For the second year Newton's Playground was held on the haloed grounds of Mount Panorama. Mount Panorama is a road race track that is also a public road, on the outskirts of the old gold mining town of Bathurst, Australia. Because it is a race track, the road surface is immaculate.
The course itself is one of the steepest on the circuit, parts even rival Tuetonia, except it isn't as long. There are two very challenging corners. Despite only have two tough corners, the course is very technical.
Thursday, November 26
I pulled into town last night. Late enough to get checked into the university hotel, and grab dinner. I woke up and grabbed my skateboard to skate over to the Unibar
where registration was (and our after party would be.) I wasn't sure how to get there, and when registration started. Turns out that the university isn't exactly skateboard friendly. There were too many steps and very narrow sidewalks. Registration was well underway,
along with tech inspection. I chatted a bit with those who were already there. There weren't too many in line, so I went back and got my equipment. Of course when I got back the line was longer. As I got my stuff teched, Marcus mentioned he was staying at Citigate.
Citigate (just off to the right in the pic) is the hotel near the pits on the course. Last year this hotel was fenced off, but it just opened a month ago. The cost of the room was only a little more than the university, so I moved. The room is probably one of the nicest I've ever stayed in,
wonder if it will still be that way after being open for a year.
It was back to the Unibar for a riders meeting. Of course the meeting didn't get started right way,
so we all mingled and met up with old friends. The meeting finally got underway about 7.
Haggi, as the main organizer kicked off the meeting.
He introduced Marcus. Marcus announced that they brought over Bricin, from coastlongboarding.com
to announce the race! After the meeting we were sent into the next room to get a good bag.
The bag had a few things including a tshirt, and event flip flops. While there was food at the unibar, a bunch of us headed off to the Oxford (where we partied last year) for dinner.
Friday, November 27
Things were supposed to get started at 8 AM. I figured things wouldn't get started right away but I wanted to get the free breakfast at the top of the hill.
There were a couple of vendors, one selling coffee and other warm drinks,
and a hot dog type vendor. They were giving away a sausage and egg and bacon roll to the competitors. Of course things didn't get started right away, so I checked out the campsite.
The campsite has a decent set of showers and toilets. About 8:30 people were starting to suit up and head down to the start line.
The first heat of practice kicked off shortly after that.
At the bottom we had small shuttles with trailers to take us back up,
around the other side of the track. It only took about 15 minutes to get from the top, down the course, and back up again in the shuttle. But with over fifty lugers, and about one hundred standups, and a dozen other racers
it took about an hour to complete a round trip. One reason the line was moving so slow, was they let each heat pass the elbow before sending the next heat. And almost every heat was wrecking in the dipper or the elbow.
This race had the largest luge turnouts since the 2003 Hot Heels (the second IGSA World Championship).
It was exiting to see a lot of new lugers as well as new luges. We got three practice runs in
before it was time to start our first qualifying. We were running a little late, trying to get everyone three runs in.
Classic started off the qualifying.
The field was only about half the size of luge, and didn't take too long.
We didn't break for lunch, so with standup qualifying after classic, I took the opportunity to grab a bite to eat. I checked out some of the vendors. Draggin Jeans
one of the sponsors of the event. Their jeans have kevlar in them, and they can be a decent alternative to leathers. A local massage company also offered a discount for the athletes.
I walked down the course. I wanted to watch at the elbow, as I never had a chance to get down there last year.
Striker was announcing from this corner.
The course was wired, I think with internet cables, to allow his announcing to be heard up the course. I watched a few of the standup guys take the corner, and I think I figured out a good line as well.
While there were about one hundred standup riders, and it would take about two hours to get through the list, and with me being one of the last street lugers, I wasn't exactly in a hurry to get back to the top. But I didn't want to miss my run either.
I made it back up before the first lurger started.
The qualifying results were posted live to the web, using google docs. The results were then piped up to some screens at the top of the course.
The results were constantly sorted and updated. It was pretty cool being able to watch how everyone else was doing.
The only downside is by the time I got back, they were on the next event, and I had to wait to see my time.
Towards the end of the day Jacko, one of Australia's best downhillers, put in an appearance.
He had injured his knee just a few weeks ago, and just had surgery.
The gravity bikes finished up the qualifying. Everything was running a little late, and they finished up about 5:30.
I thought the plan was to use the Unibar as the party headquarters every night. I made plans to meet some of the other guys there, and I decided to head down there a little early. And for the most part the place was empty! After everyone joined us, we ended up deciding to eat dinner there, as it was easier. But not many other people showed up. I guess most people found their own restaurants, or ate at the campground
Saturday, November 28
I wasn't sure if things would get started on time, but with the last chance race this afternoon, we were going to have even less time for practice. I decided to make sure I was at the course by 8:00 AM. It was easy to do with my hotel at the bottom of the hill.
We actually got start shortly after 8.
In an effort to give everyone as many runs as possible it was decided to segregate the disciplines. The theory is that many of the standup guys were wrecking, causing the hay to be restacked, and a short wait between every heat. We were going to have one hour for practice.
It was taking us about 15 minutes to complete a round trip. I was hoping we would get four runs in. But we started a few minutes late, and they cut us off sharply at 9:00, plus there were a few late wrecks. But we managed to get three runs in, in about 50 minutes. Yesterday it took four hours!
Standup would have about an hour and a half, with a goal of getting everyone two runs. We had some time to kill before luge classic qualifying.
I was having some problems with the dipper (which is ironic, because last year I had the turn down pat) so I went and watched at the dipper for a bit.
The dipper is a very fun corner, but is technically challenging. It is more of a chicane, that a real turn. What you don't see in this picture is there is another turn just to the left which complicates the whole process. Also what is hard to see is the last skateboarder, in green is actually in a dip in the road.
Just at the end of the practice session a group of riders went down for a media run.
I'm not exactly sure why but this turns into bad news a lot (one reason is the person driving the vehicle.) I only heard about it later, and have yet to see the pics, but there was a spectacular crash in the dipper. Daddow slammed into the ground, almost hitting the motorcycle. Fortunately everyone was ok!
Once again classic qualified first.
Yesterday qualifying was in reverse numerical order, today it is in reverse order of yesterday's times. So the slowest went first. Or in Yvon's case, those that wrecked went first.
The cool thing about this is generally every person down takes over the number one spot, so the whole thing is exciting. In addition they had a few cameras set up on the course, and the feed was piped to the top.
Unfortunately we watched on widescreen TV's which weren't exactly designed for outdoor viewing.
And sometimes it could get a bit crowded, and it was hard to see the screen.
Once again we had about a two hour break as standup qualified.
I took the opportunity to eat. The weather had started off nice, but it has been getting windier all day.
It amounted to a decent tail wind, which should increase times a bit.
I knew once luge qualifying started it would go fairly quickly, and with me somewhere in the middle of the pack, I wanted to be ready. I ran into one of the skaters who was seventh. He was getting ready, so I figured it was time. Turns out there was still 30 or 40 riders to go, and I got all leathered up for nothing. Fortunately the weather was a little cooler than yesterday.
I'm used to have fewer than 30 lugers. With 50 lugers, it took a bit longer than I estimated to get through the field.
But with the video screens, we were able to watch most of the riders, and check out their times. Once qualifying was over, heats were posted for the reprechage race.
Maryhill had a last chance qualifier, Newton's Playground is having a reprechage race. The top 62 skateboarders qualified for tomorrow's race. The next 32 would race, with the top two taking up positions 63 and 64 in tomorrow's race. Luge would also hold a reprechage race, but with 30 prequalified and the next 16 in the reprechage race. With this format, almost everyone skateboarder and luger would race.
The skateboarders started off the race.
The two races were actually intermixed. So after the first round of skateboard, the first round of luge was run.
I watched most of the races on the wide screen.
It was a tough decision, watch the entire race on the screen, or watch it from one of the two corners. I think many of the qualified racers watched from the elbow. Yvon filmed a few of the rounds of both luge and standup.
Both races finished early about 4:30!
We hit the Unibar for dinner once again. I didn't want to eat dinner there, but I got there a bit late, and there were quite a few more people than last night. There were a couple of shuttle runs between the bar and the campsite. The bar shut down after the last shuttle.
Sunday, November 29
The weather forecast for today mentioned possible rain showers. I got up to the mountain a little earlier, as today's schedule was tighter than yesterdays. And the sky didn't look too promising.
It wasn't exactly threatening rain, but it was very hazy. I thought the schedule was going to be the same, an hour of luge practice, and an hour and a half of standup. After our first run I found out the plan was to give us two runs,
and the standup two runs.
The schedule for today was going to be very tight, as usual, it seems. Standup led off the racing.
But like yesterday the races would be interleaved. The basic format was classic, standup, and then luge. But with each class having a different number of people it went something like standup, luge, standup, and then classic. In addition the juniors and women's race was intermixed later in the day.
The reason that the races were mixed was to keep the track in constant use. One set of racers would be brought up the hill, as the other set raced. One advantage was it gave people a chance to work on their equipment between heats.
Unfortunately it meant staying in our leathers all day.
It took a while to get through the first heat of standup, before luge got underway.
I was in one of the final heats of the first round.
It felt like we got through the first two rounds fairly quickly, and that we would finish the day early! Things would get a little more interesting as classic would immediately follow luge, and would have to wait for them to get back to the top. I wasn't racing all that well. I didn't have a push in classic, and got knocked out in the first round. I advanced to the second round in luge, but was still having a problem with the dipper, and finished third. Because of the way they intertwined I got knocked out of both classes in the same round. At least I was done, and could get out my leathers. I also had a chance to get some lunch. There was no lunch break built into the schedule, making it difficult for those that kept advancing to get something to eat.
I was getting something to eat, and watching the races when I discovered they were going to run "playoffs" that is for those that made it into the top 16, they were going to run a losers bracket. I rushed to get into my leathers, and I came running back, still getting my equipment on. They were yelling for me to get on the line. I get ready, get up, and wait. There was an accident, and it was taking a while to cleanup. While we were waiting, Budro and Yatze started bowling using slide gloves.
Finally things were cleaned up, as soon as the ambulance
came by we were ready to go. And then it was announced that because we were short on time, the "playoffs" would be cancelled! I also found out that the accident happened in the semi finals in buttboard with Labarthe and Schultz both going to the hospital! Thus the consolation heat had two racers.
The buttboard final was run as soon as the riders got back to the top.
With only a few more heats to run, and almost two hours to finish up, they tried to drag things out a bit. They ran a free ride. I took the opportunity to ride the road again. I decided to stay at the bottom to watch the last couple of finals. Meanwhile a few other people took advantage of the freeride.
Jacko even took a run.
The the luge final came down. I was standing on finish line watching the heat come down Condrod Straight.
Nick and Lally were battling it out, neck and neck. The flashed by the finish line at 65 MPH and I snapped a shot, just before they got to the finish line.
Nick won! Marcus, also on my side concurred. But, wait. The three people on the other side thought Lally won. I was the first to present a photo, but Lally was overtaking Nick and the photo was before the finish. The result was inconclusive. Marcus had the official photo finish camera, but was running into difficulties downloading the footage. Meanwhile another videographer (on the opposite side) thought he had the shot to prove Lally won. The problem was his camera was a few feet further down the course, with the angle it was to difficult to judge.
Finally after the ambulance crew drove their ambulance over, so we could use the car batteries, Marcus was able to download the footage that showed a frame with Nick about a TOE ahead of Lally! It only took about a half hour to determine Nick won!
The standup final was almost anti-climatic
it wasn't even close.
The race was over, and everyone started to pack up. A few of us took some last minute photos,
There was someone taking 3D shots. (wildmind ) He took a few of me and Will and Will and Andy.
I think it would be a cool novelty to own a nice 3d image of myself.
Just before we left the top of the hill Yvon came back from the hospital. He was a bit drugged up, but he was ok. Probably just some cracked or broken ribs.
The awards ceremony was going to be held at the Unibar. There were already people gathered to watch videos.
I didn't get much to eat, and I suspect many others didn't either, with today's tight schedule. So as soon as the kitchen opened I got in line.
Unfortunately it was the same food we had all week, but I was hungry. After eating we mostly just mingled
until the prize giving started.
Several people were going around getting others to sign shirts and stuff. It is always a cool idea.
Yvon and Schultz ended up in the hospital from one bad classic wreck. Eliot was also involved, so he joined the crowd in watching the footage.
It was finally time to give the awards out. With probably the best look trophies going to classic!
Striker was doing a fine job of announcing, so he continued his duties and emceed the awards ceremony.
The first set of awards given out were for the 2008 World Cup Champions.
Smith(standup), Davies (women's standup), Phillips (gravity bike) where the only three in attendence.
Cunningham, Eisler, Meyer
Moodie, Phillips, Allbrooks
Lally, Stephenson, Eliot
Duffield, Lally, Eliot
Davies, Gemperle, Harding
Reimer, Smith, Chapman
I thought the the skateboards as trophies was cool, and was definitely jealous of the cool classic boards. The winners also received cool checks.
I don't know how I would have gotten one home.
We partied, and said our good byes.
Kurt celebrated his birthday and got tossed around the room.
The party ended when the last bus took people back to the campsite. I know the party continued up there for a few more hours, but it was late, and I have a long drive back to Sydney, so I called it a night.
Mount Panorama is a great course, a little short, but it is fast and technical, and challenges the best of us. Unfortunately there are a lot of new riders, and that led to a lot of accidents. And just the course itself caused some of the better riders to wreck. Too many people ended up in the hospital, or required medical attention. Multiple seperated shoulders, several broken wrists or arms, cracked/broken ribs, and at least one set of punctured lungs. Numerous sprained ankles, and problem a few broken, and one or two broken hands. This was probably the most injurious race since the second Almabtrieb!
Hopefully next year it will go a bit more smoothly.