session. We all piled
into the Red Bull DHX branded shuttles.
and headed down to a road in Simon's Town. On the way we got a view of the infamous table clothe.
The table cloth is the clouds that appear to pour over the top of Table Mountain.
We had a quick riders meeting,
the theme of the day is safety. We had the road closed as we got ready to ride.
The road looked like a fun little road, the top half was fairly mellow,
with two hairpins to close up the bottom. We even had the boom box on wheels Red Bull truck to keep us company.
It turns out that the road, especially the lower half was rough, too rough. A few people stopped after one running, most every one else stopped after a second, with a handful taking a third run.
We even had a few onlookers.
It has near noon, so we decided to call it quits and grab some lunch. About sixty of us descended on this small cafe.
I don't think they know what hit them, they definitely weren't prepared.
We ended up going back to the hill to wrap things up. A German film crew was out filming the Germans.
We had a riders meeting at the hotel at 5, so it was time to head back, but first a stop of a view of Simon's Town (and Dave Auld)
Dave was taking a picture of the Big Gun.
The meeting was held in the courtyard of the hotel.
Tony, the head of Red Bull SA said a few words,
he was very proud of the fact that this was Red Bull's largest sporting event, and streetluge's first live tv.
As we waited to grab a shuttle to tonight's beach party we saw an interesting view of Lion's Head.
The party was held in this private club right on the beach, hamburgers and beer, what more could one ask for? For entertainment we were treated to some fire twirlers.
I took a few pictures, and was amazed that they actually came out.
These guys were fairly impressive, definitely a cool light show.
Saturday, March 3
Today is qualifying day. The last shuttles were leaving around 8 am. It sure is nice to get up, have some breakfast in the hotel, and then hop on a shuttle to the course. We got to the course with plenty of time to set up and check things out, like the starting line.
I even had time to get Megan, one of the Red Bull Girls, and the one making sure we all got to the starting line on time, to try my board.
This is what we saw from the starting gate.
The course looked much different than a few days before. I'm not sure what the purpose of this go kart was, but he was racing up and down the course in the morning.
Even though it took us a few minutes to get started, as the ramp was still being built,
I think everyone got four practice runs in, even Rob as he waits here.
This is quite incredible considering we had over 40 lugers, about 40 standup guys, 30 inliners, and a half dozen gravity bikes. Having the shuttles taking us back to the top the long way around helped things run smoothly.
We had a nice leisurely lunch. A few people took the time to check their equipment out.
Dav apparently thinks a cleaner helmet is a faster helmet.
Biker was unable to make it due to an injury, but he was there in spirit.
And Rat Sult showed off his new toy.
An Information booth and a course map were at the intersection, our pit area is just past the blue tents on the right.
The course builders finished the starting line during lunch.
It was time to start qualifying. We had two flat panel tv's set up in the pit area to watch the other racers, this is where most of us spent our time. After my second qualifying attempt, I was number 11, so there were a few riders after me, I ran down to the hairpins to get a few shots. I took a few more shots of the upper part of the course. The first Right:
the second right, just before the hairpins.
The bleachers are actually facing the other hairpin, for this view.
There were several grandstands set up at the hairpins, including a big screen tv.
Lott in first hairpin
Lott in second hairpin
We had a fantastic day, ever American made it in, but barely. While there were a few scrapes and bruises I don't think there were any major injuries.
For dinner we went to a bar downtown with a Jamaican theme. It was pretty cool, they had a sandy beach area in the front, and open area bar, and then a restaurant area in the back.
Sunday, March 4
Today is race day. Once again the shuttles get us to the course with plenty of time to set up, I found time to pose with Megan.
Today we were practicing four deep, and we had fewer people, so some of us got five runs in. This included a stop at 11:00 for a dry tv run. With the exception of the boom camera, you barely even knew that this event was being filmed, let along being filmed on live tv.
During lunch many of the riders handed out stickers
and autographs to the fans.
The first heat was a real doozy, and unfortunately I missed it because I was on deck in heat #2.
The first heat saw Rat Sult, Tom Mason, Johno, and Dave Rogers battling it out. I guess I was going faster than normal, but I lost control of the board in the first turn due to wobs (coming out of the turn) and actually flipped the board. I ended up third in the heat, though.
Since I was done for the day I headed down to the hairpins. Personally I think Marcus had the best view of the course, high up in the announcers tower.
There were a few inliners, setting up for the first hairpin,
and then hitting the second.
The crowd loved the skateboarders, especially since one of the favorites was a local.
A few of the other athletes, who were eliminated also came down to the hairpin to watch, including Waldo. Waldo had this cool shoes that had a single wheel under them, so if you stood just right you could skate.
Chris Chaput in his storm trooper gear tried unsuccessfully to overtake in the first hairpin.
Between heats action on live tv was switched to the vert ramp at La Med, giving the van a chance to drive up the course.
I still can't get over the view from this course.
Dave Rogers had a pretty strong outing and usually led in his heats.
But John had a few problems.
Rob on the other hand looked almost as smooth as Dave.
In the semifinals Fryer takes the outside line on the hairpin, yet manages to advance.
Once again, Dave showing how to ride.
I wasn't the only one taking pictures of the final.
The consolation and finals were pretty hotly contested. Both cases they came through the hairpin in a pretty tight formation. First the consolation,
followed by the final.
Despite what it looks like, John and Rat aren't that far behind.
The luge wasn't the last event, so I decided to check out the VIP tent.
I don't think we were supposed to be in there, but they had a full bar and catering set up! The course was really in a beautiful setting.
Mountains in one direction and the ocean in the other.
I ran into Bob in the VIP tent, and we walked down the course a bit. At this point we were about half way down the course. I really didn't feel like walking back up the hill and I was unsure if the shuttles were going to go back up the course or not. So we started heading down the course while the skateboard final was being run. Bob was still in full leathers, so a few people wanted a souvenier from him. Well he ran into a group of guys that owned a bar. They wanted his id, which of course Bob refused to give up, but he was wearing a Blue Smoke Tshirt. He decided to give them the tshirt off his back, which they promised to hang in their bar. In exchange they gave Bob a hat.
We made it to the bottom, and got a ride back up in the victory vans. Apparently some of the course workers weren't so lucky.
Back to the hotel to clean up and head to La Med. I ran into Chris so we took each others pictures. Chaput sprained his ankle.
I managed to scrape my knee and cut my neck.
We had a few minutes for a drink in the courtyard before heading off, were I found the dapper Waldo
I was in the first van to head out, as soon as we pulled out of the hotel parking lot, these two objects wizzed by.
One of the kids had wrapped these two signs around himself. At this point in the week we had eleven vans, we made quite a convoy.
La Med is a night club on a peninsula below the race course. They had this large open field where a large screen tv was set up to show the race.
In addition they had a vert ramp set up
and some dirt jumps. They were expecting about ten thousand people throughout the day. There were at least a thousand in the field when we arrived.
The view back to the mountains was pretty nice.
Each side of the stage had a graffitied DHX.
They had also painted the side of a building in Cape Town in the same fashion, unfortunately we by it once at nice, and my pictures didn't come out. Dave tried to take advantage of his champion status.
Before the awards ceremony we got a bite to eat. A local artist had set up a photomosaic of a bunch of random photos shot during the week.
You can see the pictures in the background, a very interesting effect. We got one last glimpse of the table cloth.
After dinner it was time for the ceremony. The major of Cape Town
started off with a really nice speech, he apparently loved the event and invited us back again. It feels good to be in a situation where you are invited back! I wish I could get a copy of this speech. They really did have a nice stage set up.
We all crowded close to watch the ceremonies.
First there was the skateboarders.
And then the inliners. They really got into it, carrying each other up to the stage.
Finally the street luge awards. John came in third yet went out and gave his brother a lift.
Unfortunately it was getting dark.
But they didn't seem to mind.
Each of the winners got a rather large check,
and a statue.
The Rogers Bros had a great showing.
Now it was party time. Jochen wore some lederhosen
And we had an open bar, at least until the tab ran out.
I think the most popular drink was Red Bull and Vodka. We stayed and partied until the last bus went home, in fact I think a few stayed after that.
Monday, March 5
For a few of us it was time to go home. We had an afternoon flight so most of us had a fairly mellow morning, packing and saying are goodbyes. There were six or seven of us that had to leave on the same flight. As we started to load one of the two vans we had, we discovered that we couldn't open one of the backdoors. So we decided to put all of our luggage in one van, and the rest of us rode in the other. Bob stayed with the luggage. Our van decided to make a pit stop on the way to the airport. We arrive at the air port, and Bob is standing next to this huge pile of luggage. "Yes my bags have been in my control since I packed them."
Tuesday, March 6
Fourteen hours back to Amsterdam and winter. It was nice in South Africa, shorts weather. In Amsterdam its freezing, and it doesn't help that its 6 AM. Five of us head into Amsterdam for breakfast, we are search of pancakes. I've been told that this is something one should try to eat when they visit Amsterdam. Well, lets just say that "Do you know where a Mr. Pancake is?" is NOT a good question to ask a young lady in Amsterdam by five guys. Especially when pancakes apparently aren't served before noon.
I arrived back in Seattle later that afternoon. All in all this was a wonderful trip. I had no problems in Cape Town, in fact most people there were nice and pleasant. While it wasn't a five start hotel, it served its purpose and the staff was very nice. The race course was amazing, it everything you could ask, the hospitality was supreme. It was just amazing. And Red Bull, I don't think I can say enough about them. Just Thank You for a superb event. I can't wait for next year.
I'll leave you with a few more pics. A view down the street from the hotel.
We weren't exactly in the best part of town, as this site was across the street.
Despite what it looks like, the place on the right is actually a fast food chain!
When we flew out of Cape Town, the plane first flew south, and circled around the tip, we got to see an amazing view of the Cape.
I also got one last shot of the race course. Lion's Head is the hill to the left, the hill looks "smooth," but down in the valley you can see the trees. Right where the "smooth" part meets the big trees is the course.
And one final look at Cape Town.
The last big event.
The next big event.