St. George, UT
St. George, UT is located about two hours north of Vegas and about an hour south of Zion National Park. Its a small town of about 45,000, nestled in an oasis in the middle of the desert.
The two day even was held on a Friday and Saturday, April 30, and May 1. The first day would be practicing and qualifying. The top thirty two qualifiers would race two man and four man, to vie for ten spots in the 99 XGames. Dave Auld, already qualified, was unable to attend the XGames. So eleven qualifiers would be announced.
Thursday, April 29
While Seattle isn't known for its sunny weather, we get a little sun starting around May. Today was the first sunny day in a while, and the weekend promised to be a nice one. I was heading to the desert, so I left ALL my warm clothes at home. I arrived in Vegas to a down pour. I had to have the wipers going full blast. St. George is two hours away, and tomorrow is another day, so hopefully the weather will be nice.
Friday, April 30
As usual we woke up early. (How did I ever get involved in a sport that requires you to be at the course by 8:00 am, or earlier.) Loaded the car, drove about five feet down the rode, and pulled into the pit area. Ok so it was a bit further than five feet, but not by much. There are clouds filling the sky, and its threatening to rain. And to top it off, the wind is blowing and its cold. Especially when you are wearing shorts and a Tshirt. It sure is warmer with the leathers on. We finally start to load up. There's a flatbed ,
for the luges, and a donated truck for the riders.
The course is a short course that is being called a stadium course. This is the first course I've seen that a some spectators can see good portion of the course. The road the course is on is basically a huge S, thankfully some man made chicanes were added to the top to make the course more interesting.
We got one ride in and all went back to the top for another. The weather was only getting worse. After about half the riders went down it started to rain. It didn't take long for water to start running down the course. They decided to close the course, and sit us all down, sitting up. It was quite amusing seeing about twenty riders ride their brakes down. They decided to close for lunch, and reconvene about 1:30. We would then run, rain or shine. I took this opportunity to run down to Old Navy and pick up cheap sweatsuit. Awww warmth.
After lunch, the rain had stopped but the course was still soaked. Better get some practice in on a wet course. The first time down was wet and slippery. Supposedly the fastest run down the hill was someone using Xtreme wheels. The sun started coming out for the second run, and the course was starting to dry out. By the third run, there was only a few puddles left. By the time qualifying started you could hardly tell it rained.
Sometime during the afternoon, Vinnie managed to break his board. I never found out how.
I didn't do so well (actually I did as good as I expected.) While only three seconds separated the top 50 riders, I was in the last second of those three seconds. I was 40th out of 57. After street luge, they had time qualifiers for Stand Up, and I got a few shots.
Saturday, May 1
The majority of riders stayed at the Hampton Inn, which provided a complimentary breakfast. Not just you normal Continental Style either. Fruits, cereal, bagels, and a spread of doughnuts. It also had a hot tub and pool that closed at 11:00 pm. I got back from a late dinner around 10:30 and since the hot tub closed at 11:00, and I had only got a few hours of sleep the night before I had decided to hit the snack Turns out the Inn let the riders soak in the tub until 1:30 AM!
I didn't expect to do very well at the time trials. I'm not a great starter and the course is short, less than .6 miles. In addition there are no riders to draft in a time trial. So I came to the race prepared with a lot of film and a couple of extra lenses. And the weather today was so much better than yesterday.
The riders meeting began under a spectacular blue, cloudless sky. With a couple of onlookers.
As the riders prepared to start their practice,
the hot air balloons gave us a fly by.
The riders at the starting line
get a spectacular view of the nearby mountains.
Just around the first turn the riders can see the finish line.
Before the wide sweeper at the bottom there was a small chicane. The perfect line through was to barely miss the bales on the right, and then barely miss the bales on the left. I figured this would be the hotly contested spot and set up camp nearby. While one could pass at this point, I did in a practice run, most riders came through single file.
Lee Dansie and I think Sean Mallard demonstrate the single file technique.
A group of riders get set up,
, another group exiting in single file.
In fact almost all of the riders went through here in single file.
That is until Tripp and Collebella (I think it has him) figured both could fit through
. They did fit through, but not without hooking up.
Turns out most of the action occurred at the end of the turn. Typically one person would swing wide and the other would dive in underneath. There were also a couple of photo finishes. I tried to capture some of these passes as the riders went away from me.
eXkate's team is quite colorful and its demonstrated in the helmets of its riders.
A few shots from the standup riders, including a shot of Devon demonstrating the lay down version of standup. I missed getting a picture of Orton showing off the flying version. Fortunately I was standing behind the second set of hay bales, otherwise he would have hit me. I don't think I've been to a race yet that George didn't fall down at least once.
And finally the podiums.
Sunday, May 2
I got up early to visit Snow Canyon, a nearby state park before heading back to Vegas and a couple hours of gambling. I took a shot of the hill from the fourth floor of the hotel. I wish I thought about doing this while the hay was still there.