Slalom World Cup Grüningen, Switzerland – 20th/21st June 2015 – Field Report

Report by Richard Searle

Team Shot L – R Richard Searle, Mmedo Duffort and Louis Selby.
Photo courtesy of Mmedo.

I like slalom, you like slalom, that skateboarding dog on YouTube likes slalom – and everybody who likes slalom loves a good slalom race, especially a good international race; the first to the pique interest of Team GB this season was The Slalom World Cup, at Gruningen in Switzerland.

 ‘It’s a lovely little race.’ Michael Stride (Octane Sport-ist) assured us at the previous Hog Hill event; accordingly, Louis Selby (UK No.1 Pro), Mmedo Duffort (UK no.1 AM), and my good self (an ageing mod) signed up.

My flight arrived earlier than Mmedo and Louis’, Friday evening. I was to rendezvous at Zurich airport with race organizer, Jadranko, and Team Latvia, then driven to the location; the remaining Brits were due to arrive an hour later. Once decanted into the van and safely on route, Jadranko mentioned a text that he’d received from the remaining British riders, Mmedo and Louis had missed their flight!

       ‘Oh dear,’ I said, or words to that effect.

 We drove through the beautiful Swiss countryside as the sun set across the sweeping glades and pine wooded hills, cows grazed lazily and local townsfolk dinned alfresco on the terraces of ornately decorated ski-lodges; Stridey was right, it was indeed the perfect chocolate-box location for a skateboard race. We finally neared our destination, the sleepy hamlet of Gruningen; Jadranko slowed the vehicle to a crawl, so as not to disturb the peace, manoeuvered carefully between some winding lanes and rumbled up a long dark drive before pulling to a halt.

     ‘Here,’ he announced.

Team Latvia whispered concerns and peered pensively out the van windows. We climbed from the vehicle and was greeted by German grumbler, Peter Jachman, and the French number ones’ Chris and Michel Dupont; they seemed confused. We were parked in a large grey lot, behind a fire station, in the middle of a very non-picturesque industrial estate.

      ‘Where is the the race location?’ Monsieur Dupont asked Jadranko.

      ‘Right here, it looks much nicer in the daylight…..when it’s sunny.’

We were shown to our accommodation, an oppressive cold-war era underground fall-out shelter, with cramped cells containing three-tiered ten-man iron bunks, three toilet cubicles and one cold shower between the forty racers; we bedded down for the night. It could be worse, I thought.

There was still no sign of Mmedo or Louis.

After a sleepless night of stale air and concrete amplified snoring, I queued for twenty-five minutes to take my ablutions and ventured outside; the race was due to start in an hour. Two dishevelled figures stumbled down the entrance ramp towards me, it was Mmedo and Louis – they’d slept outside in a hire car. It transpired that they’de secured the next available flight to Switzerland (Geneva, the opposite side of the country) where upon Mmedo drove through the night, arriving at Gruningen at 4.30am. I turned on my phone, I had a text, it was from Mmedo sent at 5am ‘where is the bunker?’ it said.

      ‘Where is the race location?’ Louis asked, rubbing his swollen eyes with his knuckles .

      ‘Right here,’ I said, ‘It looks much better when its sunny.’

Louis peered back towards the flooded industrial expanse….the stream running down the centre of race slope and the heavy clouds that were pissing rain.

      ‘What about the GS spot?’

      ‘No GS.’ I explained, ‘they didn’t get permission to use the hill.’

The rain stopped mid-way through Saturday afternoon, the cones were set, ramps uncovered, practice runs attempted on the deceptively tight straight course, and then the Pros set their qualifying times, followed by the Ams. The final cut was top eight in each category, Louis didn’t make the Pro race, neither did I in the Ams (there was no Masters category), but Mmedo, despite driving though the night and sleeping in a Fiat 500, made the cut for the Amateur race with the third fastest time. Unfortunately Team Latvia secured the top slot in the Ams, Mmedo narrowly missing the podium. Predictably, race favourite, Latvia’s Janis Kuzmins took first place in the Straight Pro race.

And then it rained.

 There was barely enough time for the Pro’s to set a qualifying time on the re-set Hybrid course during the remaining hour of dry weather that evening; Louis again successfully avoiding the cut.

And then it rained.

And didn’t stop until Monday.

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