Antibes Slalom World Cup, 20th-22nd September 2013

Race Report and Photos by Mmedo Dufort

Still on a high from the Euros, a few of us decided to stretch the summer a little and headed for the south of France to take part in the Antibes Slalom World Cup 2013.  For those of us unable to travel to Texas for the World Championships, three days of racing in the South of France felt like a great way to close out the season.

Out of five travelling Brits (and in this instance, I count myself as one), four of us (representing the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s!) managed to travel on the Thursday morning to Nice where we picked up our rental car and headed straight to Marseille for a little classic bowl riding.

Built in 1991, the Bowl du Prado is a classic concrete park which shot to fame thanks to its inclusion in the legendary Tony Hawk Pro Skater, on Playstation. Nowadays, the park is a little rundown, mostly because of the recently opened indoor Skatepark du Palais Omnisport which is being blamed for diverting funds. A chat with some of the locals confirmed that except for quick repairs on the eve of the summer international comps, the Council is only too happy to let this legendary venue to its own device; a real shame when considering its historical significance and amazing settings.       

Louis and Harry making the most of the Bowl du Prado

Anyway, it remains a great place to skate and Harry Phelps did not need to be asked twice to get down to business. Louis Selby, whose bowl riding skills are still in their infancy, still managed to draw some respect from the locals by throwing in a bit of freestyle action; something they don’t see much of in these parts. Having spent the afternoon there, we headed to over to old friends of mine for some local hospitality. Hats off to Philippe and Claude Tieulon for putting up with us and serving the Gallic feast Paul Coupe, Louis and Harry deserved on their first night in Marseille.

On the Friday morning, we headed back towards Nice airport where the last member of our party, Sam Gordon (representing the 1950’s), awaited us. Packed tightly, we made our way to Antibes where we met with some of the usual suspects of international slalom racing,  Janis Kuzmins, Mika Hadestrand, Chris Schütz (remember their names), already enjoying the warm weather and resting their bones ahead of the GS planned for the afternoon.

The course, set in a park on the outskirt of Sophia Antipolis, was long and sinuous but not particularly fast. Having had a couple of trials we all realised that speed was going to be an issue in some of the flatter sections and all concluded that double pumping would be required.  About 40 skaters took part in the race, with strong contingents representing Italy, Germany and Russia; the only notable absentee being Viking Hadestrand, reportedly in bed with the flu attempting to recover on time for Texas.

Free from any weather related stress, the race took place without notable incidents and the final ranking saw Janis (in 43.97 sec) edge it over Chris Schütz (44.74), Mikael Hadestrand (44.79) and Michel Dupont (45.02).  Team GB acquitted itself reasonably well in that event with Louis coming in 10th with the very good time of 47.28 behind the likes of Robert Thiele, Christoph Baumann and Oleg Glushko – nothing to be ashamed of. Sam finished 12th (48.20), easily dispatching the up and coming French amateur Marc Camelan (13th) and showing that experience always matters. Harry and I were neck and neck for the best part of the day, but the extra weight probably paid off as I finished on 49.76 just ahead of Harry on 49.90.  Paul finished just ahead of Franco di Giorgio with 56.54. 

Skin for the win; Marc Camelan on the GS

 GS is always a special event as we tend to race against ourselves more than against others and the satisfaction comes from putting in a good shift. Having all done so, we wrapped up and made our way to our fabulous youth hostel and joined the party at a private beach appointed for the evening. Sangria, pizzas, olives granted the nigh a distinctive Mediterranean feel. It is difficult to imagine a a more relaxed atmosphere to say hello to the rest of the big summer slalom travelling circus that makes up these international events.

At the parking Du Club Nautique; not a bad spot for flat slalom.

The Saturday saw us move to a venue by the beach for some flat 1.7m straight slalom. This is not the most exciting of disciplines but it is a sure way to see some close head to head racing and with a final run by night, the spectacle did not disappoint as Janis edged past Mika with Christopher Dupont coming in third ahead of Chris Schütz. Team GB did not challenge past the round of 16 preferring instead to save its strength for a beautiful night ride through Antibes and the old town.

Despite the lack of experience of the local cone marshals and the subsequent headaches that this caused, the day was a real success as all the racers were treated to some locally cooked lunch and free massages; as if being able to sneak out for a swim was not good enough!

Sunday brought much of the same with a very fast and technical special course which saw Mika finally triumph over Janis in another closely fought battle. The day was closed by the Nations Cup where three racers from each country battled head to head. Great Britain came 4th behind Russia, France and a very strong German team made of Chris Schütz, Christoph Baumann and Robert Thiele; a deserved victory for a friendly bunch. 

The overall ranking gave the victory to Janis Kuzmins followed by Mika Hadestrand whilst Chris Schütz came a deserved third on the back of an impressive display in the GS. In the Women, Kathrin Sehl continued her fine form to win the overall title whilst Zaccaria di Giorgio registered some very noteworthy performances to take the junior title. It has to be noted that Irene Di Giorgio is carving herself a name and will soon be giving Kathrin a run for her money; a very improved racer part of a great racing family. It must be something in the food?


Team GB being Team GB

Whilst team GB acquitted itself well, none of us left with any sense of massive achievement from an event where the standard was overall very high. Louis, our number one racer remains a little short of competing for a podium but clearly has the potential for it – talks of coaching echoed in the airport; the expertise is there. Sam and Paul did what they do best. Both gave a pretty good show of their talents with a very credible ranking for Sam in the GS. Harry continues to improve and is now more than comfortable amongst European amateurs. There is plenty more to be learnt but it is obvious that these competitions are making faster every time. As for me, this brought an end to very enjoyable racing season. Fitness is less an issue but until training finds a regular place in my life, competing with those guys will only be done on a rhetorical level.

Having bid our goodbyes, exchanged addresses and invitations for next year, shared tips on bushings and duros, we parted company with the pan-European party, packed the car one last time and headed for Nice for a final cruise on the sea front followed by dinner at a local Kebab shop. This provided the opportunity to demonstrate to my friends that indeed, in France, most crappy food outlets serve better food than the majority of restaurants in the UK. Not like me to go on bragging about it but still, facts being facts, etc. Sam had a final Pizza, which by his own admission is the only food he ate for the whole of his stay in France. No wonder he is fast, that’s the di Girogio’s recipe for success.

A long night was then spent on the marble mattresses of Nice airport, before catching our plane back to England where we parted company having all had an excellent four days break.

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