Hogtoberfest Report 26th to 27th October 2013

hogtoberfest 02

 Bit of a personal review:

Hogtoberfest nearly didn’t happen. Timmy Peters was caught up with organising the Blitz Festival at Cyclopark, so the later event had fallen off his radar. At the Euros in July, a quick check with Ian Coles at Redbridge Cycle Centre revealed that there was a slot available towards the end of October, on the weekend the clocks change. I pencilled in the UKSSA for the booking. It seemed a little late in the year for a skate event, but Hog Hill has garnered a reputation as a skater gathering as much as a competition in its own right, and Hogtoberfest has, in its short existence, come to mark the end of the season. It’s a knees-up, whatever the weather.

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I pointed the date at Timmy and he ran with it. The DAS organising machine rolled into action even as BBC weather were predicting the worst storm since ‘87. There is something of the surfer in skaters that regularly come to Hog Hill. Old hands know that the track still has plenty of grip in the wet, and the worse the weather reports the more interested they are to cheat adversity and pull a skate out of the bag.

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Of course it started out damp. This proved little hindrance to the downhillers, whilst the sliders totally embraced the super slippery surface.

Over on the slalom hill we ‘borrowed’ the markings left from the Euro’s hybrid course. Waiting for the track to dry  reduced time to the end of the day, using the existing  cone locations gave us an international standard layout with minimal setup pfaff. We double-coned each position to prevent the crosswind from unhelpfully adjusting the course. Its best efforts worked to our benefit as it dried out the track. Qualifying was on!

 With Louis ‘Slipa’ Selby setting a fastest time of 12.18 seconds and Harry following up with 12.41, there were few surprises as to how the time trial was panning out. Mmedo’s rise up the ranks continued with a very respectable third place, closely followed by Ben Williams in fourth. With Chris Charalambous continuing his Euros success, I was forced into sixth position, a second off the pace. Damn. Completely out of the running and a bit of a jolt to the system. I couldn’t bring myself to go and join in the jollies over at the campsite and instead skulked off home, dropping Chris off at the tube on the way.

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That evening I stared at the skateboard; rebuild time. The tools were blamed for poor performance. My skating hadn’t felt that bad, but so much time had been lost over a short distance. Being a similar size and weight to the other skaters, legitimate excuses were thin on the ground. I persuaded myself that the board was turning too quickly and travelling too far on each turn. Over a thirty cone distance this could mean extra travel of a couple of metres. The five degree riser was removed from the front truck so that the Virage had just an additional three degrees off flat. Furthermore, the course was not so testing that sharp turns were required and neither was traction an issue. Off came the 70mm Abec 11 Zigags and on went the slightly harder and larger 73mm Seismic Speed Vents. If these changes didn’t help, then there would be only one guilty party at which I could point – the driver.

 Sunday kicked in dry, so I loaded up the car once again for the cross-London trek. Much of the public transport systems were down, leading to fewer competitors; but it also meant fewer organisers too. I left messages for Rob saying that I’d drive by Victoria station and pick him up, but he’d been headed to a party on Saturday night and now his phone was eerily quiet. The hope of a reduced field hadn’t prevented a highly competitive bunch turning up to Hog Hill at the respectable hour of 9:00am. Paul Coupe was a no-show because his truck had packed up on the way home on Saturday night, but present were all of the top qualifiers. John Nicholas and Richard Searle were to infill in order to make an ‘A’ group of eight.

 Richard had yet to turn up as racing began and competitors battled through the strong crosswinds. Louis quickly despatched John Nicholas, whilst Harry was given a bye to the next round due to Mr Searle’s non-appearance. Mmedo has a close run with the re-invigorated Charlambous, whilst I was lucky to just pip Ben Williams on cone count where our times were equal. Mmedo met up with Louis in the semi final and came off the the worse for it, whilst Harry easily beat me on the first run. I thought I’d try a different tack for run two, tightening up the back truck. Nothing to lose. Turned out to be even slower.

Mmedo and I were in the battle for third place, whilst Harry and Louis were, once again, fighting for glory. On the first ‘small final’ run, I managed to just beat Mmedo by 0.07 seconds. It felt like we crossed the line together, and with his fast qualifying times the day before, I was on the back foot. The advantage was too close to be considered as such. Mmedo then beat me on the second run. I had gone clear where he had hit a couple of cones, so the time penalty handed me third place by the slim margin of  just 0.05 seconds. In the final, Louis and Harry were having a similar battle. Louis won the first race, whilst Harry took the second. Louis grabbed overall honours by just 0.07 seconds. Close racing!

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Richard had finally arrived after the trials of the reduced public transport system, as had Didier Lambert. We slotted them into the two empty spaces on the spreadsheet to make up a full round of eight. With hindsight they should have taken each others position on the bracketing, but with the pressure of the predicted storm we wanted to get the racing going and results in the bag. In a repeat of the Pro-racing, Mark Phelps had an incredibly close run with Richard Searle, winning his first race, but yielding on the second. The two Trevors, Hickey and Baker, battled each other for nominal supremacy, with the latter moving to the semi-finals. Didier double-DQd, pushing Gavin forward to meet Andy, who had just taken out Tristan Price. In the first round of the Semis, Richard and Trevor both posted a time of 16.52. All to play for in the next race. Richard cracked, whilst Trevor improved his time. On the other side of the bracket, Gavin defeated Andy to seize the remaining slot in the Final. Fighting for the last podium place, Richard gained the upper hand on the first run against Andy. His second run was not so competitive, but his advantage was just enough to hold onto third place. In the ‘B’ Group Final Trevor continued his charge to victory, but not before Gavin had crossed the line at exactly the same time on the last run. Rarely had we seen such close racing at Hog Hill across both groups and Trevor’s beaming smile was testament to these close-run efforts.

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The wind had picked up quite a bit by mid-day Sunday, with gusts of 60mph predicted. The weathermen also promised that rain and hail would wash London away by 2pm. Without pause, Louis, Ben, Mmedo and Harry set up the Giant Slalom, again using the course originally laid out for the Euros. With the sky overcast and high wind blowing straight down the course, the GS seemed quite intimidating. There would be no ‘air buffer’ with which to gage speed and the offsets were hash enough so that there would be no tuck sections. Ben asked me whether the dodgy lycra outfit would make an appearance. ‘No,’ I replied. Not only was it too cold, but I had a mild dose of the fear and was happy to wear all protection available. Judging by the small number of entrants, it looked like I was not alone. By the time we were ready to roll, there were just seven of us battling it out; Louis, Harry, Ben, Mmedo, Rich, Tristan and Alex. Alex ran through with style, speed-checking the offsets with dramatic slides, but not really competing.

We decided to make it the best of three in usual ‘Top Gear Board’ style. Harry and Louis looked the most commanding on the course and set the fastest first runs. Mmedo was up there, with Ben and me chasing at his heels. In round two the wind must have picked up. Where Louis had been leading after round one, Mmedo then posted a fastest time of 23.15 seconds. This was over half a second faster than my first run and you could feel the shockwave go through the other racers. As I took to the ramp, I had a feeling of dread that I would be pushed to the bottom of the ranking, and, pulling into the course, forgot all plans and technique immediately. I made it through clean and without slides. Whilst I did cone-marshall duties from the side, both Louis and Harry had their last runs and looked immensely powerful. Louis unfortunately hit a couple of cones having set a raw time of 22.83. This put him back to less than a tenth behind Mmedo. Harry didn’t better his own time of 23.28 (adjusted for a cone penalty) and I was astonished to find that as I went up for the last run, the guys pointed out that my second run time was a clean 23.13. Fastest damn time! Hitting a cone on the third run, I blew my chances. Because the cones were doubled up, skating into them at nearly 30mph felt like hitting a rubber brick. The impact slowed you down considerably, making Louis’ raw time of 22.83 became even more impressive. Ben’s runs had been solid, but it looked like he had missed the fastest weather window. Victory was mine!

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I have organised and skated Hog Hill for close-on seven years and here was my first win. It gave a feeling of both guilt and joy when we checked back the times. From first to fourth place the time difference was just 0.15 seconds. Had we all skated at the same time the finish would have looked like a dead heat. As we packed up the timing, Chris Charalambous turned up to ask when the GS was about to start. We let him down gently. With the cones still in place, Chris ran through the course both effortlessly and stylishly. Had he turned up on time then he could have been among the contenders. Luck just happened to fall my way this time.

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Thanks as always to Octane Sport for continued slalom support, to Timmy Peters of DAS Industries for putting together the Hogtoberfest and to all who helped set up and marshall the racing. Mark Phelps kindly did a lion’s share of the admin work.

We now know that if everyone does a bit when required then the whole day goes far more smoothly.

Thanks all, you are getting faster, goldarnit!

HB13 08 Nemo by Mmedo



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