A couple of months ago, the bros in Valencia/Castellon opened up the European freeride season with another great event in the Spanish sunshine. Below is a report from our German bro Gordon.
As usual for freerides, we arrived on Friday night in the dark. A hand painted sign “Parking Caravanas” showed us the way. Three or four longboard carrying chicos followed our vehicle with surprised faces. I don’t know what caught their attention: the German licence plate or the big family style caravan?
We found another van parked next to a football field, a piscine and a sports hall that together formed the sport centre of the village. Surprisingly, nothing gave any hints on the event that was supposed to take place here that weekend. We introduced ourselves to our new neighbours, the Street luger Jorge and his girlfriend Bea from Madrid. He told me how steep the track was, I smiled carefully and replied unconvincingly: “¡que bueno!” That unpleasant feeling that always gets me when I am at a new track slowly started to kick in. Inside the hall, it became bloody obvious why there was nobody on the campsite:
At a bar, I found some people that weren’t speak Spanish: Jean-Claude Belmondo from France, Yvon Labarthe from Switzerland (both Downhill dinosaurs) and Ana Lowry from Argentinia.
They invited me to a “french style” beer (a questionable cocktail made of “Picon biere” and Heineken). Perfect! Of course I didn’t decline that offer. Especially, because an interview with Yvon is part of my book about longboarding that is going to be published in April. We had not met in real life, so the opportunity for a chat was awesome.The hammering sound of heavy rain on the roof filled the room. The talks went from old Kaunertal stories to reports from the “Greener Pastures” shoot from which Yvon just returned.
Some Spanish riders joined us. I was relieved, I found some people that were better at English than I was at Spanish. After a second beer, German style this time, I fought my way back to the camper through the rain.
Registraciòn: ocho y media, was what I managed to find out last night. I was excited after a hard night in the camper. Luckily the rain stopped and the registration procedure proved to be pretty simple: the organizers remembered my mails and I was welcomed with a riders’ bracelet.
I decided to have a look at the track and walked up the mountain road. The track was secured with old car tyres shielded with hay bales. Not my first choice but much better than the metal safety fence. The last right/left combination looked promising, the light was favourable and the morning sun gave a slightly misty backlight. I walk up the 500m straight that would most likely be the highspeed part. I still had difficulties estimating what to expect from the track because of the wind and the small incline in front of the S-combo. I decided to call my unpleasant feeling respect for the track.
I decided to skip the morning session and stay here to take some photos instead. Because of the great light conditions in the final S-combo in the morning and the speed that the riders would have there, it promised dramatic scenes. The main contributor to this decision was the patchy track.
Three little lorries shuttled the riders up the mountain. The riders took it relaxed on the first two runs. Obviously I wasn’t alone with my nervous feeling. I took some nice pics in the “S” during the first two runs. I immediately noted the high number of women riding the hill, around 10 in the first runs. For the third run I walked up to a higher position to take a few overview and scenery shots. Unluckily, the third run was stopped after the first pack of riders. An experienced street luger had come off the road in the right/left combo, crashed into the face of the surrounding rocks and broke both his ankles. The ambulance immediately transferred the poor guy to the hospital. All the best and a “get well soon”! There it was again…that unpleasant feeling.
In the absence of an ambulance, the organisers shuttled all riders back down the mountain and announced the lunch break. Now, I was eager to ride. I changed into my leathers, grabbed my board and hurried to the finish line. The shuttle was ready to leave; I hopped on it and was standing on the platform to in order to see the whole track. At this time, I only knew half of the track.
The upper half of the track went through the woods. At the mountain pass, everybody tried to catch one of the small spots where the sun managed to find its way through the trees. I pushed from the starting line into a long right corner, that immediately let me sense the centrifugal force and spat me through a drop into the forest. In the forrest, the track swept pleasantly, left then right and ended in a tight left corner. Through another drop where the left shot me out of the forest into a long right where I accelerated again. I knew that the only hairpin of the track was at the end of this fast section and that I had to reduce speed soon. As soon as I had finished thinking this thought I hit a wall of headwinds that took care of braking for me.
Because the angle was 180 degrees, the headwind turned into tailwind at the exit of the hairpin and together with an increase in steepness accelerated me into a long stretched right, a top speed was reached (around 70 km/h). The long straight was on an open field, therefore one had to face extremely strong cross winds and it was impossible to get faster here. It was even advisable to stay in the tuck. I would like to introduce the word ”wind-wobbles” into the glossary of longboarders.
Back on track: I knew that there was a small incline in front of the final “S”, that would take out some speed. Therefore I could enjoy the right/left combo without breaking before I came to stop at the finish line.
I spent the whole afternoon working to perfect my approach. After, I chatted with some of the riders and joined different packs for some rums. I had a damn good time on the way down.
I did not expect there would be no party planned for the event. Jean-Claude and Yvon were as surprised as I was and so we hung around at the closed bar again. Unthinkable for Freerides in Germany! I remember times where I was pulled out of my sleeping bag by my feet at 3am because I didn’t show up at the so-called “riders meeting”. Three guys from Germany, France and Switzerland, none of whom confidently spoke Spanish were not the candidates to start a party with music from an iPhone. But as a father of two little kids… playing it low that night was not a bad idea.
The next day started off dry, but the windy conditions didn’t change. Because of the nice light, I decided to run the same routine: shooting in the morning, bombing in the afternoon! I got to know more and more people, among them the Scottish crew that flew in from Glasgow to start the downhill season right here in Spain. I got more and more used to the track although the wind threatened to throw the riders off their boards, especially in the first meters of the long straight.
What remains, is the fine knowledge that longboarding has its own international language and the fact that an early start into the downhill season is worth a long journey. I am looking forward to that next unpleasant feeling.
Muchas gracias to Maria Giner, Sergio Sebastia Garcia and all others for a brilliant freeride, especially at this time of the year!
Hasta la proxima!
Text: available in German at http://lbmagaz.in/events/articles/freeride-salzadella.html (translated by Sebastian Altenhöfer)