Another weekend, another chance to race on the luge.
It is the bank holiday weekend and SP8BOARDS is back in Wales. This time it is for Ride the Dragon in Pontrhydfendigaid (I have been practicing the spelling!).
Ride the Dragon hasn’t been run for about four years and so I am really looking forward to it. It is a good job I am enthusiastic as the traffic is bad and the journey from Leeds ends up taking over 6 hours instead of the 4 hours suggested by google maps. By the time we arrive at 3 pm on the Friday I could have quite happily got out of the van and kissed the ground.
I haven’t missed that much as Friday is designated as a practice day. There are also luge taster sessions with all equipment and clothing provided for anyone who fancies a go. It is raining and so I decide to have a look at the course before I start my practice. It looks as if many of the downhill guys are coming down seated on their boards because the ground is so slippery. I decide to postpone my practice and check out the course from the comfort of the uplift van. It is a hill climb with hay bales on each corner. I have a feeling I might need these as the course is very steep, very fast and very technical. This is going to be the hardest course I have raced on and I CAN’T WAIT!
As usual I have the campervan and am able to park in the car park at the venue. There are a lot of people camping in tents. There are toilets and local pubs and shops. Best of all though is the stunning Welsh countryside.
Saturday morning dawns and for once the weather is amazing. We eat the sausage sandwiches supplied by the local farmer whilst basking in glorious sunshine.
Next comes the practice session. An uplift van is available, and everyone has plenty of opportunity to do lots of runs. I use my usual luge -the SP8BOARDS Asylum II. My first couple of runs are very steady and I find out that the corners are as fast and difficult as I thought on yesterday’s inspection. After a time, I increase in confidence and decide to give Pint Size, the new SP8BOARDS standard buttboard, a test run. It is well suited to that type of track because it is still stable enough in the straights but because of its shorter wheelbase, it is easy to get around the tighter technical corners.
Sabina Edwards, a regular competitor and owner/editor of Thrill magazine, is competing this weekend. She has my proto-type mini-luge and I help her set up her rear trucks and wheels so she can participate in the luge racing. It is fantastic to see a SP8BOARD in action outside of the usual race team.
Although the original intention is to run the races on Sunday, a storm is forecast and so the organisers decide to start the racing on Saturday afternoon to ensure it happens.
The street luge event is structured as a round robin with every rider racing each other rider in turn through a series of two man races. There are 8 luge riders in total meaning I have 7 heats to complete.
The track is just under a mile in length. A push off is not really needed as it starts on a hill. There is a long straight, a slight turn to the left and then the track drops steeply away and onto a sharp right-handed turn. Next is a slight kink in the track which then goes uphill and takes you over a bump. There is a gentle left-hand corner dropping away into a kinked right-hand turn. Heavy braking is needed to stay on the track for the left hand hairpin and a steep straight followed by a kinked right hand turn. At this point, riders are hitting speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour. Again, some heavy braking helps with the right-handed chicane before going on to the finish line.
My first race is against Gareth Chamberlain and I crash on the last corner of the chicane just before the finish line. I wish I could say this gave Gareth the opportunity to win but the reality is that he is already well ahead. I am happy with the performance and handling of my luge. Any mistakes are because of my bad judgement on speed when cornering. The conditions are great and I do manage to win four out of my seven heats, as well as secure fourth place overall.
The only other competition at the event is stand up. This is run simultaneously with the luge competition, taking turns at running the track.
The evening is relaxed with a bit of playing with Robbie’s drift trike in the car park and a few beers before going to the pub, a very short walk away. When Odd and I come out of the pub, we see an amazing lightning storm in the distance. It marks an awesome end to an awesome day.
Sunday starts with glorious sunshine again and with the racing already complete, it is a great opportunity to skate the track for fun. I go up with Will Stephenson and Martin Hull. At one point, Will decides I am not going fast enough and grabs hold of my foot to “tow” me as he zooms past. Not everyone is going as fast though. Some runs are done with passengers on the front, so they can experience the course. The atmosphere is relaxed and enjoyable and it is easy to remember that this is why I started skateboarding in the first place many years ago.
Of course, it isn’t long before the forecast rain arrives. I never know when to quit and so I decide to do one more run anyway. I go into the first corner at 45 miles per hour, slide out and go through the gravel. I am unhurt except for the damage to my pride – I KNEW I would need those hay bales. I take it steady the rest of the way down.
The rain sets in and it is time to head for home, full of memories of another great weekend.
Next stop - Brighton on 9/10 June for Battle of the Boards!!!
Thank you to Harry Bentley and BOARDLOGIC for the photos.
For more information on the Asylum range and Pint Size, check out our store