Hot Heels 11
For the eleventh time Hot Heels took place in the Kaunertal, a valley in the Austrian alps that leads to the Kauner Glazier. Continental Europeans camped out at the finish line, while everyone else slept in the hotels in Fiechten. While there are several villages in the valley, Fiechten is home to the Kiwi, unofficial HQ's of the Americans. The town has one grocery, open only a few hours a day, a dairy, a bakery, a church, and about a dozen hotels!
The Kauner Glazier has year round skiing, and several ski teams from around the world practice here during the summer. The road to the Glazier has 29 hairpins, the first few years of Hot Heels the race was held further up on the road. The last few years the race started just below the dam and traversed the last four hairpins. The start line is just below the dam, near 3092 m.Finally the course ends with a huge right hand sweeper.
One thing I love about this valley are the beautiful purple flowers that are just everyway, I couldn't get enough pictures of them.
Monday, July 8
After the Swiss race many people headed straight to Austria to start riding this morning. I wanted to do some site seeing, so I spent the night in Luzern, and had an early lunch in Lichtenstein. I got to Kaunertal around noon,
The weather was absolutely gorgeous today, sunny and in the mid 80's. Its going to be a hot week.
Tuesday, July 9
Camp started sometime after 10:00 am. We had a bus to take us to the top,
I got up earlier enough to wander around and visit some familiar sites. Last year all the winners were given trees to plant. The trees have gotten much bigger, and they are hard to see, but here is Hot Heels 10's forest.
We got about a half dozen runs in before breaking for a late lunch, Richard and I drove into town, Richard wanted to get some shoes. I popped into the Kiwi to grab a drink, it was another hot day. I just grabbed a glass of water with ice, but I explained one thing I didn't like about Europe was no one put ice in their drinks.
After another another half dozen runs for the evening session we began to wrap things up. Gerhard decided to build a new buttboard.
For dinner several of us headed back to the Kiwi, where I order a glass of Coke. The bartender remembered my story from lunch, found the largest glass in the bar, filled it with ice, and then poured a liter of Coke in it.
After dinner we went back up to the campsite to hang out with everyone, Gerhard was still working on his board.
Wednesday, July 10
Today would be the last day of camp, and the last day to sleep in. I took the opportunity to get some shots around town. This year the town was decorated with a bunch of scarecrows.
About 10:30 we headed to the top for the morning session, it was going to be another nice day.
It was another hot day, some of the campers rested in style.
We ended up getting about a dozen runs in a day for the three days of camp! Close to twenty miles of riding a day on one of the best courses in the world. And to top it off the weather was fabulous.
After another dinner at the Kiwi we headed back to the camp for the mandatory Riders Meeting.
After the meeting the fun began. A couple of the South Africans
Thursday, July 11
Today was the first office day of Hot Heels, so we had to get up early. I don't know if it was like this all week, as this was the earliest I got up but there were low lying clouds to welcome us.
Marcus was running the tech inspection.
Much like earlier in the week we got another half dozen runs in before lunch. During lunch I wandered through camp to meet some of the new guys. Quite a few people were work on their equipment.
The afternoon session went without a hitch, another half dozen rides. After dinner a slalom course was set up.
Of course there was another riders meeting
After the meeting, another bonfire was lit outside. This time they outdid themselves.
Friday, July 12
Today is qualifying day, and it looks like its going to be another nice day. When I got to the course, I found what have to be Eliot's shoes.
The glacier at the end of the road is a popular tourist attraction, the claim is you can see three countries from the top of the mountain. Each time we close the road, about 50 cars pile up, waiting for the trip up. Most of them got out to watch.
Each year Hot Heels hires a team to run the qualifying. They bring some good equipment. There is a display that will post the riders number and time,
We also had a new entry in Hot Heels this year, Extreme Downhill Bus Driving.
I missed most of the standup guys, but streetluge was taking a practice run when
Tom Mason managed to snag bib #1 since Dave Rogers, last years buttboard winner didn't show. So he was the first off the starting line.
In our second qualifying run, one of the junior ski teams was just coming off the mountain. The kids poured out of the bus to watch us start.
It was finally time for the reason of Hot Heels existence, buttboard. Werner usually yells at me for trying to get group shots, but he sure looks happy here.
During a break in the action, the film crew that was filming the race did some interviews. They interviewed Frank, who was running the start, from an interesting angle.
Another fine day of riding and gorgeous weather was coming to an end. I found Oliver Wagner, last weeks Swiss Championship winter resting up.
The film crew was looking for a special shot for their video. They collected some of the more colorful lugers and assembled us for this shot made famous by surfers.
After cleaning up and another wonderful dinner at the Kiwi we headed back to the campsite for the Friday party with live bands.
Saturday, July 12
Today would be the ninth day in a row I would ride. And with the exception of the second day the weather was amazingly beautiful. I woke to the last thing I wanted to see on race day, rain.
I had my hopes up, as the gravity bikerThe decision was to hold off on standup as the course wasn't completely dry.
The lugers got a dry run in before racing started. The course was mostly dry for the first round of racing. I ended up in Swartz heat, we started somewhere in the middle of the back and got red flagged just as we got to the carousel. Swartz had a hard time stopping with one foot. The van picked us up and took us back to the top. We started again, this time making it to the second turn before being red flagged.
When we started for the third time the fog was starting to set. The road was getting more damp, with sprinkles near at the finish line. While the course was mostly dry, the carousel was still damp, two of the riders wiped out. In the second round the rain started and the course was soaked. I wrecked in the first turn, I thought it was no big deal as I was quite a bit out in front. But my boom had gotten wrapped in the twine. The last rider passed me before I could free my board. Oliver Wagner won his second race in less than a week!
The weather got worse for the buttboard race.
I made it to the consolation round. In my first heat I was second entering Hell's Gate, I slammed on the brakes hard to make it through the chicane. Gerhard passed me. In my semi final round I was in third entering the gate. Once again Gerhard was behind me. This time I took the chicane faster, I had to, to stay ahead of Gerhard. Instead I slammed into the wall of hay before at the entrance of the chicane. I jumped up ready to leap in the air, as Tom Mason was coming. This is a shot I wish I had a camera, I'll never forget it though. It was very gray as it was foggy, and Tom Mason was coming straight at me through the fog! Tom missed me, but managed to sneak into third!
We took a short break before the finals, the TV crew wanted to set some things up. We all huddle in the tents to warm up a bit.
In my consolation run I was drafting someone into Hell's Gate. I was so close behind him, riding in the rooster tail he was throwing up, the only think I could see was his white helmet and his silver trucks. I made the decision to pass him on the right, just as I did that he went left, exiting Hell's Gate. Once again I hit the hay, I managed to stay on my board, but not before Gerhard passed me right at the finish!
The final was well contested, almost three across.
Due to the fact that the course never dried out, and it rained most of the day, the stand up race was not run. Qualifying times decided the race.
I was freezing cold, my leathers were completely soaked. I was ready for a HOT shower. And what do you know, the cows were going home too.
After a nice long hot shower, it was time for a celebratory dinner at the Kiwi. Tonight IGSA's Buttboarding World Champion got the large glass.
Things did get a bit wild for the ceremony,
And then the partying really began. The fire breathing was a blast.
Hot Heels is about riding, its one of the best courses in the world. Its about racing, it has one of the largest racer turnouts. And finally its about the partying. I think there was a total of seven live bands over the last two nights. I finally called it quits in the wee hours of Sunday morning, in the hopes of getting some sleep for the night.
Sunday, July 13
The race is over, and people were heading home. Most of the campers were picking up there camp and heading out. I wanted to head up to the ski resort, and check out the glacier. I picked up a couple guys who wanted to ride the road down.
For the past few years the race has been held in earlier July. The rest of the year the camp is a cow pasture. The cows go on vacation, just above the lake a few weeks out of the year.
I got back to a mostly empty campsite
I can take pictures all day long,
With the amount of money that Red Bull has poured into DHX, and with 20,000 plus spectators. DHX is probably the biggest international event to attend. But Hot Heels is something else. Especially if you throw in the Swiss Champs the week before, practice time before the event, live bands, cheap room and board, and one helluva race course.
This year we had two major injuries, both happening during the camp session. One standup cracked his head and was airlifted out, and another broke his arm. Despite the rain the race went without a hitch.