I recently got home from a 4 week Skate filled adventure, 4 events in 4 countries in Europe. Transylvania Downhill in Romania, Lilyhammer World Cup in Norway, Almatrieb World Qualifier in Austria & Kozakov Challenge 2016 in Czech Republic!
Whilst I’m sat at home for the next 6 or so weeks (my legs currently hate me), waiting for the move to New Zealand, I thought I’d share my memories and thoughts about each event.
Before I started my Eurotour, I finished my job at the end of May, so I eagerly awaited for end of June, knowing the hills would blow my mind.
On Thursday 30th June, the tour began, with myself, Oscar Taylor, Will Edgecombe & Louis Selby flying from London Luton to Cluj, Romania, on a very early morning flight. Upon arrival in Cluj we met some other skaters waiting for the shuttle, Bart & Vera from the Netherlands. Once we arrived at the Ski Resort (In Straja) where Transylvania Downhill was hosted, we were greeted by lots of other UKDH friends and Adi & Ormi who were organising everything. The resort was epic and myself and 3 other UK riders took a nice top floor hotel room, by the far the best accommodation at any skate event and it included free breakfast and evening meal! Quickly we discovered how cheap the beer was.. a mere 5 Romanian Leu, about 90p! So that went down fast.. very fast.
The following day was our first experience of the road and it was simply stunning. 20+ corners and 4.5km in length, by far the best road I’ve ever skated and a lot of others agreed on this. The track has everything, the first third is super fast, with speeds up to 85kmph on long straights, then sweepers to kink drift before some lovely hairpins. The rest of the track was still fast, but the corners are so close together, it’s like riding a wheel killing rollercoaster!
After each run, my legs felt destroyed, but the stoke of the road kept everyone going back for more, which was pretty cool in itself, being able to catch a 10 minute cable car back to the top, despite a small obstacle course to get to it!
After lots of fun runs with new and old friends, at the end of Friday we did Qualifying. Unfortunately the rain decided to pay us a visit, which was fine.. we all did a practice wet run, which was mental but fun and manageable. By the time we came down to the start line for the actual qualifying it was the dreaded patchy.. making the track very dangerous. In my opinion the qualifying was a bit pointless, it was purely to get slow riders out of racing, by having to get under 10 minutes. An average run is around 5-6 minutes for a intermediate rider, but due the patchyness and crashing a record 5 times in 1 run (I’d only crashed twice in 5 runs all day beforehand) it took me 8 minutes. The times didn’t seed us for the racing and we didn’t know our heats until Saturday, minutes before the racing.
Despite this, the racing was a lot of fun, I got through my first heat, in 2nd place behind Swedish Downhill Rider, Ludwig.
I was then I was drawn up in a mostly UKDH Quarter Final heat with Kami San, Ed Eff Bee and Rob Cornelis from the Netherlands. In which I was in 2nd for the first third, behind Kami, but I clipped a bail on the exit of corner 3 and then spent the majority of the race catching and finally overtaking Ed to take third. I had the GoPro on for this heat:
I was done after racing, despite loving the track, I’d flatspotted 2 sets of wheels and my legs couldn’t handle anymore!
The afterparty was pretty epic, with gaming, music and videos of the riding being displayed and the cheap beer of course! Catching up with UKDH’s Spanish Resident, Joe Baldwin, was also good and I’m certain he would have been on the podium if it weren’t for Costa taking him out in a semi.
Flying back from Romania on the Sunday, tiredness set in, but I had 3 days at home to recover before my next trip, to Lillehammer in Norway, for my first IDF World Cup Race event.
On Thursday 7th July, I met Jed Chapman at Gatwick, ready for the trip to Oslo Airport. After a quick flight, we met Pearse D’Arcy at Oslo, who was waiting along with Emily Pross. As we went to get the Train to Lillehammer, we bumped into yet more skaters/lugers. Lyde, Grace, Abdil & Mike. Conversation about the track, Norway and Brexit flowed and almost 2 hours later we had arrived, stoked to try the track the following day.
Although the riders had no central place to meet, the campsite was nice and had good facilities.
Practice day on Friday was epic and I slowly got faster and faster, with 12 uneventful runs in total! Pearse was killing it and Jed was super quick as well! I wasn’t quite as fast, but I was being more consistent, maybe I should have pushed it more, but in the back of my mind was self preservation for the rest of Eurotour and the NZ move. We met UKDH legend Pete Connolly at the track too, who was charging with his Swiss footbrake steeze.
Stoked on the track, we went into Saturday, Qualifying day, on a high. The weather was pretty much perfect again, with only spots of rain that cleared up very quickly. At this point the IDF started to show its true colours.. with the timing system not working at all (turns out it was down to human error) we all got seeded for the race on our previous year’s IDF ranking, which is mine and Jed’s case was nowhere. Even the pro’s who were seeded high were very unimpressed and the mood was very negative at that evening’s rider’s meeting.
As I was in B bracket, along with Jed & Pearse. My first heat was a by-heat, being just a 2 man heat. I had the pleasure of being filmed by Tiki Alex on his luge for this run, it was pretty chill but fun none the less!
I managed to get through my second heat, which was a 4 man heat, in 2nd, mainly down to 2 riders tangling first corner and not being able to recover, which put me into the Quarter Finals. In the Quarters I met Pete Connolly, Lisa Peters and someone else I can’t remember. I was 4th for the first half of the race, but then Lisa crashed infront of me, coming out of the fastest lefty! I was happy with 3rd and 12th in B Bracket and I know I can improve before going there again!
Pete went on to the Consi finals in B bracket and took the win in the Master’s category, epic! We also watched the A Bracket battle it out, my first experience of doing so, and what a show. Epic overtake moves, big crashes and incredible exit speeds. Though great to watch, some riders definitely take it too seriously, with every few heats having some sort of rage quit.
On Monday morning, myself and Jed couldn’t wait to get out of Norway, the place is just so damn expensive! We met Jenny at Oslo Airport, then said our goodbyes to Jed at Gatwick, as I went off to Jenny’s to spend the night, before an early wakeup to drive to Austria for Almatrieb WQ. Mist & Alex joined us late night at Jenny’s and the following morning at 5am, the journey to Austria began, with Dover Ferry port as the first stop, to catch the 8am crossing.
A very sleepy three hour Ferry ride later, we arrived in Dunkirk, France. Jenny got fuelled up Coffee then the drive started. We drove through France and got to Belgium where we went a shopping spree in a cheap supermarket, which felt like heaven after the expensive past few days in Norway! Mostly essentials, but also a considerable/huge amount of Beer & Wine.
After lunch we continued the long journey onto Germany, all the way to the Austrian Border. We arrived late at Jenny’s parent’s house, which was only about 3 hours from Almatrieb. Thanks so much for having us! The following morning, after another short 5 hour sleep we set off to Almatrieb, located in Loserberg, Austria.
Upon arrival, everything looked great, BigMountainSkate had sure picked a good location, not just because of the race hill, but also a good tenting area, party tent, indoor toilets and two restaurants. It was great to see so many familiar UKDH faces and everyone was hyped to skate, despite the odd rain shower.
My original plan for the entirety of Almatrieb was to just watch, partly down to the full track being so ridiculously gnarly and partly because I wanted to save my money for New Zealand. After two very grim days of watching the riders practice in heavy mist and constant rain and one incident with one absolute twat of a course marshal, I changed my mind. I really wanted to fucking skate, even if it was just the shortened track (due to the poor weather).
On Thursday evening I spoke with Felix, the organiser, and managed to negotiate paying 120 Euros entry instead of 200, due to missing the two days freeride. I went straight into Qualifying day, but after watching every corner for two days I felt confident enough. 2 or 3 Practice runs later, Qualifying started. The first qualifying run was a dangerous amount of patchy, with most riders crashing, I got down clean, thinking I’d qualify quite high because of it. Unfortunately, the second qualifying run was a dry run, literally the first time the track had been dry since the event began three days previous. I did my normal thing when riding in new conditions and took the run relatively easy, not knowing the level of grip.
After the second run, everyone went back to the top, expecting a third qualifying run, as the first run was rendered pointless. Again, the IDF messed up the timing system, which pissed everyone off, especially those who had been at Lillehammer the weekend previous (at least 75% of those in attendance). There was no third run, due to the battery running out.. a pretty pathetic excuse for what’s supposed to be a World Class event, but we ignored it and did some 4-man freeride runs instead.
At this point, I took some amazing runs with fellow UKDH riders, one of the highlights of the whole Eurotour was a run down with Josh Monk, Kami San & Joe Baldwin. Not much beats a tight run with your friends. Wish we had a GoPro!
B Bracket racing began at 10am on the Saturday, the track was strangely dry, despite lots of rain overnight. I got through the first heat relatively easily in 2nd behind Bodhi. The second heat was harder, Bodhi killed it, taking first with a monster fast push off the start. Unfortunately I tried to overtake on corner 1, crushing my grab hand in the process, I came out worse, coming to an almost complete stop. I carried on, but still came 4th.
After that, myself and Bodhi watched the A Bracket racing, which had so many tight heats and a lot of first corner incidents, most notably Tom Campbell getting taken out from behind and then pushed into and crashing out Emily Pross. After shouting at Tom to get back up a few times, I soon realised he wasn’t getting up, led on his back, with a possible spinal impact. A dumb course marshall thought it was a good idea to lift Tom off the road to the side, luckily Tom had no serious injury, just a bruised back. I rushed over to help and babysit Tom’s Helmet and Board, whilst he went off in an Ambulance as a precautionary measure.
This first corner was evil, with Joe Baldwin also getting taken out there among some other top riders. As the rounds progressed we moved down the track, to the 4th and final corner to watch the finals. After the second round, the rain returned which caught out a lot of riders including Sebastian Hertler who couldn’t exit his toeside kink slide on corner three and left the track.
Jenny pulled out an amazing last corner move on Lisa Peters to take a hard fought second place in the Women’s Final. Pete Connolly also took his second podium of Eurotour with third in the master’s.
After Saturday’s Podium party, Sunday morning came around. Again with the dreary constant heavy rain, so it was a massive relief to be leaving for Kozakov around 11am. Pearse hopped in the Jenny van for the Journey to Kozakov and Mist jumped out at a Friend’s place in Innsbruck.
As soon as we got out of the Mountains, the rain seemed to stop! We headed to Innsbruck, Austria, to chill for the day and spend the night at Jenny’s Sister’s flat. Shorts weather had finally arrived and we had probably the best Burrito in the world for dinner.
After a much needed lie in on a real bed, we set off for Czech Republic around 9:30am on Monday Morning. With an 10 hour drive ahead of us, we took a few breaks, having some delicious service station pretzels on route.
After a very excitable last 10 minutes driving up the hill to Kozakov, we arrived around 9pm. A welcome relief, knowing there were no more super long drives, as I was flying back from Prague Airport on the Sunday, which was only 80 minutes away.
I set up my tent next to the AOB guys and chilled out, ready for my first experience of Kozakov on the Tuesday Morning. I was nervous as I woke up and got registered in the morning, Kozakov is renowned as a track that will test your skills, with the first and last straights being up to 100kmph.
As per usual I took my first run very easy, hardly tucking, expecting Armageddon. To my surprise, the track wasn’t as hard as I thought, it’s narrow, but no where near as narrow as what people had been telling me to expect. The corners are amazing, each with their own personality that are hard to get perfect every time. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s a hard track to skate fast and race on, but I was there to enjoy myself and not be super competitive. I took around 8 runs in total on freeride day out of a possible 13, such a smooth running event!
I was slightly annoyed that I’d lost my racing shoes with my footbrake sole on sometime before Kozakov, meaning I had to use my normal shoes to skate. This meant I had to Coleman or Toeside Predrift the first corner (wasn’t brave enough to grip it) instead of a little footbrake, which would have definitely been a lot faster. Regardless, I had fun and probably went faster than I’ve ever been on a Skateboard, just over 50mph on the last straight.
Wednesday I did less runs per day, saving myself for Thursday & Friday and enjoying the beer and sunny weather. Kozakov has great facilities, such as a bar, a cafe that does every meal, a swimming pool and even a massage parlour, it’s very easy to get distracted!
When Thursday Qualifying came around, I was feeling confident, but still knew I’d probably end up in C Bracket, seeing how fast everyone else was. My fastest time was 2:42, which put me in 164th of 190, not that fast, but I know I can make up over 10 seconds, by tucking for longer and being able to grip corner one. Next time I ride Kozakov in the coming years, I’ll ride with more confidence and experience. I say without doubt that’ll I’ll be back, it’s by far the best run event in the world.
Friday was race day for myself and others in the C & B Brackets, I got drawn up in a Tough first heat, against Tamara Prader, Dan Guzzardi and another Girl whos name I can’t remember. I knew for a fact Tamara & Dan would probably destroy me, Tamara grips every corner and Dan is very experienced. I came 3rd but wasn’t too disheartened, Dan & Tamara left me for dead on the last straight, bump drafting each other and Tamara overtaking on the super fast last corner!
In a way I was kind of relieved that I’d gone out early, my body was truly wrecked after 4 weeks in a row of Skating fast and travelling long distances. I decided to treat myself to a much needed back & neck massage minutes later, for 500 Czech Kronor (around £18), which was worth every penny.
The rest of Friday was very chill, lots of Czech beer flowed and myself, Tom, Bodhi and a few others took a nice trip to a local outdoor pool which was a lot of fun. Unfortunately there is one downside to Kozakov.. Friday night, a LOT of locals turn up to party, literally overflowing the party tent and making the Skaters feel like the minority. Slightly strange, but I guess it brings the organisers a lot of money in, to keep the event going strong, though my view was far from that when the music was still ridiculously loud at 4am on the Saturday Morning.
A Bracket racing began around 10:30am on the Saturday, with all UKDH hopes lying on Pete Connolly once again! Every heat was stunning to watch, so many tight overtakes ridiculous lines. Pete stunned everyone, by knocking out P Swiss & Hertler with a 55-60mph super tight overtake on the last corner, coming in 2nd behind Micah Green and getting to the Open Quarter Finals! A great performance and Pete took another great Master’s Podium with 2nd place.
After everything was done, Sunday came around, which meant it was time to fly home from Prague to Bristol Airport. As much as I loved Eurotour, it felt amazing to be going home to my flat and my own bed, it was fair to say I was fed up of camping.
A big thanks to all the people who made Eurotour amazing, mostly the UKDH friends in the AOB van who were awesome on and off the track. I met so many new people from all over the world, who I hope I’ll get to see and skate with again soon!
Now that I’m home for just over a month, preparing for my move to Wellington, New Zealand on 10th September, I’m very much in recovery mode and getting things sorted for my departure. It’s hit me now how daunting the move is, but I’m determined to make it work.
I realise this is probably my longest blog of all time, but for good reason I think you’ll agree! Hopefully it’ll help some people decide on what events are worth attending in the future.
Until next time, peace!
Photos by: Complex Montana, Thrill Magazine, MediaMedia, CGSA Downhill & Max Ballesteros.