Venue: Tumegl/Tomils, Switzerland
Date: July 17-22, 2006
The journey to the 2006 IGSA World Championship in Switzerland started with me checking in at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). On July 15, 2006, I took a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Zurich with Malaysia Airlines. The nice thing about the flight was that it departed at midnight and arrived in Zurich at about 6:30 in the morning. In the summertime, the sun is already up at 5:00 AM so it was already bright.
At the Zurich airport, I purchased a one-way ticket to Tumegl/Tomils and proceeded to board the train. From the airport, I boarded the train to the main train station in Zurich known as the Hauptbahnhof or Zurich HB. From there, I had to switch to another train and traveled to Chur. Once I reached Chur, I had to switch to yet another train and travel to Rhazuns. At Rhazuns, I had to get off the train and boarded a small commuter bus to proceed to Tumegl/Tomils. The bus finally reached a bus-stop (there was no bus station because the town was small) in Tumegl/Tomils. Once I got off the bus, I didn’t see any riders nor organizers nor any signs or banners pointing to where the campground was located. Thinking that the campground was at the top of the hill, I boarded a small van that continued to bring passengers from the bus-stop to Scheid which was located higher up the mountain. It turned out that the van traveled up the race course since I noticed the safety mattresses that lined the hairpins and chicanes had already been set up, so I caught my first glimpse of the race course. As usual, every new race course to me always looks scary and dangerous, simply because I noticed that the road was narrow, steep, and the fact that there were no haybales, only safety mattresses.
When the van dropped me off at Scheid, I figured that the campground couldn’t be located at the top of the race course. Besides, Scheid was a very small village and there were no signs of people. I then decided to wait for the next van to go down the hill and get back down the course to Tumegl/Tomils. There was a post office and a minimart there, with a small carpark and a bench in front of it. Both the post office and minimart were closed however, since it was a Sunday.
Like what everyone else is doing, I was going to camp at this event, which is located at the bottom of the hill. I had hooked up with Jorge Sousa from Portugal whom I met in Sweden last year, and he was going to help me by supplying a tent. Whilst waiting for Jorge who was going to drive to this event all the way from Portugal, I proceeded to mount the trucks and wheels on my luge on a bench outside the minimart.
After Jorge finally arrived, we headed on to the campsite. We met some familiar faces like Bill Smrtic and Scott Peer, as well as some new people, especially the British contingent. We pretty much relaxed the whole day, checking out the water slide the Brits made, taking a cold shower in the make-shift camp shower, having an early dinner as well as registering at the race office.
MONDAY JULY 17
Today would be the first day of freeride and practice. We managed to get in 3 practice runs before lunch, and another 3 runs after lunch. The way the organizers run things at this event is to make it more of a chill type of atmosphere (hence the name of the event), so that people could just ride without pushing themselves too hard and running the risk of getting injuries too early during the 6-day event. In the daytime, there would be corner marshalls during the practice, but in the evening, approximately from 6-9 PM, they would be running the freeride sessions, meaning riding would occur on a semi-closed road, with no corner marshalls. Personally I would be tired from just morning and afternoon practice, plus I wanna get a cold shower whilst the hot summer sun was still out, because the water is very cold as it comes from the mountain!
Later in the night, after having dinner, which had to be ordered the night before, the opening ceremony got underway. The ceremony tried to mimic the atmosphere of the Olympics, since some orchestra-style music was playing in the background, whilst they had a representative from each country walk down a path to the stage holding their respective flags. Well of course, I was selected to bear the Malaysian flag as I was the only rider from Malaysia taking part in this 2006 IGSA World Championship! It was an awesome feeling to be part of a cool worldwide sporting event where everyone is acknowledged.
TUESDAY JULY 18
For today, we also got a total of 6 runs on a secured road, 2 before lunch and 4 after lunch. I also met Caue Lemes, a young 16-year old street luger from Brazil, whom I had met in Sweden last year too. However during the afternoon practice, he had crashed at a fast left-hander, breaking both his ankles in the process. The corner wasn’t that tight but it is very deceiving from far away. Apparently even though he hit the safety mattress in that corner, the luge caused the mattress to go up and hooked into the wood panel behind the mattress, which was to close off a guard rail behind it. The ambulance later came to take Caue to the hospital.
That night, the Gravix ceremony was held whereby they show videos taken and edited by the riders on a projected screen. The winning video was the Martine Olympiste video, by Yvon Labarthe. It featured the SC8 team riding all sorts of gravity vehicles on an abandoned concrete ice luge track. The track was very rough and bumpy, nevertheless the video proved exciting to watch and had everyone else jealous since riding on a track like that is next to impossible wherever we may live in this world! Yvon would later go around the camp to sell everyone his SC8 DVD’s, that contained the Martine Olympiste video among other chapters. I know I bought one!
WEDNESDAY JULY 19
Compared to the previous 2 days, we got in more runs despite the large number of riders present at this event, which was 200 in all disciplines! We got 3 runs before lunch, and 5 runs after lunch, for a total of 8 secured runs!
Later that evening, Jorge and I went to Thusis to visit Caue at the hospital. He’s thankful that his mom followed him to the event, since now she has to take care of him! Caue told me that his board wouldn’t turn at the fast left-hander. From eye-witnesses, as well as his GPS reading, he was going over 80 km/h when he crashed. The 35-degree baseplates are also probably to blame, since they sacrifice turning for stability. Actually the 35-degree baseplates are meant to be used on a downhill skateboard, since a skateboard has a shorter wheelbase compared to a luge. But anyway, he was put on morphine to alleviate the pain. His right foot had a funky-looking metal contraption put on it. I suppose it acts as a support structure in order to help re-align his foot. After visiting him, we bode farewell to Caue and his mom and went back to Tumegl/Tomils for dinner.
THURSDAY JULY 20
Today is the last day of practice. Qualifying would start tomorrow, so I went to Marcus to get my board passed for technical inspection.
FRIDAY JULY 21
Qualifying would begin today. The organizers managed to get all 200 riders in all disciplines timed. The street luge race would utilize a 32-man mass format. We had 34 street lugers, so 2 would not make the cut. I was ecstatic since I qualified in 10th place, with a best time of 2:21.53! I had beaten a lot of guys I had never beaten before, in terms of qualifying time! I wonder if it was due to my new weight of 63 kg or the fact that I was riding on the new 83 mm Flywheels which were lent to me by Chris McBride? Anyway, I looked forward to a very tight race tomorrow, since some of the world’s best riders were all converging at the World Championship.
SATURDAY JULY 22
Racing begins today. In the first round of 32, my heat consisted of Roberto Marasca from Italy, myself, Rene Marx from Germany, and Chris McBride from the USA. I won the push during the holeshot (unlimited paddle zone), but I could catch a glimpse of Rene Marx being very close to me on my right and who had the second fastest push off the line. We all entered the first hairpin, and Rene passed me on the inside, and would be leading in first place for the most part. Roberto passed me on the inside at the third hairpin, but I managed to re-pass him on the outside since I carried more exit speed. Basically I was in second place all the way down, trying very hard to catch up to Rene.
After coming out of the bridge chicane without braking, I managed to get in real close behind Rene prior to the final hairpin before the finish. I was coming in on the inside behind him, and held my usual line, assuming that Rene was going to go wide and emerge on the outside. It turns out that my assumption was wrong, as my feet clipped the back end of his luge, spinning him out. When taking a very tight hairpin, it is very difficult to brake at the same time. More often than not, it is a 50-50 chance that one’s assumptions are correct about where the leading rider would end up after the turn. Well it turns out, I totally spun out Rene 180 degrees, and he was trying to push himself whilst going backwards towards the finish line! Roberto manages to sneak by on the left, avoiding the carnage and taking first in this heat. Technically, I finished in second, Chris McBride in third, and Rene in fourth as he ran off the road backwards. After Marcus comes over from the finish line, he decided to put me in fourth place since it was my fault during the rider contact. So Chris McBride gets bumped up to second, and Rene in third. Chris actually didn’t want to advance to the quarterfinals (round of 16) because the road was very challenging to him, but because of that incident, he would move on.
The street luge race was won by Team SC8. Loic Zaccaro finished first, whereas Stephane Chaperon and Yvon Labarthe had a photo finish between them that nobody could tell who finished in second and third! After some decisions were made based on votes by eyewitnesses, half supporting Stephane and the other half supporting Yvon, Marcus decided that they’d both finish in second and receive the same number of IGSA world ranking points!
Of course everyone partied that night.
SUNDAY JULY 23
After the race was over, mostly everyone had left the campsite in the morning, catching whatever flights they were supposed to catch, whilst the vast majority drove back to wherever they came from. The American crew was still at the race office, taking their equipment apart. They were going to board the train with Marcus later in the afternoon. I managed to buy some gravity bike parts off Dave Kessler’s bike. I got the steering damper, curved number plate, kneeler boards, and handlebar for 100 Swiss francs! I am planning to build a new gravity bike when I get back to Malaysia. After bidding farewell to the organizers and the American crew, I hitched a ride with Yoyo and Bettina Luginbuhl to Zurich HB in Yoyo’s old-school 70′s hippies camper van that had a skateboard grafitti motif spray-paint job all over it.
I was going to stay at my cousin’s house in Zurich for a couple of days since the earliest MAS flight would leave on Wednesday, so I met up with Kamizi at Zurich HB and he brought me back to his nice apartment in Rigiblick. We had to take a train and a funicular to get to his apartment since it was situated on top of a steep hill!
MONDAY JULY 24
I spent most of the day staying at home, relaxing and watching TV. I also cooked lunch and dinner at the apartment.
TUESDAY JULY 25
I went sightseeing in downtown Zurich. I went to the Swiss national museum. I also went to the Grossmunster Platz church, after being told by a local girl who worked the food and drink counter at the event. Her name is Caecilia Kessler, sharing the same last name as Dave Kessler! I managed to get a view of the city from the top of the church tower.
WEDNESDAY JULY 26
Kamizi drove me to the airport where I would be catching my flight back to Kuala Lumpur in the afternoon. I would like to thank everyone who helped me along my journey and trip in Switzerland!
STREET LUGE RESULTS
- Loic Zaccaro (FRA)
- Stephane Chaperon (FRA)
- Yvon Labarthe (SUI)
- Robert Lammlein (SUI)
- Gauthier Dekyndt (FRA)
- Riley Meehan (USA)
- Beni Weber (SUI)
- Tom Worsley (GBR)
- Roberto Marasca (ITA)
- Craig Deltour (FRA)
- Clement Peyrusaubes (FRA)
- Len Stocker (GBR)
- Eugen Forschner (DEU)
- Klaes Meijer (SWE)
- Ross Baradoy (CAN)
- Chris McBride (USA)
- Sebastien Tournissac (FRA)
- Bill Smrtic (USA)
- Olivier Wagner (SUI)
- Gregory Martin (FRA)
- Rene Marx (DEU)
- William Stephenson (GBR)
- Joel King (GBR)
- Damian Andrey (SUI)
- Tyler Wendtland (USA)
- Abdil Mahdzan (MAS)
- Edgar de Wit (NED)
- Ronny Meier (SUI)
- Ben Bewley (GBR)
- Paul Busse (USA)
- Jason Absalom (GBR)
- Alexander Frischauf (AUT)
- Graeme Smith (GBR)
- Philippe Rulleau (FRA)