Nestled in the foothills of the French Alps sits Lake Annecy, with the Venice of the Alps on its shores. On the outskirts of Annecy is the small town of Argonay, most of which is situated on a hill side. Above Argonay lies a small forest. The course starts in the forest and ends just before the church in Argonay.
The start of the course is the road to be closed on a regular basis for gravity sports. The road starts out fairly flat, winds its way through some easy chicanes as speeds pick up heading to the first hairpin. This left hand hairpin is one of the sharpest turns I’ve ever seen, with speeds approaching 50 MPH as you enter the hairpin that requires speeds of about 20 MPH. Another short chicane leads to perhaps the widest turn on the course, a right hand double apex hairpin. The road continues around to another left hand hairpin that is almost as tight as the first one. From here the pavement changes as you enter the village of Argonay. A short left turn makes it difficult to set up for the right hand hairpin, that many people had a problem with. Passing a couple of cows takes you a series of hairpins. The first is a left hairpin, with just enough time to set up for the right. Coming out of the right barely leaves enough time to set up for the last hairpin on the course, a left. As you exit the left there is a 90 degree right turn, making the last hairpin more of a chicane. There is a short straight before you hit a 90 degree left turn, and turn onto another street to finish the race.
Wednesday, July 22
We got in last night, with enough time to check in to our hotel and hang out with some of the early arrivals at the campsite. This year the campsite was across the street from the gym. We weren’t sure when things would get started, but breakfast was supposed to be from 7 – 9, so our plan was to get there about 8:30 to have some breakfast.
Turns out things are supposed to get started at 9:00 every morning, except today. Today it was supposed to start about 9:00.Breakfast was included with our entry fee. The breakfast was baguettes with some jam and corn flakes, with tea or coffee.
Registration and tech got underway at 9:00.
For some reason registration was very slow. We just had to sign a waiver, and gather our bib and tshirt and lanyard. Tech on the other hand, was run by Bob and Marcus and was done very quickly.
About 11:00, while some people were still getting registered the buses started up the hill. The entire course was uphill from the campsite.
The bus dropped us off at the top of the course.
The road leading to the top of the course was fairly narrow, so after the bus dropped us off it drove back down the road to a pullout spot. Here the bus would wait until the other bus passed it, heading up. Then the bus would proceed down the hill to the finish line. We would usually get the entire bus load down the course before the bus would arrive.
As soon as the bus got to the bottom, we would jump on and head back to the top. Because the course was always closed, we would be heading down the course just minutes after getting off the bus. Occasionally we had to wait, if there was a large wreck.
We were doing a run about every 30 minutes. Mainly because it took so long for the bus to drive back up the hill. When we broke for lunch, most of us just rode our boards down the hill back to the gym. Lunch was a baguette sandwich.
Lunch break was about an hour and a half.
After lunch, we started the process all over. We sat at the top
just long enough to get organized, and sat the bottom for just a few minutes waiting for the bus.
The race would be a dual format, but we usually went down in fairly large groups. It was a lot of fun riding in the pack, but it didn’t help practice the race or qualifying lines. I got yellow flagged on almost every corner, every time down the course, as people constantly wrecked in each hairpin. The day was fairly warm, and water was a necessity.
We rode until almost 7:00 PM. I lost track of the number of runs we got in, something like 13 or 14 for the day! Dinner was also provided with the registration.
Tonight it was sausage with gruel.
While we were eating dinner there was a short riders meeting.
The weather forecast wouldn’t be good for Friday. The original plan was to do all of luge qualifying on Thursday, and all of standup qualifying on Friday. I was looking forward to taking a day off, and going down to the lake. But the weather forecast for Friday was rain. They decided to give everyone one qualifying run on Thursday, and weather permitting one on Friday. After dinner a few of us were still hungry, so we went looking for a place to get dessert, but nothing was open.
Thursday, July 22
Things were a little slow getting started this morning. The buses were supposed to leave about 9:00AM. It’s a good thing they didn’t, because we might have missed breakfast. We got to the top of the hill a little after 10:00.
The morning went by much like it did yesterday. After several runs it was time for our lunch break.
We started qualifying after lunch.
The standup riders started the qualification. There were about 100 of them, so we figured it would take a couple of hours. Apparently there were some problems with the timing and it took longer than that.
We spent over three hours waiting.
Some people napped, some played
then just as we neared the finish of standup qualifying,
with only a half dozen riders left, it began to rain. It was decided to cancel the rest of qualifying. Since it was already raining, and some of our equipment was wet, most of us stored our luges in the gym.
The skies were dark, and the clouds low as we walked back to our hotel.
After last night’s meal, we decided to go to a real restaurant for dinner. There is a hotel at the finish line that had a nice restaurant, that several of us went to. We sat there and had a leisurely dinner. Marcus was also staying at the hotel, and we saw us sitting there, after we were finished eating. He told us that we had missed the riders meeting, but mentioned that the plan was to try to qualify tomorrow. Unless it rains, and if it rains we will finish the standup qualifying on Saturday, and pea pick for positions for luge. The weather forecast for Saturday was good weather. I went back to the gym to hang out for a while and listen to the DJ.
Friday, July 23
The plan was to start off with finishing the first round of standup qualifying in the morning, if it wasn’t raining. When I woke up, I looked outside, and the ground was still dry. So we got up and headed to the gym. It was a little damp on the way back to the gym, I couldn’t tell if it was raining, or if we were just walking through a cloud.
While we were eating breakfast someone mentioned things were delayed an hour and there would be a riders meeting at 10, and we noticed it was raining out.
Most of us hung out in the gym, and eventually noticed that the riders meeting was pushed back to 11.
A few guys decided to have an impromptu buttboard race.
They started off just pushing across the floor.
They did this a couple of times, and then I suggested they go down and back. The fun is that a buttboard doesn’t have the best turning radius. So they added a table that they had to go around.
It was a lot of fun to watch as they all collided trying to go around the table.
While everyone was enjoying themselves, pushing oneself across a floor, with your arms can be tiring. So the races didn’t last long. When the buttboarders stopped, the standup guys took over the floor, jumping some chairs.
Quinn tried to built a new device, but discovered it didn’t turn too well.
Other people kept themselves occupied by playing Pig
which seems to be the game of choice during a rain delay, or playing some poker. At 11:00 there was a short riders meeting
and basically they said everything was postponed till 2:00 PM.
I went back to the hotel for a nap, and return about 1:00 or so for some lunch. And 2:00 we had our riders meeting.
and it was decided that we would do the street luge and classic luge qualifying, rain or shine, and if it was dry we would finish the standup. It had stopped raining during lunch and was starting to dry out, a little.
We took our warmup run and discovered the course through the forest was still mostly wet, except the turns were dry.
We started our luge qualifying,
on a mostly dry course.
I had what felt like a great run, except I took the final corner a little too fast and planted my luge under the hay. I had to pull the board out from under the hay, and probably cost myself 10 seconds. Just as we got to the end of luge qualifying, it started to rain again.
It rained long enough to wet the course.
We went back up to do classic luge. The course was much wetter when we headed out. Turns out the lower part of the course was still fairly dry, and the corners in the forest were mostly dry. The second turn was still a bit wet, and I almost spun out, so I took the whole course fairly conservatively. As I was one of the first ones down, I got a chance to watch at the finish line for a bit.
The course was relatively dry for our second luge run.
Although it was deemed too wet to allow standup to go. I had a decent run, not quite as good as my first, but I did make it around the last corner. I shaved about 8 seconds off my time.
As we got back to the top for our second classic run, it started to rain.
Once it really started to rain, there was no hope of improving our times, but a few of us decided to take our run anyway.
We got suited up, strapped our helmets on, and were ready to go. And then we were told the rest of the day was cancelled. We rode the bus back down to the gym, no reason to get our stuff all wet now. Back at the gym we noticed most of the standup guys were just hanging out
with a few working on videos or something.
Some of the standup guys were skating in the gym.
Despite all the rain we got, and a forecast that called for rain in the evening, it looked like it was clearing up.
We decided to get some pizza for dinner, and skip the free dinner lottery. We drove by one pizza place and discovered it was closed. So we went to the pizza place near the finish line. Unfortunately they had a very small oven and could only cook two pizzas at a time.
After dinner we went back to the gym, and noticed that the times were posted.
The brackets were up as well, at least for street luge and classic. The organizers were still discussing tomorrow’s schedule. The weather is supposed to be nice, so it looked like the plan was to finish the first round of standup, and then run a complete second round of standup. Racing would start around noon! Again there was a DJ playing some tunes.
About 11:00 PM the organizers came out for a short riders meeting to announce the schedule. There would be a warmup run, for everyone at 9:00 AM. This would push the entire schedule back about a half hour.
Saturday, July 25
We had decided to skip the warmup run. Seemed pointless to take a warmup run, then wait about five hours before racing. So we slept in, and ate a decent breakfast at the hotel. My plan was to go to the camp and see how to get my stuff to the finish line. Some of the Brits were around. So we hung out for a while before heading off to a McDonald’s for lunch. Street luge wouldn’t start racing till about 2:00. While we were eating lunch we were informed that we should be ready about 1:00.
The Brits had a car to take our equipment to the top. By the time we got there standup qualifying was done, but the inline race was underway. The inline race consisted of just the time trials. As soon as the inline race was finished, the girls started.
And then it was the guys turn to race.
With a 64 man bracket, it would take 32 heats to do the first round.
The first round brackets were pretty interesting. Dalua and Scoot raced each other in the first round!
Dalua out pushed Scoot, and eventually beat him.
It was finally time for luge to race.
With 30 lugers, both Labarthe and Stephenson had byes. I got underway in my first heat, and outpushed the other rider. I think his plan was to try and draft me going down the straight. I didn’t hear him, so I sat up, braked, and dove into the corner. Right when I was in the apex, in my most vulnerable position, he t boned me and knocked us both off the road. I don’t think he even slowed down, he hit me so hard. There is no way he could have stayed on the course. He managed to get back on his board before I did. But I tracked him down, and caught him a few turns later. Then as I was passing him, he slammed into me at least three times before turning the corner. I had lost my moment, and again had to chase him down. I almost caught him as we approached the finished, but it meant shooting the finish hard, and I ended up in the hay.
I watched at the finish line the next few rounds.
In the consolation heat, for third place, Gerber came down quite a bit before Stephenson.
When Will did come down, he headed straight for the marshal’s tent to lodge a protest.
He claimed he was hit from behind as he entered the first corner, and was spun off the course. Because the race was finished, and no further heats would run, the decision was postponed. Labarthe
both won virtually uncontested. It was time for me to go back to the top to run the classic race.
Juniors also ran at the same time.
Last year classic was ran as a four man, but this year we ran it as a dual. I was up against home town Schmidt, and I didn’t race very well. Although I out pushed her, she kept up with me, and I couldn’t get out in front before the first turn. I didn’t want to go through the turn two wide, and dropped back. And she out turned me at each turn. Each turn I can see her pull away from me! She raced Serek in the next round and barely lost to him!
Serek and Labarthe made it to the finals, and they were fairly close coming into the last turn. But Serek had a slight lead and went to take the last turn wide. Labarthe was slightly behind and tried to take an unorthodox line, I think it was his only shot in overtaking Serek.
Unfortunately they collided right at the apex of the corner, sending Serek into the hay.
Labarthe realized what he did, and stopped and walked back to Serek.
. He apologized and let Serek cross the line first!
In the junior’s division Spencer Smith was up against Evren Ozan (the top qualifier!) for the junior’s final. But Ozan had raced ever heat in the open division, and was tired out. Ozan wrecked, giving Smith an easy victory.
We finished up right at 8:00 PM. I was hungry, and knew it was going to be a late finished. So I had put a pizza order in at Chez Sab
a pizza place near the finish line. The pizza’s were done just as the race finished!
We went down to the campground to eat our pizza’s. The free dinner was lasagna and salad.
Which was probably good, but I didn’t want to take a chance. After eating we headed over to the gym for the awards ceremony.
Smith, Ozan, Guneriussen
Serek, Labarthe, Bouaich
Davies, Bougourd, Vukorep
Labarthe, Bouaich, Stephenson
Reimer, Switzer, Pilloni
Gesta, Salley, Labarre
Women’s Street Luge:
Schmidt, Mordon, Quemener
Women’s Classic Luge:
Schmidt, Quemener, Bougourd
And the end of the race, there was a long discussion and it was decided that Gerber would be disqualified. The rule is the overtaking rider has to do it cleanly. This was an unpopular decision and Stephenson was wildly booed as he got on stage.
After the prizes were given out it was time to party.
But first they announced that we all had to exit the gym, and then reenter. Entry was free for riders, but non riders would have to pay. Some DJ’s were performing
but most of us thought the idea was pretty stupid. The majority of the riders hung out outside and chatted until the wee hours of the morning. I don’t think there were ever more than a dozen people in the gym.
The Graveyard Call was another find event put on by D173. We got bibs
(although I hate bibs) and nametags with our names printed on them. Breakfast and dinner were provided for free, and we got a lot of runs in. The weather played some havoc on the schedule, but we got the race done. There were no major accidents, although there were plenty of wrecks.