Hot Heels 10
The 10 year anniversary of Hot Heels was held once again in the Kaunertal, beneath the reservoir about 8 km from the town of Feichten. The road leads up to the Kaunertal Glacier where the Austrian Ski team spends their summer.
The road has 29 hairpins,
numbered from the top. The race course takes place on the last four hairpins. The start line is just below the dam.
There is a long straight leading up to the first hairpin,
reaching speeds of around 60 mph. The first hairpin actually veers right before the hairpin starts.
Shortly afterwards is the second hairpin.
Followed by the third hairpin.
The first two hairpins are fairly tight, while the third is slightly larger. Another short straight leads into the chicane before the last hairpin.
There is actually a small curb that presented some problems.
The carousel is the last and largest hairpin
which leads into a long straight, where speeds reach into the mid sixties. The straights end at Hell's Gate.
This is a very indimidating section of the course. Its only a slight chicane, but at high speeds, the cliff on one side, and the drop on the other... Inside Hell's Gate,
and the exit
doesn't look much better.
The exit leads to a left hander
before the big sweeper to the right and the finish. The best view of the road is from the other side of the valley.
July 7 - July 10
I decided to head out a few days early and check out Austria. I flew into Innsbruck
where I spent a couple of days. I headed out Fussen Germany to check out some castles. But I stopped at a B&B
on the way in a small town. The landscape was incredbile, I wish I could have stayed longer but I was supposed to be in Feichten the next day. I did hike up to check out the water fall.
Before heading to Germany I stopped and rode the Rodel Bahn.
Essentially it is an ice luge style track, with banked turns,
but you ride a cart with four wheels and a brake. The brake system is kinda cool, you push forward which pushes plastic runners down and lifts the front wheels off the ground. I tried to take the course all out, and I couldn't do it, flipped the cart and scrapped my knee and elbow. Afterwards I went to Fussen to check out the castles. Fussen is about 2 hours or so from Feichten, and I think these castles are pretty cool. The smaller castle, Hohenschwangau Castle, is an old summer home of Bavarian Kings.
The bigger castle, Neushwanstein,
was build in the late 1800's and was never finished, but it is impressive.
I originally meant to get to the hill early enough to watch some of the campers practice, but I didn't leave Fussen until 6 PM or so.
It took a minute to find the hotel, fortunately it was fairly easy as it was next to the church, but I found the media office even faster.
At the bottom of the hotel was the Kiwi
which was the unofficial headquarters of the Americans and the Brits. I was amazed out how many Americans were already here, there were only three or four people who hadn't shown up yet!
Wednesday, July 11
Today was the last of a four day "camp." The camp was a way to get more riding in. I had decided to skip part of the camp to enjoy more of Austria. I've got to admit that if this is run next year it will be a tough decision. The camp was fairly laid back, and all about having fun. Yet Austria is a gorgeous country.
The camp was about having fun and getting extra rides in on the road, it didn't start to late, with a long lunch hour. For those that camped
at the meadow at the finish there was a mess tent
and showers set up.
I got up early because I wanted to drive the road, and get registered before practice started. On my way out of town I say the cows going out to pasture.
The race site is about 8 kilometers from Feichten. To get there you had to go through a toll booth.
I drove up the road and stopped at the top of the dam.
There is not a cloud in the sky, and this place is amazing. At the dam was a map of the area.
A view from the middle of the dam from the road.
I am not a very technical rider and I was a bit apprehensive of the road. But I figured if the large tour buses can make it around those hairpins, I could make it around those hairpins on my luge! I got back to the camp, and found out I got up too early. Gerhard was just waking up, we weren't going to start practicing for another hour!
I wandered around the camp a bit. At the head of the camp was a small shrine.
I found the large diesel generator that provided the power.
And it looked like the Rogers Bros showed up!
We started to get ready for a day of practice.
It was finally time to head up. The bus seemed fairly full, there were a lot more people at camp than I expected.
I never got over how beautiful the place was.
We spent a lot of time waiting around. Mainly because the road was open between runs, we had to wait for the road to clear out.
As the morning went on the sky got cloudier,
It has hard to believe that it was sunny without a cloud in the sky a few hours ago.
We broke for a long lunch around 2, and then it started raining. It cleared up about 3, but it was a long lunch, and it started raining again. I heard that Sunday's practice was cancelled because of the rain. Gerhard decided to have a "wet practice" today, because we may have to race in the rain. So up we went.
I went up on my butt board, and sat up the whole way down. I watched Pam and a couple other racers spin out a few times on the way down. I got to the bottom, soaked and decided to call it quits. Pam was having the time of her life, saying to felt like 12 again. It was a fun but wet run.
Most of us Americans gave up,
with Moody's leathers dieing his t-shirt red. A few diehards decided to keep riding.
As we cleaned up, I commented on how the guys still riding (and going faster each time) would be the ones beating us this weekend.
We headed back to town before the nights riders meeting. I saw the cows going home.
As usual we were having dinner at Kiwi's when Dave Auld and Chris Chaput came arrived. They told the story of lost baggage. They each lost half their luggage, apparently Dave lost his luge, while Chaput lost his luggage but not his luge (or maybe it was the other way around.) But it was easy to tell who had been here before. Chaput looked bummed out, while Dave had this huge grin, he was just happy to be back! After dinner we headed back to the camp for a riders meeting,
and last chance registration.
Thursday, July 12th
Today is the first official day of practice. It was another gorgeous morning, with low lying clouds drifting through the valley.
The hotel I was staying at was next to the town church.
I walked to the grocery store for some supplies when I saw a waterfall.
On the way up to the race site I saw a bench sitting on the side of the road. I was trying to figure out why the chair was there when I spotted another waterfall.
This is only one of the few waterfalls near the town. This place is amazing.
The weather today was incredible, and everyone was here. I thought the bus was full yesterday, today there were twice as many people. At one time during practice, Darren wanted to do some more filming for his movie.
The camera was not light! Quite a few butt boarders headed down.
I don't remember if it was this run, but one of our butt board runs, where just about everyone goes at once, I was out in the lead going into the carousel. I don't remember exactly what happened, but I was next to another rider when we crashed (we weren't going very fast, as it was towards the end of the turn.) I fell off my board, and looked up to see a half dozen helmets looking at me! I don't know how many people slammed into us, I'm sure it was a huge dogpile. I know that several people went around the outside of me, cause they would go by, grab me and say "let's go." Turns out the guy I originally hooked up was on top of my board, and I'm still trying to go!
We broke for lunch,
leaving our gear lying around.
Some people know how to ride prepared.
How many times have you heard at the top of the course, "anyone got a 9/16ths?" After we finished up for the day we had another riders meeting. This time to go over the rules.
Marcus was going to do the tech, and he was pointing out some rule violations, using Gerhard's luge! These Austrians know how to party, they brought their own bar!
Friday, July 13th
Today was qualifying. Being Friday the 13th should have clued us in that some strange things would happen. Marcus ran a pretty tight ship.
Because this was the first time tech was being held at Hot Heels, the rules weren't very strict. But Marcus did make people change a few things, and he didn't discriminate. I caught Tom fixing his luge.
The weather looked promising so far.
But standup was going to go first, luge wouldn't actually run until after lunch. A couple of the guys napped
others worked on their equipment.
Some guys even flew kites.
Dave Auld notice some wood boards that had copied his designs, so we wandered over to meet the guys. Their boards, made of wood, copied Dave's , down to their paint jobs.
We got a picture of the riders and their board.
I really liked the fish board.
I took a few pictures of the downhillers and inliners.
Pete Elliot, from some odd reason decided to take up inlining.
He had hoped that his equipment wouldn't pass tech (he was missing a bolt) but he was "saved" by fellow inliners. Chris Chaput was doing his normal, participating in ever sport.
One of the crowd favorites, following Chaput was "spiderman." This guy had a ton of wheels attached to his body.
But he really looked like he was having fun coming down.
He also had a lot of control.
I always love when we can get food on site. While I never ate dinner at the camp, I heard it was good. But the lunches were excellent. I was eating lunch in "our tent" when one of the camer men came by.
The glasses he is wearing are actually video monitors! I don't know how this happened, but there were three tents set up. The big mess tent, another small tent the Britain's co-opted,
and the Red Bull tent,
which the American's took over.
The rest of the Europeans pitted in the camp area.
I think George Orton and Tom Mason were the only American racers missing from our group photo.
We got on the bus for a practice run before qualifying, when it started to rain! The road was soaked by the time we got ready to go.
The weather sure had changed from the morning.
It rained pretty hard at the beginning of qualifying. Tom Mason said there was a river in Hell's Gate. It stopped about half way through. On our second trip up the road was drying out. But then it started raining again. Pete had switched his wheels to regular wheels, when it started to rain again. So at the top he quickly changed his wheels.
Most of us tried to watch the racers navigate through the hairpins, but the clouds were also mesmerizing.
After qualifying, a few of the guys hung out in the mess tent to stay out of the rain.
Mark came out only to race butt boards, he was still racing.
I was in the middle of the pack of riders, so I got to see a few of the other riders come down. It sure was wet!
Gerhard had a nice timing system out for qualifying.
Unfortunately when the rain came there was some problems with the equipment, which caused some controversy. Especially since some people didn't qualify that were expected to!
It was finally time for butt boarding, the premier event at Hot Heels.
The weather was improving,
but the course was still wet, with a few dry spots. As usual, we gathered at the bottom to discuss the run.
It was rather difficult with dry spots, because your feet would catch in the dry areas. As the riders came down, the boards stacked up.
And more riders gathered.
I got Pam and Martin chatting.
Our last run of the day, and the course was practically dry.
I didn't improve my time too much, because I forgot how to do a dry run! I slowed down WAY too much in each turn. It didn't matter, everyone was going to race.
One thing about the valley, the weather changes quickly.
The day was done, and yet the weather was perfect.
Friday night was the first of two big parties. Each night would have three live bands.
We had a short meeting
to discuss the racing as well as the days qualifying.
Then the bands started playing.
The attraction though, was Gerhard's tent when the heats were posted.
While a few people danced inside,
a few people tried to set up in the Red Bull tent, I don't know how many of them it took to get the heater going.
The sky was clear, and the the stars were amazing. I didn't stay too late, had to get up early for racing.
Saturday, July 14th
It seems life in the small town is started by the church bell. Last night I asked for a 6:45 wake up call. The front desk tried to set it up, he said if it doesn't work, don't worry the bell goes off at 7. And it's right next door. Today was race day, and I woke at the sound of the bell.
Seeing the cows going out to pasture was pretty cool and just adds to the charm.
I found Pam already up and huddled in front of a make shift heater, a spotlight,
it can get pretty chilly in the morning. During the morning we autographed these posters for Gerhard and Marcus.
They were a bunch of South Park like lugers from various countries!
If it rains, it usually rains in the afternoon, so skateboarding was going first. A couple of us camped out at the carousel to watch. This is a tricky corner, as you go through the chicane first, you have to slow down to take the corner. Chaput couldn't decide on how to slow down and got fairly squirrelly one time.
It's amazing he stayed on. I got setup one time to take a picture of John Rogers. He has in perfect form, and just as I took the picture he fell.
Manu was a crowd favorite, and usually in the lead.
His first heat he waved in to the crowd.
While getting ready for the luge race
I spotted a new event.
Table riding? We got a picture of all of the luge racers.
I was unable to get any pictures of luge, because I participated in every round. I made it to the consolation round. Unfortunately my first two runs were my best (or perhaps fortunately, as it did get me into the consolation) my last two runs I just couldn't get anywhere, but I still ended up 8th. My first top ten finish! I know what Dave meant, when he said he was worn out last year. We were commenting, as we heading up for the semi finals that FOUR continents were represented! Two riders from Europe, a South American, an Australian, and four Americans.
Butt boarding was the final event of Hot Heels 10. I didn't last long. I actually never recovered from the rain, I forgot the lines and how little to break. I did climbed the scaffolding at the finish line. Unfortunately my pics didn't come out. I didn't get many good pics of butt boarding.
Dave Rogers was on fire was usual. Butt boarding generates the greatest number of smiles.
The numbers for the first three riders are based on the previous years Butt Boarding finish. Dave improves from third to first.
And Brent De Keyser is FAST. Just moments ago he finished third, and he already has two beers.
Meanwhile Darren Lott was not having a very lucky weekend. Earlier he had his bib shredded when it got wrapped around his wheels. I guess when he was turning, his shoulder touched the ground. Somehow this allowed his bib to get wrapped up in the rear wheels. In the butt boarding finals, someone put their foot down in, to brake, in front of Darren, and he ended up doing a somersault. And yet he is still excited.
Nick Duffield went to his first race, and came in third. He was very happy.
After dinner we came back for the awards ceremony and the last party. Hot Heels is a fairly big undertaking, and this year Gerhard didn't have any sponsors. The event was running on a very small budget. They came up with this cool idea of giving trees out as the awards.
The trees would be planted, and plaques would be erected! The vice mayor of Feichten gave a speech.
Inviting us back. Gerhard thanked a few people for their help.
And then the awards.
Gravity Bike Podium:
Ok, its not really a podium shot, but Chris and John didn't pose.
Snake Board Podium:
Women's Luge Podium:
There were three women riders this year, so they held a woman's race.
The other two guys were actually on their way to another event!
Butt Board Podium:
But the fun wasn't over, it was time to party. Nick was overjoyed. He was taking pictures with everyone, including me,
and sporting his country's colors.
While live bands were playing inside, some fun was being had outside.
There was some fire walking, as well has skating through the fire. Some of the French men were fire eating.
But one of the cooler shows was spiderman.
He had replaced his wheels with the wheels that blink. The show was pretty impressive. I wasn't as lucky as Dave was, but I tried to catch it.
He would come down on different wheels giving a pretty good show.
The night continued on until the wee hours of the morning, with a huge mosh pit.
Sunday, July 15th
As much as I wanted to sleep in, I wanted to get up earlier enough to head up to the glacier before the tree planting ceremony. But first I wandered around town, but after breakfast. Most hotels in Europe provide breakfast, but this is no continental breakfast. Its a full fledged affair. Meats and cheeses, eggs, several times of bread, baked at the local bakery. Jams, honey, and other spreads. I miss it, but I probably miss the fresh bread the most.
I wandered through town. Every town in Europe seems to have at least one church.
I picked up a newspaper from the nearest, uh bag.
And of course I had a fresh cup of milk.
Yes that's a coin operated milk machine. You can bring your own containers, or you could use the cups provided. I still can't get over how pretty the place is,
with flowers in every window. I thought I would show you want I saw when I woke every day.
I drove up to the glacier, passing dozens of waterfalls, and cruising through 29 hairpins.
They offer year around skiing. The Australian Ski Team practice here in the summer. A few of the riders went skiing in the morning on practice days. It seems everything I see was a photo op.
When I got back to the camp, we started to clean the place up.
We generated a lot of trash.
It was time for the tree planting ceremony.
The Gravity Bikers had first crack,
the standup guys seem to make a competition out if it.
And finally the butt boarders.
Dave became a real pro at this.
The new Hot Heels 10 forest.
The original plan was to ride the original Hot Heels course in the afternoon. I don't know where the course actually was, but it's higher up on the road. While we had permission to do it, the road wouldn't be protected in any way. The event has supposed to take place after 5, that's when the traffic dies down. Of course thats when it started to rain.
A handful of us decided to go into Italy for dinner. On the way we stopped at a viewpoint,
and a submerged church.
Apparently they decided to submerge the town when they built the dam.
We found this little town in Italy, apparently Dave had been here a few years back. The city was walled in, but Pat liked the size of it.
We found this nice Italian restaurant.
The meal was incredible. A fine, fine way to end a tremendous trip.
Hot Heels is probably the finest event on the tour. The road is both technical and long enough to provide drafting. The scenery is outstanding. The town is lovely. The people in the area love us. Despite the treacherous course there were no major injuries, just a few bruised ego's thanks to the rain. Unfortunately this may have been the last year. I hope not, as I want to do this all over again.