Talimena Drive Xtreme Downhill
IGSA's first World Cup event took place on Talimena Drive on the Oklahama side of Ouachita National Forest, about a half hour from the one horse town of Poteau.
The course is fairly fast with many riders approaching 65 mph, and the road is deceivingly technical. There are no real hairpins, and most of the corners can be taken without braking, if it was just a tad slower.
Friday, June 6
There are several ways to get to the race course. The closest big airports are in Tulsa or Little Rock, about 3 hours away. Then there is Dallas, about 5 hrs away. Or you can fly a prop plane into Fort Smith, Arkansas, about an hour from the course. I got to Fort Smith about 9:30. This is the nicest airport I have every seen. The waiting room (there are only three gates, all leading from the same room) feels like a large living room, complete with couches and arm chairs!
When I left Dallas it was raining, I was worried, but it was fairly clear in Fort Smith. I headed straight to the race course,
getting there around 11:30. Unfortunately the closer I got to the race course the cloudier it got.
Things were slow getting started and the first run was just about ready to go when I arrived. I still need to check in, build my board, and tech. It was definitely cloudy up here, but apparently it had cleared up a bunch since earlier this morning.
I managed to get everything ready just in time for the last run of the morning.
I figured it wasn't really worth suiting up, chances are I would have missed them if I did. After the last guy left I headed back to the pit area (this year we all pitted in the campground proper) I saw Pete Eliot wandering up in his leathers. Sucker...
Lunch was catered, and was included in the race fee.
I'm not sure what lunch was today, as I had stopped on the drive up. Many people took the lunch break to futz around.
Our chase vehicle was on loan from a local dealership (Run by Rusty's brother, sorry I forget the name) The truck was some sort of work vehicle. There were some compartments on the outside for helmets and a few boomless boards.
On the inside where some long shelves, where most of our boards went. Occasionally a rider would also fit.
Meanwhile the rest of us used the truck as our own personal sauna.
The weather for the remainder of the day was cloudy, not to warm, but humid. We got about a half dozen runs in the afternoon session.
While quite a few people were staying at the campground, most of the rest of us were staying at Days Inn.
We all raced back to the hotel to clean up before the riders party.
The riders party has held at the base of Cavanal, the world's highest hill (apparently a mountain has to have an elevation of at least 2000 feet.) The road up the side of this hill is fairly sick, and there is talk of having it paved, for a race...
The party had a live band,
a Red Bull tent,
food and beer.
After most people were done eating, the finally got the bull working. Most people tried it, before we broke it. I tried to get a picture of everyone who rode, but my camera took its sweet time to decide to take the shot, and I only got the backs of some people.
I think most people had a great time.
Red Bull was also at the party (and the event) in Force. They had one team of Red Bull girls, as well as several people up the marketing chain. I wished I had done a better job of getting their pictures, but at least Hod was making friends with the Red Bull Girls.
I enjoyed the party better than last years, it was closer to the hotel (practically across the street) and it was outside.
Saturday, June 7
Today was practice and qualifying. We weren't supposed to start until about 10 am. Red Bull was already set up by the time I got to the course.
Today looks like its going to be a scorcher, no cloud cover. Thankfully not only is Red Bull here with ice cold Red Bull
there was a vendor at the start line selling cold water, cold sodas and BBQ sandwiches.
I noticed that many people were pushing the number plate rule. There were a plethora of fender plates. In addition to other small or unusual plates.
One of the news stations was on hand doing some filming.
We had a decent morning of practice, with Rian James hitting almost 66 mph. For lunch we had some turkey and ham sandwiches.
It was time to qualify. A light cloud cover came in, not really enough to cool things down.
Buttboarders were one of the first to qualify.
Meanwhile most of the lugers used the shade of the Red Bull tent.
It was a long day for those that only streetluged, as they had to wait for both gravity bikes, inliners, buttboarders, and standups. While most goofed on under the Red Bull tent,
and others communed with nature.
It was finally time to qualify for streetluge.
Of course with 31 lugers, and a few crashes, it took awhile.
The butterflies where everywhere.
And still it took time.
Of course it seemed longer has I was one of the last to go, we went in reverse numerical order.
The first one took a while,
(longer for some) but then we lined up for the second run.
The second run took less than a half hour!
We raced back to the hotel, it was late, and we were hungry. By the way, its fairly dangerous to have a hotel so far away from a RACE course, where RACErs RACE all day, and then have to, uhm, drive, back to the hotel.
After cleaning up
a bunch of us went out for Mexican.
We ordered a lot of food.
After dinner we wandered over to a bar next to the hotel (first beer was free) where some karoke was playing. Kahn dedicate the song "I've got friends in low places" to all of us.
Sunday, June 8
I showed up at the riders meeting in time to see Marcus "fixing" Eliot's luge. Apparently there wasn't enough duct tape on the board.
Then McIntytre got jealous and wanted in.
The rider's meeting was slow to materialize, so Kahn had some fun with the bullhorn. Apparently he went to far.
And that still wasn't good enough.
Finally the meeting got underway.
We had only four standup riders, each one from a different continent. South Africa, and Australia watched the meeting in style.
Racing finally got underway. Stock gravity bikes and buttboarders were first.
Of course Gilder rode away with the victory.
We all pitted down in the camp ground, a good quarter of a mile, downhill from the start. While this made it easy to go back to the pit area, it made it rather difficult to get to the start (unless there was a car handy.) Hicks had the best idea.
Rusty had a few sponsors lined up.
With Deitz & Watson providing meat for the lunches.
We broke for lunch.
During lunch Bill broke out with his latest board design.
Its not quite finished, it'll look pretty nice when it is.
and full fairing gravity bikes
raced next. Chaput took quite a fall in the first run of standup, destroying his lexars.
The last race was streetluge.
We originally had 31 riders, but we lost a few before racing started. My heat still had four riders in it. Eliot, the number three qualifier beat us all out of the gate. I wasn't too far back heading into turn five, the sharp left hander, I tapped the brakes, and Furlong flew by me, barely. Coming out of five I was gaining on him, and if I hit the next turn properly I could pass him back and advance. I hit the turn hotter than I had all weekend, I don't remember if I even broke. I drifted wide and hit the hay. I'm pretty sure I lifted the outside foot out of the way, but I twisted my inside foot. As I tumbled I was pretty sure I broke my ankle.
As I was laying there, (getting upset) and removing my leathers, Shelton, the last rider in our heat. He stops to see if I'm ok and notices his hand is bleeding. Turns out he wrecked in turn five, and split his thumb open.
Fritz picks me up in his van, drives me to the top,
so I can say some goodbyes.
Fritz and I headed back to Poteau, while Shelton headed back to a larger hospital in Tulsa.
We were at the hospital for several hours. At one point they mention to us one of the riders broke his femur and they were rushing morphine out to the course. They xrayed me and though it was just a bad sprain. Put my in a splint, and sent me on my way. Fritz and I stop at about the only place that is open for dinner, as we figure everyone has eaten by now. As we were eating next to the hotel, the riders were JUST starting to arrive. Since I couldn't do much, I headed back to my room. About an hour later most of the rest of the riders arrived. Turns out the course was shut down for nearly three hours, has Rob (with the broken femur) was airlifted out.
I would like to thank everyone who helped me, and the other injured riders. Several people drove me and my cars to the hospital, hotel, and airport. They helped me pack, and Rusty shipped my luge back.
I've broken three limbs in the last 11 months, I have to seriously consider if I want to continue racing. I will continue to be a part of the sport, I just don't know if I can race again.
I didn't get any pictures of the podiums, you can visit www.gravity-sports.com for the results.
While the course is tough, the race itself was great. Usually started a bit late, but I was having fun until someone got hurt. I ended up with a fractured tibia, and there was a broken femur, and a fairly badly split thumb that required a lot of stitches. This road is not one to be taken lightly.