Padova Grand Prix
Campionato del Mondo
About an hour outside of Venice is a set of hills. Towards the top of one of the hills lies the small village of Teolo. The town has a square, a couple of churches, and a small convenience store that passes as the local super market. Just above the town is a couple of buildings that makes up Castlenuovo.
The course starts in front of the Hotel Turetta in Castelnuovo and ends just before it enters Teolo. The course starts with a high speed straight, with speeds in the 85 KPH range, and then finishes with a series of seven hairpins. There is a hard left, right hairpin combination that requires braking. A shallow left to a left hairpin requires some more braking. The next set of hairpins, although tight, require no braking as the speed never really picks up. Exiting the last hairpin, there is short straight into a left hand sweeper to the finish.
Thursday, July 29
We spent the day hiking around the Coliseum in Rome and didn’t arrive till late. But there was a welcome dinner for the earlier arrivals. We were able to register, despite the late hour. A picture of me and Stephenson was prominent on the event poster. []
Friday, July 30
It was fairly nice when we arrived last night. But apparently it had rained most of the day. Today when we woke up it was a little foggy out and the road was wet. I decided to go back to sleep. I figured we probably wouldn’t be riding as long as it was foggy. It cleared up, and was fairly sunny out about an hour after we were supposed to start. They let us start riding, but the road was too slippery. Once I hit the hairpins I sat up and broke for each corner, and was still sliding out. I didn’t see the point of taking more runs as the weather was supposed to be nice for the rest of the weekend. I skipped the next couple of runs before taking the last run before lunch.
Lunch was free. [] But was left overs from last night’s dinner. The bread and chips were a little stale, and the ham and cheese wasn’t filling enough. A few of us decided to grab some lunch from the hotel. They were running a special, a plate of pasta and a soda for six euros.
Our lunch break lasted about two hours. Just before we started to practice again Marcus and Bob set up to do tech. They were going to do tech all afternoon, but we jumped in line to try and get it done before the lunch break was over.
We were given a two hour practice window. The course was permanently closed. We would ride down the course, catch a shuttle at the bottom and take an alternate route back to the top. The shuttles would continue back down a different alternate route to get back to the bottom. Once we were at the top, we could go back down again as soon as we had a chance. Unfortunately there were only six shuttles! Each shuttle had room for eight people, and they generally refused to let people sit in the back storage area. It was almost impossible to get onto a shuttle, especially with a luge. If you tried to put the luge into the back, the seats in the shuttle would fill. That is assuming you could get to a shuttle before they were surrounded by about 30 people. And the shuttles never stopped at the same place, so you couldn’t even try to wait in line for one. Stephenson offered his car as a shuttle, so a handful of use took turns driving, while we crammed into it. This was the biggest problem with the event. And it was very disappointing as they had the same issue last year. Another half dozen or so shuttles would probably solve the problem. We managed to get a run in every half hour.
Our first qualifying run was set to begin at 4:00 PM. We would do one run today, and another run tomorrow afternoon. Street luge opened up the qualifying. The trigger to start the timing was a small arm. The arm would flip back when you hit it. We were told to make sure the arm went all the way back. If it didn’t, they would blow the whistle and we would have to start again. Some people thought this meant you had to physically reach up and flip it with your hand. Of course that breaks our paddling motion. I just hit it with my chest, that was good enough.
After luge qualifying, standup qualified. Most of us sat around in some shade, with a few us sitting in the patio area of the hotel under umbrellas, eating ice cream. The day wasn’t as hot as it was last year (or the last couple of races) but it was still warm in the sun. Fortunately there was a water station at the top of the course. Apparently there was also one at the bottom, but I never spent a lot of time down there to find it. Classic luge finished the day off.
We finished up early, about 6:30. This gave us plenty of time to get cleaned up for the night’s festivities. Dinner was going to be in town, so we walked down the course to meet some people at the campsite near the finish. The campsite was on a soccer pitch.
We wandered into town, and discovered we were the only riders there. Apparently there was a sign posted at the race office that there would be a torch light parade, down the hill, to start the evening off. But we never had a riders meeting, and no announcement was made. Besides we would end up in town with our luge, with no way to get it back to the top. We waited down at the bottom with the roller girls who were carrying our flags.
We finally saw the torch light parade coming into town. [] Although we were downhill from the course, there was a slight uphill section into town, that required skating. I am glad I didn’t ride down on my luge. Once the parade arrived, we were supposed gather behind our flags for the march into the square. I had one compatriot join me. He was a skater from Miami who had been spending the summer in Rome studying. We marched into the square as our countries were called out. There were close to 30 countries represented. It was cool to see the colorful flags waving,. After the presentation of the athletes the major, and some other people gave some short speeches. And then we were told the opening ceremonies were concluded so we can go eat dinner. Which was a good thing, since it was 10:00 PM.
It took us a while to get through the line into dinner. Meanwhile the roller girls did a performance on roller skates. The dinner was free for riders, and 10 euros for non riders. We got a salad, some pasta and some roast beef. It was pretty good, and it was a lot of food. As we finished out meal, they brought around a plate of tasty deserts.
Saturday, July 31
We got started roughly on time. We decided since we were the first ones down, we would grab a shuttle. Then we would start our own little shuttle service. But there was a slight change of plans. The inliners were dragged back up hill behind some quads. This left more room in the shuttles for everyone else. It also meant that we ended up with a more rigid schedule. The street lugers and standups would go down. Then while we were going up the back roads, the inliners would go down. We usually got back to the top before they did, and would wait for them to come back up the course. The first couple of times it happened, many riders booed the inliners. Which was totally uncalled for as the system was giving us all more runs. Again more shuttles would have solved the problem. We were averaging a run about every 25 minutes or so. But with a three hour window we only got six runs in.
I saw a post over by the race office that lunch for Saturday and Sunday would be catered, and would cost 10 euros, if you ordered it the day before. But left overs from last night were once again offered for free. I grabbed some more pasta from the hotel. Lunch was going to be a long one for us, because after lunch the IIDA inline race was held. This race consisted of two qualifying runs and was schedule to last until 2:30. A lot of guys hung out in the hotel lobby and surfed the web. I sat in the Red Bull lounge and watched some of the runs.
I think the plan was to try and start street luge qualifying early, especially since the inline race finished early. But it took a while to get things squared away, and then it was decided to wait until the announced start. In case some people were down the track or at the campsite. We started qualifying on time. But this time we were using a light beam. There was some discussion that the results would be skewed. As we would break the beam with or foot, but triggered the gate with our chest (or in some cases, hands.)
By the time I got back to the top standup qualifying was under way. Once again I’d have about an hour before classic. I saw Marcus selling his tshirts with the new logo on them. He is usually running timing, but this race had their own timing. Without doing the timing, Marcus had some free time to sell his shirts.
Classic was the last to qualify. I was somewhere in the middle so I got a chance to watch some of the guys finish their run. There was a sign at the finish which showed the previous riders time. It is great to have the sign, because it is sometimes difficult to hear the announcement, if there is one. There was also a bar set up selling beer and ice cream. One of the best things about the finish line was the jumbotron set up. There were a half dozen cameras on the course. A couple were manned, a few were just aimed up the course. A control booth switched between the cameras. This allowed us to follow the action on the screens at the top and the bottom.
The free dinner was a country BBQ. The dinner was supposed to start till 10:00 PM after the inline awards ceremony. A small group of us decided to grab dinner at a local pizzeria. We had a nice long dinner, and almost finished before the main dinner started. We missed the start of the dinner, but did catch a few minutes of the band playing. The party lasted longer than they usually do the night before a race. I guess a lot of people are planning on heading home after the race tomorrow.
Sunday, August 1
Classic luge, inline, and junior standup would start the morning off. Practice was supposed to start at 9:00 AM. I was ready shortly after 9:00 and there was almost no one else at the start line. We were able to get two warmup runs in the hour we were allotted.
On the way back up the hill we passed quite a few bicyclists. And many of them watched us for a bit, I think more wondering which way they were going to go down as the road they planned on using was closed. There were also quite a few people out hiking and rock climbing as well.
The inliners started the race. And then we ran a 6 man classic race. I wasn’t expecting to do very well. I had a low qualifying time, and I was concentrating more on luge. My first run I started in the back of the pack, but blew by several riders as we approached the first turn. As I broke for the first set of turns, I saw someone behind me go sliding into the hay. I think he panicked a little when I passed him, so he tried to take the turn without breaking, and hit the hay. I successfully held everyone else off and transferred.
My semi final heat was an incredible heat. Again I started at the end of the pack. I wasn’t able to pass anyone, but I caught up to them by the time we got to the hairpins. The last four of us where fighting for the third position, and we were fairly close. The three in front of me where basically taking the turns three wide. I kept trying to pass them, but with them three wide there was no room. I had one last shot as we approached the final hairpin. I exited the hairpin with some good speed, directly behind the three in front of me. They were arrayed diagonally, and I managed to get on the correct side of the diagonal. I’d have the inside line coming into the final sweeper. But I rolled over some loose, clumpy hay near the hay bales, and Eliot (who was in fifth) bumped me slightly. This caused both of us to drop back just enough that we had no chance to overtake those in front of us.
The consolation heat wasn’t as exciting. We got into a single file line, and maintained our position most of the way through the hairpins. I broke a little too much at the top, and couldn’t gain on anyone. I finished 12th. I stopped immediately after the finish line so I could watch the final. Of course Serek won by a good margin. I also watch the juniors final.
After the morning races were finished we took an hour and a half for lunch, or so I thought. I thought that the schedule was to do warmup from 2:00 to 3:00. But it was printed in the pamphlet was 2:30. We actually started about 2:15 or so. We also got two runs in before the race started. Much like the morning session, the standup started first, and we went down after them.
My run started with me in third place. I passed one of the guys just as we entered the turns. I slowed a little too much, and got repassed. Once again I was in third, but I felt confident that I could catch up. A couple of hairpins later my back end went barking across the pavement, almost throwing me from my board. Amazingly enough, although I lost ground, I was still in the race. I got a little closer in the final few turns, and had one last chance to try to catch up to draft on the final straight. I flew into the final turn, and didn’t quite make it and hit the hay. I was still in third place as I scrambled to get back on my board. I paddled hard, only to get passed just as I laid down. I’m not sure what my problem was this year. Partially it was the wheels, but I had no problems last year. Well it gave me a chance to watch the rest of the races.
Marcus was announcing at the bottom along with Davi. The course was wired for sound, and Marcus used the big screen to do play by play. Some of the heats were fairly close but others weren’t. I suspect that if the run was fairly clean it was close, but if there was a lot of bumping in the turns it would allow for a separation. The standup heats were the same way.
In the finals, Labarthe was in lane 1 (on the left side of the road), Eliot was in lane 2, and Luca was in lane 3. As they started Labarthe veered left, and Luca veered right. This squeezed Eliot out. At this point we couldn’t see what was happening on the screen, but I guess both Luca and Labarthe got sideways. Next thing we see is Eliot out in front, where he stayed until the finish. Luca, was behind had tried to take the first turn without braking and ended up in the hay. Of course Labarthe immediately protested but the results were left alone.
The standup final was next and it was fairly exciting with Switzer passing Dalua near the bottom. I was watching the big screen, then ran around the arch at the bottom to get a photo when I heard a lot of screaming and hollering. I turned out to get set up for the shot when I noticed Ozman standing in the middle of the road. Apparently the generator shut off, and the arch started to collapse, just as the heat was arriving. Fortunately the arch didn’t collapse completely, and someone turned the generator on fairly quickly.
The race finished early, or at least earlier than last year. The awards ceremony was set up to take place at the finish line and started about ten minutes after the race was over. At the start of the cermoney, Marcus called up Kinnish to give some monies to some of the riders. Several people had their cars broken into over the weekend, having their passports, wallets, computers, and other stuff stolen. Liz had started a collection and raised some money to present to these groups.
The awards ceremony was different. The top three finishers were called up to the stage. They stood behind the podium, and then as their name was called, they stood on the podium. Then the trophy girl walked out with the trophy, while a dignitary took the trophy from the trophy girl and handed it to the winner. Then the three flags were raised while the winners national anthem was played.
After the awards ceremony the event wrapped up fairly quickly. Many of the Europeans wanted to hit the road to try and get home.
The event went off on schedule with the exception of the first day, being delayed by fog. The weather was relatively cool. It was incredible to see some of the fanfare between the opening ceremony and the awards. As we left town we saw some large billboards in town advertising the race, but I think there were fewer spectators.
While there were a lot of wrecks, the speeds were fairly slow. There were lots of bumps and bruises, and one inliner broke his leg fairly badly.