It isn’t often that we get two skating events in one weekend. But that is exactly what happened just over a week ago:
1. On 23 March, there was Labyrinth organised by Ell Macey somewhere in deepest, darkest Shropshire, next to The Bog; and
2. The next day, on 24 March, there was the annual pilgrimage to Sheepy in the Elan Valley, Wales.
SP8boards is represented by Dreek Peeters and I. The sunshine has made us optimists and we are confident it will be warm enough to sleep in the campervan. We set off early on Saturday morning and manage to get to the first venue by half past ten. It is meant to be a “beginner” hill, but it soon becomes clear that this is “Grading according to El Macey” beginner – in other words - not easy at all. I have also failed to appreciate that it is a race rather than a freeride, but of course, I am happy to give it a go!
The Labyrinth course is a country road just wide enough to run two man heats. It is about 0.6 miles in length long and has a fast straight from the start line, followed by a kink to the right and then a left hand near hairpin turn. There follows another long straight steepening up as you enter the second main corner (right hand 90 degree) onto finish line just by the car park.
It is the first outing for my new leathers, although some of you may have already seen them from my facebook post showing my “dress rehearsal” on Playstation!! I am using a converted Asylum R with a two truck set up, having picked this specifically because it has a shorter wheelbase than my usual luge and therefore more suited to the tighter corners.
The plan is for the usual stand up and luge competitions with potential for points counting towards the 2019 BDSL championship. Although it is the first time the event has been run, it is really well attended with over 50 competitors. There are 13 competing at luge, which is the highest number I have seen for a while.
There is plenty of time for practice runs, impressive marshalling to ensure safety on the road and a good opportunity to work out our calves with no uplift vans. Not too fast and nothing dangerous, except maybe the post at the exit on the last corner (which was duly padded by two airbeds). The padding turned out to be a good call as someone did run into it.
The luge competition is a knockout event. Six preliminary heats with winners going onwards until there are only three left. I am one of the finalists and I am expecting the final to be very interesting given the road is only really wide enough for two people to race. Harry Bentley and Ell Macey are my fellow finalists. We set off from the line and Ell proves, as usual, to have the strongest push off and moves into the front. I manage to get second off the push, but I am overtaken by Harry just before the first kink in the road. On the way through the hairpin, a close match between Harry and Ell results in Ell taking the scenic route through the hedges, allowing both Harry and I to get past. I follow Harry over the line with Ell coming third.
We end the day with a six man pack run on the luges. Surprisingly there are no injuries. Just lots of laughs.
Many of the people at Labyrinth are heading over to Sheepey to camp overnight ready for the race the next day. On the way, Dreek and I meet with an oncoming Tractor Light festival, which is basically hundreds of tractors (or thousands it seems like) adorned with lights. Quite a sight to be seen. Dreek and I get past, albeit slowly, but some of the competitors get caught up in it. They might have a better view of the parade but some, like Robbie Roadkill, are delayed for nearly two hours. Not sure this is quite what is meant by a highlight of the evening but it will have to do. It all adds to the atmosphere of the event and altogether, there is a great feeling in the camp with the usual chatting, drinking and larking about you normally find at these events.
Next morning, we get up at 6.30 am and head off to the village for breakfast and a walk by the river. It is a lovely, sunny morning – we actually sit outside for breakfast at the café in the main square. I can hardly believe this as last year, it was snowing!!
Then… down to business. Practice runs! It is windy and the road is harder and faster than the day before. The surface is very grippy, which is great for luge, but does make sliding harder for the stand up skaters.
There are eight lugers competing today (4 of whom are on SP8BOARD luges). The race is organised as two four man heats, with the last person being knocked out, followed by two three man heats with last person knocked out. The four men left standing, Harry Bentley, Tyler Simmons,, newcomer Paul Johnson-Whittle (who borrowed a SP8BOARD for the event) and I make up the final. Harry beats me into second again!!!
It has been a brilliant weekend – some great people, great runs, great competition and great memories. I am happy with my two second places but clearly Harry Bentley is the man to watch this year. Thanks to the Brianne Collective for organising Sunday and Ell Macey for organising Saturday. It doesn’t really get much better than this.
SP8BOARDS will be at Hog Hill for The Crackling on 18/19 May 2019. Before then, watch out for the official launch of our new range of luges (carefully tweaked and tested over the past year). Of course, if you can’t wait, you can always contact me for a custom build.
Thanks to Harry Bentley and Max Brown for the photos.
For video footage, see