The Graveyard Call
Argonay is a small village on the outskirts of Annecey, France. Annecey has been billed the Venice of Savoie and hosted in the final time trials of the 2009 Le Tour de France.The city sits on Lac d'Annecy, a very beautiful lake. About ten minutes away sits the small village of Argonay. Argonay is home to the first gravity sports track in the world.
The course starts in the woods above Argonay. The road is a one lane, one way road. It starts off with a couple of bends leading to the first of several hairpins. Top speed on the course is reached as you approached the tightest of all the hairpins, a left. A short distance later, after a small bend to the left is probably the easiest and largest of the hairpins. There is a short straight, enough to get set up for the third hairpin. Actually it isn't quite a hairpin, but a very hard left turn. Follows is the second longest straight on the course, at less than 200 meters. Heading down the straight the road transistions to a two lane road and enters the village. The straight ends with a right hand hairpin. The road continues past a pasture full of cows, and another straight about 150 meters. After passing the cows is a left hand hairpin. There is a short straight, that gives just enough time to set up for the next set of turns. As the road continues into town, there are more grates and drains and sewer coverings. There is a right hand hairpin, a very short straight, a left hand hairpin with a grate in the apex. The hairpin exits with a 90 degree right, more of a chicane.
This set of turns takes the road around the graveyard
that gives the race its name. The course ends shortly after another 90 degree left.
Thursday, July 23
A practice session was set up for Thursday afternoon. Riding was supposed to start around 2, but it would be just for the upper half of the course. The first three hairpins. We were coming in from Cannes, and would have had to leave at like 6 am to make it on time. Plus the final time trials for le Tour de France was being held in Annecy. They claim 500,000 people would decend on the city. So we decided to come in, in the afternoon, and not deal with the crowds.
We showed up in Annecy around 4 in the afternoon via the train station.The entire town was shut down to vehicular traffic because of the time trials, so we needed to take the bus.
As we were waiting at the bus stop, this lovely young lady asks us if we were here for the downhill race! Turns out her brother used to do street luge, and her house isn't far from the campsite. So she helped us get off at the correct bus stop.
The free riders were still riding when we showed up, but we were able to register.
We got checked into our hotel, about 1 mile or so away. The room was added on as part of the entry fee and was only 30 euros for the weekend. Turns out we were put up three to a room, but we were only paying half price.
The campsite was located at a local rec center. There was a grassy area that people could camp in, and a basketball court
where we would eat and have a band. Dinner was provided in our entry fee. Our first dinner was tonight,
but unfortunately it was fairly light. We were promissed better dinners in the days to come. Before dinner was provided a short riders meeting was held.
we just hung out and entertained ourselves.
Later in the evening a metal band played.
I think the locals had to pay to get in, but it was free for us. After a while I went back to the hotel. Our rooms were faily small, not much larger than the bed. And there were three of us with our gear in each room, doesn't leave a lot of spare space. So a few guys decided to work on their equipment in the lobby.
Friday, July 24
We started the day off with a riders meeting at the rec center, after breakfast was served.
We got started a bit late.
We would run down the course, and jump on one of the busses at the bottom. The bus would take an alternate route to the top and drop us off, where we could go again. There were two busses, generally everyone would get down the hill before one bus got to the top. This worked great when things moved smoothly, but it didn't always move smoothly.
We got a couple of runs in before breaking for lunch.
We had some tasty sandwiches, which I beleive came from a deli that was near the finish line. After a short two hour lunch, we got under way again.
We got in a half dozen runs. While things moved fairly quickly, there were a few accidents that held us up.
It was a hot and humid day. Fortunately water was provided at the top
and the bottom of the course.
The course is fairly short, but it is steep. You build up enough speed between each turn you must break.Oliver Wagner tried to to take the second turn without breaking.
While this turn isn't as tight as the others, you still need to at least slow down for it.
After practice the bus dropped us off at the rec center. The hotel was about a mile away and we were left to our own devices to get back to the hotel. This meant walking, or finding some alternative means of transportation.
There was also a grocery store nearby that some people went to for refreshments.
After getting cleaned up I went back to the rec center to wait for dinner. The rec center is a larges sports complex, with football fields, bocci courts, and a half pipe.
I managed to get near the front of the line for dinner.
This was a good thing, as the servings got a little smaller towards the end of the line.
The food was cooked offsite, and brought in by a catering company. After dinner we had a short riders meeting
mainly explaing tomorrows schedule. After dinner most of us just kind of hung out before turning in early. There was another band playing, but again not many of the racers watched.
Saturday, July 25
Breakfast was provided, but it was the typical bread and jam. I chose to get some breakfast at the hotel. Eggs, ham, ceral, orange juice. Then it was off to a morning of practice. The plan was an hour of practice followed by both qualifying runs. Of course things got started late.We ended up getting a couple of runs in before breaking for lunch.
After lunch we prepared for qualifying. We ran street luge first.
There were only a few inliners,
so they got mixed in with us. Qualifying went fairly quickly, but it still took some time,
and required waiting.
Disciplines that weren't qualifying were allowed to free ride after each round of qualifying. Standup qualified last.
Despite spending a good portion of the day waiting, and getting fewer runs, my leathers were still fairly soaked, so I hung them up.
After getting cleaned up, I headed over to the rec center for dinner. Everyone there was already hovering around the qualifying times.
I didn't do very well, I think my cold affected me more than I thought. Again after dinner a few bands played. Quite a few locals showed up to, but most of the racers headed in early to get rest for race day.
Sunday, July 26
We were supposed to get started early, as there is a lot of racing to do. Because the road is so narrow at the top, standup and luge would be run in a dual format. We finally got underway about an hour late and started the day off with a warmup run. Skull boarding got the races underway.
With only four of them, they decided to run four wide. Unfortunately since they start off by kneeling on their boards and kicking, there really wasn't a lot of room on the track.
Two of them got tangled up while they were still kicking, and ran off the road. I thought this was an omen of things to come with classic. The women followed.
We took another free ride after these heats.
The luge race started noon.
Dual format is interesting, you have to win every heat. It is a format I don't really care for, but it is nice to have at least one dual race on the circuit. I raced Labarthe. He got a better start, but I was catching him as we entered the first hard turn. I gained on him as we entered the second turn, with my feet near his helmet. The second turn is probably the easiest turn on the course, but still requires slowing down. I broke a little too hard (as I had been doing all week) and Labarthe pulled away from me, about 10 or 15 feet. And that was pretty much how we progressed down the hill. I definitely raced much better than I qualified, and I was a little bummed. If I had rode this well yesterday, I would have had a better qualifying time. Since I failed to transfer, I did get to watch the rest of the rounds.
After each round, people were allowed to free ride.
I probably should have gotten a few classic runs in, but I like to watch the races when I get a chance. Lunch was pushed back to finish off the luge race. Eliot pulled out a win, after pulling a spectacular pass around Labarthe in the last corner in the semi finals. Stephenson beat the #1 quailfier Bouaich in the semis to set up an all British final.
We broke for a quick lunch. Then we headed into the classic race.
The start was tight
but I don't think we had any interference situations. My start was always bad enough that everyone was out in front of me fairly quickly. In my first heat I was in last coming into the first turn. My goal was to try and finish 3rd, as passing on this course is difficult. All four of us were entering the first turn fairly close to each other, and Lang ended up high siding his board right in front of Eliot. I was far enough back to slow down and pass the carnage. I advanced on to the semis, and almost got into the same situation, but the middle two guys didn't read the script and didn't wreck. I finished 4th in both the semi and the consi. I did get a chance to see the finals
Serek came out ahead this week.
Apparently there was some question about whether Lang's finish was actually a finish. The rules say you must cross the finish line with your gear.
So he put his gear back on, and cross the finished line. Turns out, Lang hit the graveyard wall and split his board into two. Not know what to do, Lang picked the two pieces up and ran down the course! But he finished, with all saftey gear in place.
I rushed back to my hotel to clean up, so I can get back to watch the rest of the races. It was already fairly late, but I made it back without missing much as someone wrecked and dislocated their shoulder. A few people hung out in the last turn, but most people were up in the last couple of hairpins, near the graveyard.
Scoot Smith held off a charging Mischo to win standup. With the stand up final finished the race was over. Both Scoot and Mischo were immediately mobbed for autographs.
Mischo didn't expect to do this well, and was very happy with a second place.
It was a very hot day, and even though it was fairly late a few of us decided to hit the small deli near the finish line. Some people couldn't wait for dinner, and got a pizza. We just got some frozen desserts.
Diner was served about an hour after the raced ended.
It was the best dinner of the week, lasagna. There was a bar that served beers and cokes for fairly cheap. But leave it to the Canadians to bring their own beer.
After dinner the awards were given out.
Gesta, Couzinie, Salley
Christ-Thomas, Varin, Lebrun
Eliot, Stephenson, Bouaich
Serek, Bouaich, Labarthe
Gemperle, Luginbuhl, Engstrand
Smith, Erban, Robert
Scoot was brought out in style, on his skateboard.
After the awards ceremony a band took the stage.
Unfortunately they played to an almost empty house as there weren't many locals. There were a few more riders watching. A few people started to pack up to head home, and the rest of us hung out and chatted, and drank beers until the early hours.
Monday, July 27
For many of us it was time to cleanup and head out.
But there was a scheduled free ride in the afternoon. The free ride would only be the top three turns. I'm not sure how many people stayed to ride. The campground was empty by noon, and we had an afternoon train to catch.
The race turned out much better than I originally expected. EDI raced the top part of the hill in 2001 and the lower part in 2002, but put the two parts together and it was a very fun and very technical race. The hill is steep enough that you had to slow down for almost every turn. This event was fairly well put together for only four months notice, next year it should be even better.