Greg is the president of one of the oldest associations in Europe, treasurer of the IDF and one of the hearts behind the French Downhill Park project. Read on to find out how YOU can help this project become a reality.
Bonjour Greg, how are you?
I’m fine thanks. I spent time with my son this morning, And I’ll have to work for my association this afternoon and tomorrow.
I’m the president of Alsace Downhill, a french downhill club. We organize the Koffe Schnaps freerides.
When was Alsace Downhill founded?
The club was founded in 2002, by 7 streetlugers. We met at the top of our favorite downhill track. It was a great day. Riding all morning long, then lunch together.
This year we organised the Wunder Barr freeride to celebrate the 10th anniversary. An amazing event! And a great experience.
Is this the oldest association in France?
For sure it is one of the oldest association in France, I can’t remember exactly but we are in the top 3.
Are there any associations older in Europe?
I don’t think so. Historically, we were organised in federation, club before the other European countries. The first official French champion in France was validated in 2002.
Who was the first official French champion?
It was me in streetluge haha.
Have you ever raced standup?
No I started stand up this year. It took me so much time to build luges, I’ve built 7 luges since 1998. The first time I tried standup was in 2003, longskate was only a means of transport in the city for me.
What city do you ride in?
I ride in Strasbourg.
What is the importance of associations?
In France, you can’t organize a freeride or a race if you’re not a society or an association. They don’t take care who you are, they just want a legal structure.
How is the downhill racing in France organised?
We have a french championship which has 5 – 8 events per year. All the presidents of the french clubs meet once a year during a weekend. We have to work for 2 days, because we talk about the french rulebook, the event calendar (freerides and races) and we define our objectives for the next season. In the french federation, the downhill part also manages slalom and mountainboard. So we have a lot of work. The rest of the year we are working by email and googledocs. We have some people who have an official post. For exemple, I’m “Mister security”.
Is Mr Security a ninja?
Ha ha ha. No I’m not a ninja! There are two reasons why I’m the security consultant:
– my job as a fireman, I have an understanding of what people call “security” or “safety”
– the difficulty to obtain event authorisation here in Alsace (a part of France), we have to fight every year with the local government.
What difference would it make to the downhill family in Europe if every country had a similar system?
I think it would be a good thing, but it will take a long time to bring all this organization up. In Germany, they recently began to organize themselves in association. Every country is different, in France to close a road to traffic, you have 3 month of administrative procedure, in Germany you have to pay. It’s not the same work to organize an event, it depends on your country
Do you think there is a future where we will have a single European association?
Why not? If organizers ask for that, I would be one of those who could work on such a project.
What would it take to bring this project to life?
If associations or organizers need a structure to help them, because they don’t have a federation in their country, so we should find motivated people to built such a structure. But it is not the question today, we may let the IDF do their job.
What do you enjoy about organising events?
Very hard to explain. Nowadays it’s easy for us to organize a Koffe Schnaps, we’ve done it since 2004. We know local people, we know the track, the security. This kind of event allows me to see and party with my “downhill friends”.
The Wunder Barr, was a full time job to organize for three of us. It took me 15 days to come back to earth after this event. But I can’t explain what I felt. We saw old riders who stopped riding, come to this event to ride and party hard with us. They compared this event with the Austrian Hot Heels and Chamrousse (the biggest downhill freeride ever organized).
How different is the organisation of a freeride from a race?
A freeride is made to ride all day long, as much as possible and party in the evening. A race is a competition. Organizers have to be very well organized, and riders come to win but they have to be disciplined.
Were any of your races sanctioned by the IGSA?
No, we didn’t organize IGSA races. We organized a race in 2005, 2006 and 2007 on the same track as Koffe Schnaps for the french federation. But we thought that a lot of people attented more freerides, especially the German and Dutch riders. And we thought it was good for our sports growth.
Where do you see the future of downhill in Europe?
If downhill continues to grow, we should build permanent structures just like skiing and snowboarding.
We know there are plans for such a track in England, anywhere else in Europe?
Yes, we (Alsace Downhill) are working on an amazing project. We want to reconvert an old stone quarry into a permanent track. It is in Saint Nabor (France), at the bottom of the “Mont Saint Odile”.
What is the track like?
We have the main track: 2,4 km length and we can use another part of the quarry which makes the track 2,6 km long. The total gradient has an average of 6%, this may seem too low, but the site’s topography allows us to have non-flat corners. Top speed is difficult to estimate until we draw the road in 3 dimensions on a computer.
What track will it be comparable to?
Hmmm I don’t really know, faster than the Koffe Schnaps track in the top technical part. But the end schuss will be fast with a last large 90° corner before the finish line
What facilities will be available at this track?
Our priority is a fine track and a camp place. Actually on our map the camp place is 17000 square meteres wide. The next step will be sanitary for the camp place.
Then a multi-purpose hall (approximately 400m2). This is for when it is raining and allows us to have other activities in that case.
We are asking for a second building. It will be the ADH (Alsace Downhill) headquarters, with offices, storage and technical locals.
This is the initial project, but we see further: build a little house at the finish line (timing system, course marshall meetings), a mechanical lift. Everything is possible, it depends how much money we can gather.
Could generate jobs for people within the downhill family?
Yes! This is one of our arguments to convince local politicians! One full time job for sure, maybe two at the beginning.
How will this track improve the downhill scene in Europe?
It will be a fantastic way to learn, practice and race. It’s like a football stadium, we don’t need administrative procedures and authorization to organise events (freeride or race).
What needs to be done for this to become a reality?
Actually the part of the quarry we are looking for, is the property of Saint Nabor, a little town (600 inhabitants). We will meet the Mayor on November the 29th, we have to convince him.
How can we help you to convince him?
There are many ways:
– prove to him that we have a lot of riders interested.
– find financial backers, especially for the 20% that are not paid by the government
– convince local politicians (done, but we need more), politics have money in their pockets.
– convince employees working in the local government structures (done)
– do all the administrative procedures to find the 80% of the budget that the government is allowed to give us. (15% promised to this day)
– work on a market study
– bring more than 3000 supporters on our petition, and have more ‘likes” on the Facebook project’s page
What help do you need from the European community in the coming months with this project?
Sign the petition, like the Facebook page. Help us to find sponsors. We have a lot of work to do, but we want to wait till Thursday, and see what the mayor will tell us. One thing is sure, we won’t stop this project if the mayor says “No”. We met last week with three directors working in the local government structure:
– transport (traffic, railway, aerial)
– technical responsible of sports structures
– sports and outdoors leisures
They are OK to help and support us if we want to look for another site.
What sort of sponsors are you looking for?
We need money! Or partnerships that can help us in building this “downhill park”, like house builders, landscape painter.
Maybe you can offer a 3 month pass in exchange for some work?
For sure, but how many skaters can build a road? They need specifics machines. Same problem for the landscape, we are talking about 17000 m2.
Yes this could be a solution. Companies often inject money in sports structures. It would be great for a company to say that it sponsored the first “downhill park” in the world!
If we become millionaires in the next 3 months, we can sponsor the corner, and name it bacon corner!
Ha ha ha! It sounds good!
Where do you see this park in 5 years?
If the mayor says “Yes” next week, the construction can start in 2015 in Saint Nabor. It gives us time to gather money.
If the mayor says “No”, we have thought of other possibilities.
What are your plans for this coming season?
– take care of my family, and teach my 2 year old son skateboarding and luging
– I have a lot of projects for Alsace Downhill: organize a longskate girl camp, develop the local downhill practice.
– work for the quarries project
– do my treasurer job for the IDF
– go to work to be paid!
And if I have time left, have good time with friends and ride a lot!!
Where will this girl camp be?
On the same track as the Koffe Schnaps (K&S), but the event is not thought the same way as a K&S.
Which girls will be helping you organise it?
I’m working on this event with Fee Bücheler, she organised the girl camp in Slovenia this year.
You’re the treasurer of the IDF!
Yes, I spend most of my none working time for downhill. Helping this structure to be built was an easy decision for me as I saw that riders and organizers were looking for a democratic structure.
What do you hope to achieve as part of the IDF?
I just want to make sure that the world sanctioning body is a democratic and non-profit structure. I was gutted when I learned, 6 years ago, that the IGSA was a company. That’s why I’m working for a democratic, sport and rider respectful structure.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-39.
2 – 29 – 34
2 – Would you rather have a hook for a hand or a wheel for a foot?
A wheel for a foot. I always want to go fast, not necessarily when riding, but also in my life. I’m always looking how to go forward.
29 – Is there anyone dead/alive you’d like to ride with?
As a luger since 1998, the only guys that I wanted to race with (and beat them!), and I never met on a race are the Rogers brothers and Biker Sherlock.
34 – lucacoleman asks: What’s the weirdest thing you ever put in your mouth?
I tried to eat brain of veal.
It’s been really great chatting to you bro, I wish you all the best with the downhill park project, I hope that it works out, we will do everything we can to support you!
Thank you man, be sure we will work hard on this project! We spent so much time and energy, we won’t be stopped easily.
Any thank yous?
I just want to thank all the people who helped us for this project, and all the riders who signed the petition, we need support. If this downhill park is built, it will be the beginning of a new era for our downhill sports!
Facebook project’s page: https://www.facebook.com/ComplexeDescenteCarrieresDeSaintNaborOttrott