Back to the Grind….not the jibbing kind

I’m writing this on my way to London, on the train, heading to the office after two weeks away in Laax. It feels a bit surreal, here I am suited and booted and fighting for a seat on the train ( I won) when this time a week a go I was waiting for the gondola to take me to the mountain top for boardercross (I won that too).

Anyway, I just wanted to round out Brits week with an update on the slopestyle (3rd in Masters, 19th overall). I’ll admit to being a bit gutted with my overall position, I’d hoped to finish a couple of places higher but it wasn’t to be. On a positive note though, it was the biggest, cleanest slopetyle comp I’ve done in 4 years at the Brits, with my second run being completely clean with all kicked knuckles cleared. It really does go to show what some lessons and hard work can do! If anyone is in Laax and wants some freestyle tuition then Marc Pfander comes highly recommended.

Rebecca Cullum also got her rightful Big Air prize, no public apology though as she decided against having a presentation with just her on the podium (it’s not much fun, especially when it’s not your fault) but she appears in the right place on the results list so it’s all good.

Hopefully I’ll slowly ease in to work this week, luckily with Easter I have two, 4 day weeks, and a trip to Castleford & Halifax to look forward to. I’m going to do everything I can to keep the riding momentum going and get myself to a good enough standard that this time next year I’m blogging about the spins I’ve thrown down on the big kickers!

 

Medal Free Wednesday

No medal for me today unfortunately, but the weather was good and I was happy with my half pipe runs. I’d out a couple of runs in on the half pipe yesterday but hadn’t really done anything spectacular (let’s face it, when you only ride pipe once a year it’s hard to be spectacularly anything except for spectacularly bad!). Due to my superior planning skills I was up the top of the mountain early enough to get about 6 practice runs in which was triple what some of the slackers managed, I was getting near the lip of the super pipe on my first hit but my skills on the backside wall are lacking somewhat and I wasn’t really able to keep my height or speed in the increasingly slushy pipe. I did however manage a clean first run of frontside airs (with grabs) and backside airs (less grabs) and then for my second run I went for another mix of front & backside airs and went for a frontside 360 (today was the first time I’d tried these). Unfortunately I butt-checked it but it gives me something to work towards for next year’s comp.

As I said I didn’t place in the top 3, my gut instinct tells me I placed 5th out of 5 Masters but as I’m happy with how I rode I don’t mind not winning another medal.

Tomorrow’s comp is the slope style, it’s a 9am start at the top of the mountain so no partying for me tonight. Also because of the large number of entrants and the fact it takes 20 minutes to lap the comp park and the run to the lift and back we only get one run, so I have to make it count. I’ve got my run all planned out and if it all comes off OK I’ll be happy. My main aims are to do decent grabs on all three kickers and keep my bum out of the snow (last year I managed the kickers pretty much but not the butt part as I fell on the rails).

On another note it looks like Rebecca Cullum actually won her age group in yesterday’s Big Air comp and placed 4th overall, unfortunately as yet there has been no announcement of this to the masses nor has there been a re-run of the podium presentation so that she (and her sponsors) get a moment of glory. This really disappoints me because it’s one thing to make a mistake by not presenting someone with their prize but quite another not to fix it publically and fast! So at present it’s really only those people with access to the press office or who’ve spoken to Becca that are aware that she actually won. I do hope that Soulsports do fix this before the end of the week.

Hard work pays off!

Woohoo! I am so happy right now, all my hard work and the lessons I had last week worked out and I placed first in the Masters Big Air at the Brits. It was perfect weather today, bright blue sky and nicely shaped kickers meant that things couldn’t really have been better. The delay to the competition start (the banners weren’t up in time) meant that I got a few warm-up laps on the triple set of Swatch kickers, this gave me a chance to get my legs warmed up and a few different grabs nailed. Of course my legs were already pretty warm as I’d had to run back to the flat to pick up my lift pass which I’d left behind when I swapped jackets.

Once the competition kickers were actually open I headed over and sized up where I thought I needed to drop in from. I set off, put in a mini-speed check and landed just past the knuckle, definitely more speed required. By the time the comp was due to start I’d had a further 2 practice runs and got my drop in point and speed sorted….bring it on!

By the time it was my turn to compete the nerves were starting to kick in a bit but I dropped in and went for it….up the kicker into the air, and a good solid Roast Beef grab, over the knuckle and down on to the landing, clean ride out. Definitely a good jump. I was the first of the two Masters to jump and I couldn’t see what Lynsey Ashdown had done off the kicker but unfortunately she fell on landing.

My second run I decided to go all out and go for the nose grab, this is pushing it for me, I’m really not keen on any grab that means I have to shift out of my nice, safe, centered stance. Unfortunately I didn’t quite reach my nose but I was pleased that I still managed to get some good air and landed cleanly. I was disappointed not to get the grab but more than pleased that this year I managed to get two clean jumps past the knuckle, cleanly ridden out. Lynsey slammed on her second jump too but until prize giving I wasn’t sure if I’d won or not as I wasn’t sure if a fallen spin would have scored higher than a clean straight air or not. Thankfully it did!

The one downer on the day has to be a major admin error that occurred at prize giving. Rebecca Cullum had been riding really well all day and had landed a really nice FS360 over the medium kicker. This has been a bit of a bogey jump for her since she knocked herself out cold and landed herself in hospital doing this trick, so I was really pleased that she not only landed it but made the final by qualifying in 5th place (6 went through). Unfortunately when it came to the prize giving for her age group they had missed her off the list somehow (she’d certainly placed 2nd if not 1st as both she & Sam Rogers had qualified for the final) and she didn’t get given a medal….as yet we don’t know if she placed 1st or 2nd in her group, or even if she should have made the overall top 3 as well. As you can imagine this was both a shock and an upset, no one likes to be missed off the prize winners list, especially when you want to show your sponsors how well you’ve ridden and what you’ve achieved. I really hope that this is made good tomorrow by having a new presentation with the right people on the podium, but whatever happens, not only has this upset Rebecca, but it will also upset the girl who was on the podium but unfortunately shouldn’t have been.

I really feel for Becca because I similar thing happened to me at Warmwell the year before last when I made the final and placed 4th overall behind 3 sponsored riders. I should have won the Best Unsponsored Female prize but it was given to someone else because they thought I’d won it already. When I pointed this out I was simply told I’d just have to win again another time! I really do hope that Becca gets better treatment and this gets fixed tomorrow because after her hard work she deserves her moment of glory!

 

Victorious in Masters Boardercross

It’s been a mixed day for weather with heavy cloud hanging over the Boardercross course but it was well worth me heading up the mountain, although when I did my first run through the course. The first run through you get of the course is just side slipping through to check where each of the features is but without actually racing over it. A good thing too as you literally couldn’t tell if you were going on a bend, roller or kicker until you were on it! Thankfully they sprayed everything with blue paint before we started our official warm-up runs so even when there was no sun you could at least see what you were about to hit.

I decided to drop in quite slowly for my first practice run, not slowly enough though as I sailed over the first kicker and saw the landing vanish way behind me and I landed on the flat half way to the first roller….speed checks and pre-ollies were definitely called for as you came out of the gate that was for sure. After a second warm-up run where I timed the first kicker a little better we started our timed qualification runs. We each had two of these to determine seeding and gate choices for the races themselves.

My first run was OK, but I was a bit unsettled on the triple rollers so was actually quite pleased when I arrived back at the start to find that the timer system had failed and I needed to do a further timed run. After catching my breath I dropped in for my first official timed run and the sun came out, this time I rode much better, rode smoothly over the rollers and then felt I’d done a good time. My second timed run wasn’t so good, I caught a heel edge as I went up the third roller and landed on my hip & back half way to the first corner…OUCH! Not only had I half lost my goggles but totally winded myself as well, I wasn’t going to let this stop me though so up I got and started riding to the next 2 bends, straightening my goggles as I went and frantically waiting for my lungs to refill with air. I have to say it’s quite a scary experience but I figured that my riding with my mouth open enough air would find its way in to me before I suffocated. Luckily I caught my breath before I hit the kicker line but it wasn’t enough and it turned out that I qualified in 2nd place, 0.7 of a second behind the first place qualifier. Suddenly my doing boardercross for fun did an about turn and I wanted to win.

We lined up for the final, and the start gates dropped, I got away in second behind Philippa Tattersall, the girl who’d beaten me in the timed runs, I had a feeling that she’d beat me away but I bided my time and hit the kicker a few feet behind her. Just as I thought, she’d taken it too fast and on overshooting the landing she fell, I landed, curved to the right and passed her as she lay in the snow. From this point on I focused on my technique and keeping as much speed as I could, I had no idea how close behind me she was so I hit the rollers, making sure I sucked my knees up to avoid getting air, rode the banks pumping to get faster and then just ploughed on to the finish. It worked and I won!

So that’s one comp down and 3 more to go, tomorrow is the Big Air and I’ll be aiming to hit the 13m kicker as well as I did last week. Hopefully the weather will be good and my legs will be good to me, I really want to land two good clean grabs and ride away without stacking this year, I believe I can do it; I just need to make sure my body believes it too.

A special mention has to go to Hayley Sutherland for competing alongside me, at 46 and only having been snowboarding for a year she overcame fear and panic to complete both timed runs and the race…a well deserved and earnt third place!

Masters Boardercross Gold, Brits 09

Brits Bib Collection: Total Fail

Well it’s Sunday, officially practice day and bib collection for the majority of snowboarders and skiers entering the British Snowboard & Ski Championships, so after dropping my stuff off in the apartment I headed to the registration point at 2:10pm, 10 minutes after the office should have been open. I do this every year because if you leave it too late there’s a huge queue and it takes ages to get sorted. I was greeted by a sign saying the office would not be open until 3:30pm. So back home I went, grabbed some food and a shower before heading back at about 3:40pm. To be greeted by a big queue and the start of the whinging. When you pre-register on line you’re told you need to bring your passport with you when you collect your bib to prove your eligibility (a non-British national won the Big Air in 2007 so they’re clamped down after that minor embarrassment). Of course if you haven’t pre-registered then you don’t know this, so lots of people turn up and then when they find out (often not till they’ve been queuing for a while) they have to head back to pick up their passports.

Now I am a prepared person, I’ve preregistered and prepaid online, I’ve also sorted out my year’s licence and have my passport & bib deposit with me….so it would be nice to think that there’d be an express line for pre-registered competitors to whizz through. It seems that that’s too easy, no, I had to queue in a hot, windowless room for 90 minutes! Trying to keep your place and avoid queue jumpers and help out the kids who need a parent or guardian to sign their entry form but whose parents haven’t come down with them. When I finally made it to the front of the line it became apparent that the 3 girls handling the registration/collection were not processing a person each, no, one was handing out the wrist band, one took the bib deposit and gave you the bib and then one entered your info on the spreadsheet (or checked your details if you were pre-registered). The whole process took me 30 seconds, yes I waited 90 minutes to spend 30 seconds proving my nationality & getting my bib…..and there certainly weren’t 180 people in front of me.

So please pretty please can we have a bit more organisation next year Mr Brass? Perhaps a sign or someone outside to remind people that they need a passport, that you only accept CHFs for bib deposits but CHFs or GBPs for competition entry and that you won’t take Euros at all and can we also have a pre-registration collection point for those of us that try and make your life a bit easier by paying for everything online and ahead of time.

Oh and it would be a bonus if your staff were able to tell people where the Rider’s Meeting is (or even perhaps say to people as they gave them their bib “Don’t forget it’s Rider’s Meeting at 7pm in Location X”. I asked where it was and was told they didn’t know but probably in the Rider’s Palace. Since your programme has bad weather meetings in the Rocks then I’m guessing that it’s actually outside at the Après Arena, but I shouldn’t have to guess, I should be able to politely ask and informed member of the team and get a correct answer.

I know you all do this for the love of the sport, and that the people doing registrations etc are effectively volunteers and I appreciate they you all have to put up with a lot of unnecessary hassle, but it’s an experience like this that starts the week off in a frustrated manner and makes you wonder if anything is going to run to plan. I’m hoping that this is the bad dress rehearsal before the main event….fingers crossed!

UPDATE:

Since heading back to the apartment and typing my post queue mini-rant, we headed back out into the snow (yes it’s still snowing!) to hunt down the location for the Rider’s Meeting, after a bit of wandering and bumoing in to people it transpired that the Rider’s Meeting was cancelled, becuase they’d not put the location in the programme and because they were over running with registration (at least I heard that was the reason). Unfortunately they hadn’t told everyone, or put a note on the wall outside the registration room so there were plenty of lost looking people wandering from the Rider’s Palace, where the meeting used to be held in previous years, the Rocks, where it said bad weather meetings would be (it’s snowing, seems bad to me) and the Crap Bar.

I’m counting this as the same day, same problems, so hopefully tomorrow will be a little bit smoother.