Just on the other side of the Blue Mountains from Sydney, is the town of Bathurst. With a population of about 30,000 it is a fairly large town for the area. The city was built on some gold mines. But today its claim to fame is a Dentistry school and the world famous Mount Panaroma, home of the Bathurst 1000. A big car race held every October.
The course is held on a portion of Mount Panaroma, starting just above the Esses, a set of chicanes that leads into the best corner in the world, the Dipper. The V8 cars catch air hitting this turn, while taking this tur n correctly on a luge feels like getting shot out of a cannon. A couple of more chicanes leads to another great corner, the Elbow. The turn basically starts with a hard right into an 18 degree decline into a sharp, double apex turn. The turn is a bit deceiving, as the road opens up a bit, allowing it to be taken with a bit more speed than expected. Mainting a good exit speed out of the Elbow is important for Conrod Straight. A straight shot to the finish, bringing speeds up to over 100 KPH!
Thursday, November 25
I picked up Furlong from the airport yesterday and we made our way to Bathurst last night. We ran into a couple of the organizers and they said that Marcus wouldn't be here until later today. So we slept in and took our time making our way to the Uni Bar for the registration
A couple of the ASRA guys were doing tech inspection.
I think it was the first time I saw a board measured in tech! Each board was also weighed using a fish scale.
After getting registered and teched, Furlong and I decided to walk the course. I walked it the first year and I did fairly well, but I didn't walk it last year and I had trouble with the dipper.
The dipper is tricky because you want to hit the apex, but it is fairly close to the end of the esses. You have to start turning left before you finish turning right. After spending some time figuring out the dipper we walked down to the elbow.
This is another technical corner. With an 18 degree grade leading into the corner, it makes it difficult to judge. We walked it a couple of times, and I think we figured out a decent line. Of course there is always theory and then there is practice.
After walking most of the course we headed back to the Uni Bar for the riders meeting.
They went over the usual stuff, told us about the campground and event security, and discussed the new race format. Apparently to get in two days of racing for the spectators ASRA developed a strange race to qualify format that they referred to as "trees." We would start out with one round of qualifying on Friday. The schedule actually had the luge and classic finishing by 10:30 AM on Friday! On Saturday instead of another round of qualifying there would be two races. The even qualifiers would race, and the odd qualifiers would race in a separate race. For standup this meant two 64 men races, while luge and classic had two 16 men races. To further confuse matters, standup would also have a "repecharge" race. The top 30 from each "tree" would automatically race on Sunday, the rest would race in one more 64 man race, for the final four spots in Sunday's race. The whole point beyond the system (or so they said) was to give people more race runs. But unfortunately it meant about half the riders ended up finishing based on a single qualifying run, with the second place qualifier being unable to take the pole position.
As soon as the meeting was over
most people took off to find food or head back to the campground. We went to the Ox for dinner. The club has been remodeled since last year, but the food wasn't as good as it was the first year.
Friday, November 26
We woke up pretty earlier to get up to the hill on time. I didn't expect things to get started on time, but the schedule only had us on the track for 2.5 hours! The organizers mentioned they might try to get things started earlier, and I didn't want to miss any of the 2.5 hours we might have. We got up to the course about 7:30.
It looked like the only people around were other lugers, and course workers. It looks like the festival was still being set up as well.
Most of the lugers were ready and waiting to go by 8:00 AM.
But of course the course wasn't ready. We lined up in anticipation of starting,
but we didn't get started until about 8:30. The schedule called for one hour and fifteen minutes of qualifying. I had hoped to get 4 maybe 5 runs in. It took almost 45 minutes to get the first run done.
Things weren't looking very promising. Especially as things were called to a halt as I approached the start line for my second run. It was decided to let a garbage truck up the course for one of the residents, this only took about a half hour.
With the late start, and the long delay we were running fairly late, but they gave us one more run.
Fortunately the last run only took about 15 minutes, and qualifying started, well over an hour late.
While luge and standup would only get one run today, the inliners would take two runs.
Their qualifying runs actually constitute an IIDA race. So the inliners kicked off the qualifying session. I think luge started qualifying about the time it was originally scheduled to finish.
With only 30 lugers it didn't take too long to run through the session. After the luge qualifying, the inliners took their second run.
This gave the lugers a chance to get back to the top of the hill for the classic session.
The classic class was slighty smaller than the luge class, but included three women.
Again the session didn't take too long. Qualifying times were posted almost immediately to google docs. Allowing people around the world to watch the times as they were posted. There was also a monitor near the start line, giving those that hadn't gone down yet a chance to check out the current times.
As soon as classic luge finished qualifying the standup guys started their practice session.
I think they were happy to get a chance to sleep in,
but probably not happy starting almost two hours late. They were supposed to get about two hours of practice
before they got their single qualifying run. Since we were done, we headed back into town to get cleaned up and get lunch.
Newton's Nation was being billed as a music festival with some extreme sports.
Bands started playing about 4 PM. In addition to our downhill sports, there was downhill mountain biking, a vert ramp for bikes and skateboards,
a small scooter park, and a bmx dirt ramp.
There was also a large air bag that people could jump into.
We got back up just as one band finished.
There weren't many people in the venue, and there weren't too many people camping. Someone mentioned that the band You Am I, playing later was the band to watch. So we decided to head back into town for dinner instead of eating festival food.
We got back in time to watch You Am I.
There were about 100 spectators, about half were atheletes! The band made a few comments about it being a small private party. Although it was still fairly early, we decided to call it a night, as it would be an early, but long day tomorrow.
Saturday, November 27
Today's schedule called for luge practice from 8:00 to 8:40, followed by two hours of standup practice. Racing would start about 10:30. But they would run both sets of 64 men and 32 men in standup before luge would race again. Meaning we would have about four hours after our warmup before racing started. I'm not exactly sure why they just didn't have us get some warmup in immediately prior to our race. We tried to get to the course earlier,
as Furlong had purchased the massage package and wanted a pre warmup massage. I didn't expect things to get going until about 8:30, much like yesterday. When I got to the track people were suited up and ready to go! I jumped into my leathers and ran to the start line. Things got started on time for a change!
I was optimistic
as the first run took about 15 minutes. I was hoping we could squeeze three runs in. But the next run took a little longer and we were loading the bus at about 8:35.
Of course most of the standup guys had also expected things to be running late, and there weren't any at the start when I left. So maybe there weren't any at the top and we could get another run in. By the time we got back to the top enough standup guys where already on the start line, and our warmup was over.
Google docs were being used once again, this time to track the race progress.
They were supposed to also have the course wired with cameras, but it wasn't working yesterday.
I hung out at the top while practice was going on.
I wanted to check out the festival.
I'm not sure what time the gates were open to the public, but I guess it was still too early, as some of the booths were closed. There were a bunch of clothing booths, one scooter shop, and a bunch of food boths.
They weren't sure how long the racing would take. The schedule for the day was tight, and if there were a lot of wrecks, it could push things over, so they decided to cut practice short. The standup racing started at about 10:00 AM. There would be two full 64 men races. I started walking down the course
to watch some of the racing.
I watched from the dipper for a while.
The dipper doesn't look quite as technical from above it.
One cool thing was the course was wired for PA, so I could hear the announcers.
Most of the action
was down at the elbow.
Brycin was announcing from here as well.
Most of the first round matches were fairly mismatched.
It is one of the problems with mixing the disciplines, I miss the closer matchups. I did get to see Buggy Rollin, after riding with him a few times yesterday.
He was a crowd favorite.
Once the first two rounds of standup were done, the other disciplines were going to be mixed in, along with the repecharge race. Something like luge, standup, classic, repecharge.
The Australian sun can be quite fierce. One of the biggest improvements over last year was the addition of some shade.
After I ran up to the festival for some lunch I discovered that there was a small lunch van for the atheletes.
Seems more like a coffee van. He had some food, just not sure exactly what. Fortunately the festival wasn't too crowded, and I was able to get a sandwich quickly.
Things were moving along quickly, and I only got a few bites of my sandwich when the luge contestants were called.
We watched the coverage of the standup race while we waited.
The coverage wasn't the best, as there was no cam at the finish, so we didn't always know who won. There were some intermitent dropouts, and the camera work wasn't the best. But it was great to be able to watch the guys go through the two main corners. Unfortunately the video was not streamed live, but supposedly it was saved to be viewed later.
The luge race finally got under way, roughly when it was originally scheduled.
With approximately 30 lugers there were a couple of three man heats, and I ended up in one, with Yvonne. My first heat was with Daniel Rogers and Labarthe. Rogers got the jump on us right from the start. He figured he couldn't beat us in the straights, so his oppurtunity was get out in front and stay out in front. He did get out in front, but then started to slow in the right turn before the dipper. I was caught on his inside, gaining speed. I darted to the outside before he closed me out, clipping the tail end of his luge. Yvonne then passed me just before the finish.
The standup reprecharge race got underway after the luge. This race was mostly for the standup riders who were knocked out in the first round of standup. It gave them a second chance to compete in the main race. After the first round, it was time for classic. Once again I raced Yvonne. This the third racer was Rhys Coy. Yvonne and I beat Coy off the line, but Labarthe let me out paddle him as well. I maintained the lead to the finish, I suspect Labarthe did that to film me.
We were down to semis. This time Yvonne didn't hold back in the push, and I was outpushed by everyone. I raced hard, but I couldn't make up the distance I lost on the start and finished third. In my classic run, again I was outpushed by everyone, meanwhile Labarthe outpushed the entire heat, so it was a race for second. I ended up dragging a foot a little too long in the elbow. I passed Daddow down the straight, but caught Nic right at the finish line and he beat me by a body length.
I got back to the top, and started to get out of my leathers, my day was done. There were no consilation runs. But it was only 2:30 PM and they announced that as there was time left there might be some free rides! I jumped back on my board and headed to the start line. I caught the start of the luge finals
and then got a chance to run a practice run. I wanted to get as many runs as I could get, so I jumped off the truck and was putting my helmet and gloves on as I coasted to the start. I mananged to get three runs in. I had the most fun doing the runs. Seven of us took the last run. I didn't really push off, and drafted and passed everyone by the finish. Unfortunatel Emmy didn't make it down. It is devastating when someone gets hurt, but its worse when it happens in your heat. Emmy ended up being taken to the hospital
with a possible broken leg.
One of the reasons we got a couple extra practice runs in
was they were setting up the timing system for a special run for the 10 ten standup riders. They were going to race in a shootout for $1000. I missed most of it, as several of us were making sure Emmy was being taken care of. But a bunch of guys watched it on the screen.
It was only 4:00 when then shootout was over, but the day was done.
After getting some dinner Furlong and I stopped at the hospital, I wanted to see how Emmy was doing. We got to the hospital just as she was leaving.
She had damaged both her legs. Her left leg was just sprained, but the right leg was too swollen for them to get a good xray. So they casted the leg and asked her to return in the morning. We also checked up on Dominque, but she had already left the hospital. We found her at the music festival, dancing on one good leg.
She had broken her wrist, and damaged some of the tendons in her leg.
We listened to Birds of Tokyo
I think I liked the music from last night better, but this I think this was a better band. Bliss and Esso was up next
a rap group. But it was also apparently the big group that everyone wanted to listen too as the crowd appeared to double. It wasn't exactly my kind of music, but the crowd seemed to enjoy it. There were still two more bands, but again we had an early day tomorrow, so we headed in.
Sunday, November 4
The weather so far has been incredible. It was a little cloudy yesterday, keeping the day a bit cooler. I don't know why, but I decided to look out the window when I woke up. And I saw the worst sight, the ground was wet. It had rained during the night. It was hard to tell what would happen. If the clouds blow over and the sun comes out, the track will dry quickly.
We got to the top, and decided to leave most of our gear in the car. Wasn't worth dragging it through the festival if we wouldn't race. But people were on the line ready to go.
The road was pretty slick, but there was every indication that we would race. I grabbed my luge to change my wheels. I had changed to new wheels last night, and new wheels are the worst wheels to run in the rain.
Duffield was one of the first guys down the hill, and he was just getting back to top as I started changing my wheels. My plan was to change my wheels and start practicing. But Nick came back and said it wasn't worth it. He said he spun out when he was going at only a walking pace. The rain just seem to get worse.
I wasn't sure what to do. If we race, I needed to some practice. But if we don't race, I didn't want to get my leathers soaking wet. But more and more people were practicing, inlcuding standup guys.
Some of them were even making rain wheels.
I decided I better at least take a run to see what the course was like.
Despite the fact that our scheduled time was over, they were letting everyone take rides, because there weren't a lot of riders. I took off, figuring I could slow down for the two main turns. But the road was so slick I basically drug my feet all the way to the elbow. The pavement is some of the best in the world, but because of it, it is also the worst when it becomes wet. I made it to the elbow, and laid down for the straight. But I couldn't see, so I opened my visor, only to have my eyeballs pelted with rain drops.
It is hard to say what is going to happen in a race, most people will push harder. So I thought the road was unsafe. But also I though that a race was mostly pointless as we would have to take the turns too slow. It would be a dumb race. I took one run, and decided that I was done. I would race if we had to, but my vote was for no race. Meanwhile they let us continue to freeride.
Some of the guys continue to ride, to enjoy the day.
I think the organizers had hoped the weather might clear, but it just seem to get worse.
A riders meeting was finally called. Buggy Rollin gave a quick show
while the meeting was getting organized.
The meeting started with the rain increasing.
Basically it was announced that the forecast was calling for worse weather as the day progressed. Each group was called aside to vote on whether they would race or not. Inline started off the voting process, and they elected to race. Next up was classic.
I think seven people voted to race, it was not enough and the classic race was cancelled. Then luge voted, and only three lugers voted yes! All three standup groups voted to race.
I think it is the first time the standup guys raced, but the lugers did not. It wasn't so much as it was unsafe, although that was a primary reason why many of the lugers voted no. But a safe speed was just too slow. After the standup race was over one of the racers said they could have walked around the corner faster!
I wanted to watch some of the race, but I had not rain gear, and my clothes were already completely soaked. The awards ceremony was starting at 6 at the Uni Bar. Dinner was also being served there, but we had a late lunch. The awards ceremony finally got under way
with Brycin emceeing.
Cunningham, Woehrle, Peer Classic:
Labarthe, Duffield, Madzan Street Luge:
Duffield, Labarthe, Kelly Shootout:
Daluha Junior Standup:
Wildash, Borchardt, Kruize Woimen's Standup:
Neilson, Davies, Kornienko Standup:
Reimer, Kelly, Switzer After the awards
were handed out all of the winners were called up on stage.
and then they called up all of those who were injured.
People started to disperse almost immediately. I guess some people wanted to head home. There was definitely a lot less drinking than there has been in the past.
Despite the race day getting rained out, the event was pretty good. It did have the wacky race to qualify format, but at least this year there was more shuttle busses. Unfortunately there were almost no spectators, but any good festival takes time to get off the ground, and this time there is a five year commitment. We'll have to wait and see if they stick to it. There were several sprained ankles, a few broken collar bones (or just shoulder separations) and a broken wrist. I think there were fewer wrecks than last year, but the wrecks we did have seemed more serious.