SkiBike Tour 2010-11 - Grächen Snow Bike Race Week 4

Posted: Saturday, 2 April 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

For the second race day we had an even earlier meeting at 7:15am. So I missed the delicious hotel breakfast yet again. Breakfast is the only meal in Germanic Switzerland that doesn't contain large amounts of inedible (for me) dead animal, I was starting to acquire the frail nervous energy of a supermodel.

For racing I was loaned the latest Brenter "Fat Boy" C6 model, thanks to Richard Platt. Am I being paranoid when I wonder if the Brenter Mafia made me an offer I couldn't refuse. The "Fat Boy" is supposed to be a lightweight, yet sturdy, all mountain machine with high handlebars. It should, in fact, have been very similar to my own DIY custom bike. And having trained on a Brenter in Innsbruck just 2 years ago it should have been a familiar feeling and not too difficult to adjust.

It was certainly light and the steering was good, but I had great difficulty getting accustomed to the undamped i.e. bouncy rear suspension. I would start a turn, then find myself ejected from the saddle if the rear ski bit too well on the icy snow. I made a couple of course inspections, including one where the Brenter successfully bucked me on to the hardpack. I quickly sneaked off to the adjacent piste and made some frantic pre-race runs to try and learn the feel of the machine.
Looking across the slope I realised to my horror that the first racers had already made their runs, I got myself as fast as possible to the top of the hill and placed myself in line.

Lining up for the start gate
Before I knew it I was at the start gate, thinking through the course and telling myself "I can do this". The race went pretty well, I got through the gates and stayed on the bike throughout. These are the statistics; the course had a vertical drop off 300 metres which is 984 feet, the course length was 1050 metres which about 2/3 of a mile.
The fastest time was 47 seconds and most racers made it in under a minute, I made it in 1 minute 37 seconds.
The fastest average speed would have been around 50 miles per hour, mine would have been 24 mph.

The French and English Teams
There was a little time for cooling down, because it was soon time to inspect the course for the Super-G race. This is a faster race with wider turns that the slalom. There was a cheeky 90 degree turn on an off camber bend and I remember thinking that it would be the most difficult part of the course, go too fast in to it and you would be off into the wild blue yonder.

Having survived 2 races, slow but intact, I was starting to feel quite relaxed about the Super-G. I got myself to the top of the hill early, laid back on a rock in the sun for 5 minutes and took some snap shots. My mentor Richard Platt, gave me tips about breathing out on the turns, warming up and sitting correctly.

Once again I found myself at the gate, focused but calm. It felt much like any other ride down the mountain almost dare I say it, slow in places. The fastest time was 41 seconds and once again all riders made it in under a minute. My time was 1 minute 21 seconds. However there was to be an unexpected surprise later when the results were processed; because 2 riders crashed in the Super-G I was now in 11th place which won me 5 points in the World Cup and am I now 31 out 33. This leaves me feeling a little sorry for Christian Glockl and Wilco Jung who are at positions 32 and 33.

After the numerous prize givings things the hill rapidly cleared as people readied themselves for the evenings festivities, in fact some had got started early.

Skibikers are not all fat baldy blokes!

You may think that I'm making the next bit up because it seems too much like a scene from a David Lynch movie but...

The evening kicked off with Moosalp a Scottish Pipes marching band,  the skirl of bagpipes and the sight of a dozen blokes in kilts under a whirling disco ball (I swear I'm not on medication) in the Swiss Alps has to rank as one of the most surreal events of my life.
This is a tradition which can be blamed on skibiker Darren Walker who hails from Scotland and used to visit complete with Kilt and bagpipes.

This is a real Scotsman
Things then settled down to various awards and speeches, my knowledge of German is almost nill, but I think I got the jist to say that everyone was thrilled and happy.
After a few numbers from the very slick function band Jargon the Swiss Carnival marching band Big Beans appeared with a more authentic Valais flavour of Guggenmusik
This was a novelty to me, a little like a New Orleans funeral band, but with frenetic break beat ryhtms and popular tunes played on exclusively brass instruments. The choice of "Maid of Orleans" by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark was an 80s throwback, I never thought I would live to hear played in public again, but a good tune is a good tune.
If have to confess rather than stick it out to the bitter end I chose to leave discretely before it all got too messy.

Some people say the Swiss are dull, go to bed far too early and don't know how to have fun, but up in Grächen they are quite the party animals.