Thursday, January 7, 2010
January 7th – Inspection / Full Speed Practice day
Thankfully today I was able to get back on the internet and catch up with some much needed communication. Thank you to everyone who caught me during my little hour window (130-230am PST) to wish me luck.
Today was our scheduled inspection and practice day, and from the moment I got to the village there was clearly tension in the air. By now we had all seen the roster, and we all knew how large the field of competitors would be. We all travelled here from somewhere (some farther than others), and we all wanted an edge on the others. Every opportunity I had, I would look at the other riders on the mountain, trying to pick them apart and look for any weaknesses.
The weather was much different than it had been the past two days. It was overcast, and small flurries were starting to fall. The sun never clearly came out, so the lighting was flat all day. Our practice window wasn’t scheduled until 2-4pm (2-3p women, 3-4p men), so lighting was going to be a huge variable.
I got to the course early to scrape wax, sharpen edges, etc. By 130p, the entire field was there doing the same thing. It was a zoo. Women started right on schedule; One by one they dropped out of the gates and onto the course, but something didn’t look right. The majority were struggling over the first feature, the ONLY feature on the course I had never ridden before. Boardercross slang refers to this feature as a Wu-Tang. From the side it almost looks like the “W” from the Wu-Tang logo, but from the racers perspective, it looks like a quarter pipe wall towering above you. You come dropping vertically into it, and with a perfectly timed shift of your weight, you compress to lift your board over and out of it.
With flat lighting, cold temperature, and a circus of people riding the course, conditions were much less than race-ready by the time the men got started. One by one they sent us, and we were quick to get back up as fast as possible. As I dropped in for the first “inspection” run, I felt the awkwardness of that Wu-Tang feature. My timing was a bit off, so I landed a little too far out. Tomorrow that mistake means getting sent home immediately, so I put that on the mental fix-it list. The rest of the course was extremely technical. No gigantic hip jumps or 60ft tabletops that you might see on a World Cup or X Games course, but enough tight turns and rollers to take your feet right out from underneath you. When I got back to the top, it was a disorganized crowd of guys bumping, pushing, and elbowing to get into the gates for full speed practice. Imagine 100 guys fighting for 4 gates at the same time. Full-speed run #1; came into the Wu-Tang hot, but compressed perfectly and pulled out with more speed. Turn 1 was a long, flat, tightening left into an off-camber tabletop. Got it. 2, 3, and 4; hard right, into a spine-entry left, into a long right. Check, check, annnnnd check. Turn 5 was nasty; coming out of turn 4 you’re at just under full speed, but this turn starts mellow then tightens into the mother of all “regular-footed” killers, a hairpin left. Add to that today’s randomly arranged assortment of ruts and gouges, and you have yourself a disaster waiting to happen. During my run I caught up and passed someone who crashed on that turn. I was no exception though, as run 2 sent me sliding off course in the same spot. Turn 6 is a sharp right coming out of that hairpin. It’s not a problem since you’re coming out of turn 5 with almost no speed at all, but it definitely plays on that confidence by sending you immediately into a washboard of rollers and the final turn. Turn 7 is going to be a heartbreaker for so many people tomorrow. It’s a sweeping left into the finish line tabletop. Sweeping turn? No big deal, right? Not even, I think the MOST CRASHES happened on turn 7 today. ON THE WALL of the turn (not before, not after, but on the actual bank), two rollers are there to take that first place spot you thought you had, and replace it with a nice crash that you probably won’t recover from. For me, I held an outside line to avoid the sharpest portion, and that kept me safe. After watching the rest of the crowd come down for their final run, things didn’t look so pretty. Out of the 20-30 racers that I watched pass through that turn, about half came out stable enough to take the final tabletop. The rest either slid completely off course (an immediate DQ during race time), or fell and came to a dead stop and had to CLIMB the tabletop (bye bye first place). I can guarantee that turn 5 and 7 are going to determine tomorrow’s results. If a crash is going to happen, its either on turn 5 when you’re slowed to a crawl and get taken out from someone hungry to pass from behind, OR it’s going to be on turn 7, when first place is right in front of you, and you think you can pass him on the inside for the dramatic win…and you end up taking both of yourselves out. If you’re lucky in either situation, you’ll be the one who hops, skips and wobbles to get on your feet in time for 3rd place.
Tonight is the final riders meeting, where we will get the official format for tomorrow. Tomorrow won’t allow a SINGLE MISTAKE. If you slide out, crash, or just flat out aren’t fast enough during time trials…you go home. We will be sent down the course 1 at a time, women then men. For the men, the Top 32 times stay and get seeded into brackets. For 33-100+, you’re done. I’ve worked hard to prepare myself for tomorrow, and I’ll be working even harder to make it to that top 32. This has been my immediate goal since the end of last season’s finish at the USASA Nationals. Whatever happens tomorrow, I’ll be pushing myself to the limit. For tonight, I’ll be preparing with plenty of waxing, sharpening, and sleeping. Time trials start EARLY tomorrow morning, so I probably won’t update until I have my final results. Until then, it’s about time to get to the riders meeting. Thank you all again for taking the time to follow along.