Saturday, 15 September 2012

Hopping around Austria

And finally the reason we've come to Austria (which was not to find our inner Marias or make our biking clothes from the hotel curtains).

Saalfelden-Leogang is host to the Union of Cycling International (aka UCI and the reason some atheletes get to wear a rainbow stripe on their shirt). Between the two mountains, they are hosting downhill, cross-country and trials. And it's the trials that we're focused on - specifically to see an old student from Bonner, John Webster - who's in the elite in this sport.

The trials course is set up throughout the town. If there's a small, cramped area to be had, the organizer's have put up a set of obstacles for the riders to be balancing around and jumping onto and off of. Each obstacle grouping has a different theme, some with a nice Austrian schnitzel shaped ones though....

This one is the oil sponsor, Motorex - before any of the competition. The riders are allowed to walk through and climb on each item, but only sans bike.

Later that day, this was the same obstacle group in action. We had positioned ourselves at the entry point to a series of rollers the riders had to negotiate down. The first four rollers were well executed for most riders....the last one, well, let's just say more riders than not became up-close and friendly with the last roller, closely followed by the pavement. In trials-terms, it's pretty much third strike. Putting one foot down is a demerit (and you can't move the foot, similar to traveling in basketball), but two feet down is an automatic five demerits - the maximum allowed.

Another obstacle grouping with a metal theme to it:

And it wouldn't be Austria without a beer-themed obstacle set. And yes, there were bottles in all the cases.

The final two obstacle groupings were wood (logs, sheds and poles) and cement (highway culvert pieces) where we had staked out a spot to watch the competition. This is John on top of the tower of cement rings - he did quite well through this set of obstacles - we saw a couple of guys lose it on the first portion of the cement round.

And to truly give you a short idea of what John does - a video we shot while he was in our field of view:
It was great to chat with John at the end of his competition. It's amazing knowing he's traveled to Austria (and elsewhere for other world cup events) on his own. He met up with one person part way through his travels and this guy was the one standing on the sidelines, holding drinks and snacks for John and waiting at the finish. It's hard knowing that because trials riding isn't as 'big' a sport as downhill or cross-country, the riders (if they're good enough, which John is) are left up to their own devices to get from event to event and self-support themselves)...while the other style of cyclists have team vans, tents, support staff coming out their chain-rings. And off my 'give trials some respect' soapbox. All in all, a fabulous time watching the trials, these guys (not sure why no girls) are amazing and the show put on in Austria was great for the spectators. OK, one food thing. There was a traditional bladl food kiosk at the event. Serving a fried pastry full of diced potatoes and bacon. How could this not be good? Mmmmm

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