By Tim Butler – “The Adventures of the Non Work Boots”
I arrived back in Innsbruck, and found somewhere to stay for a couple of nights. I was wrecked and bought a sandwich on the way to the hotel and fell asleep early.
I had a day to waste, so I jumped back on the train to Hall in Tyrol, a small village fifteen minutes out of Innsbruck. It was lovely, little narrow streets and really old buildings, dating back to the fifteen hundreds. It was really nice to wonder through the streets as there were hardly any people there.
I headed back to town with all intensions of buying a drone, which would be good for taking photos. I just wanted a small one, I walked around for hours trying finding shops that might have one. It wasn’t till the last one I went into said all the small Drones in Austria had been recalled because the radio frequency upset the emergency frequency, so they couldn’t be used. I wasted a bit of time so it was all good. I didn’t feel I like eating out again so I did the usual salad and beer from the supermarket. I bought a sandwich as well. I got back to the hotel and realized that I’d left my sandwich there. In Europe, they have a great idea that you have to buy your plastic bags, I had my backpack with me so I put all the food in there but left the sandwich there. I thought I head back to get another one because I was starving, I went down the supermarket and it was still sitting on the counter.
The next morning, I headed out to Crankworx, I caught a free Crankworx shuttle bus from the middle of town, It was a fair way from town, I’m glad I caught the bus, it was going to be a long way to walk. Jumped off the bus and headed up the hill towards the event center. It was a fair walk, I made to the event center only to find out the Downhill was round the other side of the hill, I had to walk back down to the bus and catch it to the DH finish. Again, glad I caught the bus because it was a long way to the bottom of the Downhill. I found the Factory Intense pits, the boys were all there getting ready for practice. I went up the track to get some photos and check out the track. It had heaps of off camber corners. Watch the Juniors come down then headed back down the bottom to see Dean and Jack finish. I had to fill Sally in with Jacks results as the race went on, it’s getting easier as Jack is now normally in the last few that come down.
We packed up the Pits in record time, it’s easier when you get a system. We had it down in enough time for me to catch the last bus back into town. On the way back to the hotel I bought an Austrian style kebab, instead of using flat bread they use a Turkish bread roll which works really well. A thing I have noticed in Europe is the lack of filling choices that they have in and on things. The kebab was chicken with tomato, lettuce, and onion, that was the works, no choice of hummus, tabouli or sauces. Pizzas don’t have much topping on them either, we seem to pile the toppings on, nothing wrong with it, just different.
I was getting a lift down to Andorra with the Intense team, where the next round of the World Cup was, and where I was meeting back up with the team. The Intense team was staying two kilometers away from the bottom of the Crankworx downhill track. We were trying to work out the easiest way for them to pick me up. They had a big trailer on behind the van, so it’s not the best thing to drive around town in and hard to turn around as we found out later on. I remembered the Crankworx festival didn’t finish till the next day so the free bus was still running.
The next morning it was raining, which was quite pleasant, we have had thirty plus and high humidity for a couple of weeks now, I had to walk the two kilometers to the bus and another two kilometers to find Jacks team. I had a good raincoat so I was fine but my bag didn’t, I packed all my cloths and laptop in plastic bags, and headed off. Caught the bus and went around to the Downhill track, I was walking through the little town were Jacks team were staying, I got a little off course to their apartment to look at an amazing church, I had a look at the map and rerouted my course to my destination, lucky I did because as I headed down this little narrow street, and the Intense van was driving up the other way. They had decided to have some breakie while they were waiting for me, Jack was just in the middle of messaging me to tell me, freaky.
They had something to eat, Jack and the other boys had to catch a plane back to Barcelona from Munich, the two Mechanics, Chappy and Ernie, had to drive the van and trailer fourteen hundred kilometers to Andorra, we had two days to get there so we could set up the pits ready to race, this race was on Saturday instead of Sunday, because they were running the Cross Country on the same weekend. I jumped in with them, we stopped off at the track to pick up the trailer and headed off.
The traffic out of Innsbruck was terrible, it took us two hours to do eighty kilometers. Once we got through that, we had a pretty good run. We went through Italy, so there’s another country to tick off, I was amazed with the amount of derelict buildings along the way, not only old ones but new factories. We made it to San Remo, which is just east of Monaco, we decided to call it a night, we pulled off the motorway in to the narrow street, we pulled over to look up somewhere to stay, we had to turn around, Chappy decided to keep going along the road to find somewhere to do it. I made the joke about the road turning into a dead end, wish I didn’t. We kept driving down looking for a side street we could at least reverse the trailer into to turn around but nothing, we went past a heap of restaurants and all these people gave us a funny look as we drove past. The road became narrower but there were still motorbike coming our way. We came to a sort of a small square and a pub and the road turned into motorbike width lane, it was quite funny.
We jumped out of the van, to way up the options, the locals were keen to help out, the only problem was the language barrier we had. Chappy was American and could only speak English, Ernie was Spanish and could speak Spanish and English, then there was me who could speak English and Bogan. None of the locals could speak English or Spanish. But very helpful. One of them took charge, we had to back the trailer about three hundred meters up the narrow street, there was a bit of an opening, the van and trailer set-up is about twelve meters long so it was quite tricky, Chappy reversed it back and jack knifed it at the opening, enough to unhitch and the locals, Ernie and I pushed it back a little more to squeeze the van past. Chappy turned the van around with numerous point turns, bit like the scene off Austin Powers. We hitched the trailer back on and set to go again. Before we left the local who took charge asked, me in very broken English, which part of England I was from, I said no, I’m Australian, he shook my hand with excitement and yelled to the rest and said he’s Australian and they all shook my hand, it was quite funny. That set us back over an hour, but it was worth it.
To get to the accommodation was a tight windy road that dropped down to the ocean. The other problem with such a long vehicle is that it is very hard to find a carpark, even without the trailer on it, we did about four laps of the main street to find somewhere, even at ten o’clock at night. We found somewhere, it was a bit of a walk but not too far. It was a nice room overlooking the ocean. It was very hot and humid, luckily, we had air conditioning, I was wrecked and got to sleep first. By midnight I woke up so hot, the air con was off. I tried to find the remote to turn it back on but could find it anywhere. In the morning, I was woken up by Chappy trying to find the remote to turn the air con as well, saying bloody Ernie decided to turn it off just I case he got cold, bloody Ernie. We finally found it and it had flat batteries, so it was time for a walk to cool down
The hotel was right on the Tyrrhenian Sea. This looked like a big holiday spot, the beaches were lined with hotels and out the front were deck chairs and umbrellas, it looked so Italy. The beaches were all a black rock, not very picturesque, but my sort of beach, no sand. It really makes me appreciate the beaches we have back home in Australia. I looked across the other side which you couldn’t see land but knowing that Jane was there in Sorrento just below Rome.
We headed off after breakfast with about seven hundred kilometers to go. Another thing with Europe is the number of tolls you go through, it costs nearly as much as your fuel to use the roads here, so we shouldn’t winge about paying for the few tolls we pay. Fuel over here is expensive too, one liter is the same amount of Euros as we pay in dollars, the we are paying one Euro thirty here a liter, which converts to nearly two dollars. The last hundred kilometers to Andorra were windy, but had a lot of castles and old villages that we drove through, very picturesque, we came to about ten meters from the Spanish boarder, but had to turn off. I should have made the boys stop so I could jump out to say I’ve been to Spain.
We crossed the Andorra boarder, the roads opened out and the houses became flash. Here I was thinking Andorra was a poor little country, struggling to get through, but it’s quite the opposite. Apparently, this is where rich people buy a house and call it their main residence to avoid paying tax, because there is no income tax in Andorra. I’m not sure how the government makes money, but I think you have pay them to buy into the country. It is very clean and a lot of police. We arrive at Massena, the small village at the base of the Downhill track. The pits for a change are at the top of the hill. There was a car wash at the bottom, we washed the van and trailer, then headed up to the top to leave the trailer up there for the night, it makes it a lot easier to get around without it. There was a fair drive to the top, took around twenty minutes.
Without the trailer on we managed to squeeze the trailer into a carpark and headed to an Italian restaurant, by the time we arrived there it was ten o’clock. In Andorra, it is normal for people to eat that late, most restaurants operate between eight at night to three in the morning.
I was meeting the team that night but had no idea where, my data cost thirty dollars a megabyte, which is way too much to leave on. I found that out the hard way again. I hadn’t heard anything from them so I booked a room where the Intense team was staying, it was quite cheap for a flash room.
I asked the boys to knock on my door when they were leaving to go to the top, I waited for ages, I had to check out a ten, by the time that came I went to check out to find that they had already left. Oh well looks like I’m walking. There was a Gondola in the middle of town that went to the top of the hill, I headed for that. I was just about there when a horn beeped and Bernie, the Intense Team manager was driving up the street and offered me a lift to the top, that saved me a lift ticket, I squeezed in in the back of the van with the rest of the team, including Jens twelve-year-old daughter who had come over for a holiday with her dad Jeff, the owner of Intense Cycles and a very interesting man to talk to about bike designs.
We got to the top to an apologetic Chappy, who remembered me half way up the hill, I was able to do a lot of writing while I was waiting, so not all was lost. We set up their pits, all the time keeping an eye out for Pat and the boys. We had the pits all but done and still hadn’t seen them, I went for a walk, and right down the road they had already set up. It was good seeing Pat again, he was alive anyway, the boys told me stories of what he got up to and the accommodation that they were in which they called the Rats Nest. It was a room above a pub, that every night till two they played loud music. They said once Pat got to sleep, he’d sleep through anything. Glad that I headed around Austria now. They said I would have hated it.
Where we were staying the Wi-Fi wasn’t working, I wanted to message Jane to see how her day went. Pat said he walked up the street and found free Wi-Fi up there. I walked out the apartment, and there was a small pub just a couple of doors down. There was no one in it just the publican playing darts by himself. I went in for a beer and he gave me his Wi-Fi code. I grabbed Pat so he could get his fix of Faffing. It was good to be with Pat again, we had a good chat about our time apart. The other boys came down as well. The bar man liked me being there, I bought in the customers in. The beers were really good, a Spanish Beer, Estrella, it had three problems, one, it tasted really good, two, it only cost one euro fifty, and three, it was six percent alcohol.
I walked the track with Pat’s team mate, Reece Wilson from Scotland the next day. What a track, it reminded me of Awaba but twice as long with less rocks, but the steepness was similar maybe a bit steeper, there where sections with heaps of line choices, how all tracks should be. There was a lot of moisture in the track which I thought would make it slippery, it certainly was walking down it, but as it turned out the riders after practice said it was tacky.
That afternoon I walked past the pub and the barman was already for me. He had a bag of chips and a beer. We got talking, he was from Portugal, he used to be a merchant seaman and did a lot of travelling to Australia, He said he loved Australia and tried to get citizenship but it was too hard. So, he ended up buying a pub and hotel in Massena. He told me if I was coming back to Andorra to contact him and I could stay at his hotel. We got talking more a he said that he was planning a holiday to Australia in the next couple of years. I told him he had to drop into our place when he comes over.
Pat had practice in the morning. It had rain over night and was quite cold, we hardly saw him, he was having so much fun, really enjoying the style of track. What else was good was Pat was still on the same wheels he rode in Fort William without hardly any damage at all, now he is running these Cushcore tyre inserts. His brake was making a noise, the brake company said it might be that the rear triangle of the bike might have the prefect tuning to the brake causing it to resonate. The Trek bikes had the same problem, they made some dampeners to solve this. I went and talked to the team manager Dan Brown, he let me take some photos to see if could make something up. After Pats practice I set to work using whatever I could find in the trailer and van, after a few hours I made a contraption and fitted it to Pats bike. He took it for a run and came back and said it worked.
The next morning was Friday, Qualifying day. With the pits being up the top of the hill, I didn’t have to go up with Pat to help him set up the warm-up bike, they were able to do it all in the Pits. I was able to head down the track a bit to watch. I met up with a lovely couple and got chatting, they were from Hamburg, where the home base of Bergamont is. They had come down to watch. I told them I was here with Pat who was riding for the Bergamont team, they were keen to watch out for him and take photos.
I watch Pat and the rest of the field go through the section I was at near the top and then headed back up to the pits to see if anyone knew if he made it to the bottom. Tommy hadn’t heard, I headed over to where I could get internet. As I went past the Propane tent Phil Atwill shouted out “shame about Pat”, I though oh no, but they said he missed out being in the top twenty by one place, what a relief I though he had crash and hurt himself, but all is good. We looked at the times, he was point zero four off.
The next morning, I went to the track early to help the boys set up. I watched Morgane do her run, then headed to the bottom to watch the men’s finales. I sat with another couple of Aussie parents in the grandstand. I was sitting there when I received a phone call from Scott Parsons asking how Harry, his son, was going, he had crashed in Practice damaging his collarbone. He asked me if Morgane was alright, after her crash, I said I didn’t know she had had one, he said it was on the last corner and was stretched off. I quickly ran down to medical to see how she was, but they had taken her to the hospital and they would get back to me with any information. Funny how I found out from someone back home in Australia.
Scott had flown back the week before, he got really sick on the plane between Geneva and Abu Dhabi, they kept him in the medical center there for twelve hours to see if he got better. They thought it was food poisoning, and sent him back home. He said he couldn’t get comfortable the whole trip, he was picked up at the airport and driven home. He went straight to bed but woke up at midnight in massive pain and ended up in emergency. They did some tests and found that he had a ruptured appendix which was removed straight away. Poor bloke, they recon it happened not long after takeoff from Geneva. Hope that doesn’t happen to me
I stayed close to the medical, it was right near the finish line. I had to keep Sally up to date with Jack and Deans runs. Deano came down in 29th. Jack had qualified eighth so he was one of the last down. Jacks run came, he was up in the first spilt and the second, then came into a steep section and washed front wheel and went straight over the handle bars. He managed to gather it back up and kept racing. He ended up with 34th, which it was very respectable considering how big the crash was. The best part was he didn’t even hurt himself.
Morgane was ok, they suspected spinal injuries, but she was given the all clear and came back to the track. She was a bit sore and sorry for herself and going to sit out the next round.
The boys went out that night, Eddie shouted us Pizzas for tea, afterwards I went back to the bar for a chat to my new friend and a couple more beers, then toddled up to bed.
I was woken up at two o’clock in the morning by a knock on the window, I went downstairs to see that no one was at the door, just then Tommy dropped from the second level that he climbed to bang on the window to get my attention. Someone hadn’t put the key back that we had hidden all week so we could go back a forth to the appartment. I let them in and went back to bed. I was woken again at four by Eddie yelling outside, he was locked out too. He had another top Downhiller with him who was so drunk he could hardly walk. He made it up the stairs to our apartment, vomited everywhere then fell asleep in it. Great we had to try and move him, he wouldn’t get up or cooperate. They finally moved him as he was blocking the stairwell and had to clean up all the vomit as there were other people use these stairs.
I woke up the next morning and packed my bags, the boys were heading to Lenzerhiede for the next round. I was staying on to help the Intense crew pack up their pits and travel with them.
We packed up, Chappy, Ernie and I went for a ride. I borrowed Nik Nestoroff’s, the Intense junior, Intense Carbine, a very nice bike. I had to change the brakes around, but other than that it was good to go. We still had our gondola passes, we were able to ride down the hill and catch it back up. I was so unfit, by the third run I could hardly hold onto the handle bars any longer, I knew it was time to stop. I washed the bike and took it back to the van.
We went back to their hotel, I was able to book a room for the night, it was nice to be alone again. We headed out to tea at an Italian restaurant in town. I was sitting there while the other two sat on their phones what we call Faffing, scrolling social media. I may as well have been eating at my own table, I looked around the restaurant and so many people were doing it, even whole families not talking but each staring at a screen, it was so sad. I had been travelling with these two boys for two weeks now, and I didn’t even know much about them. Every time we stop somewhere they were straight on the phone, even driving. I notice the lovely couple from Hamburg were sitting just a table down from us and had a chat to them, he was in the IT industry and was heading to Adelaide in a couple of weeks. He had taken a video footage of Pat and wanted to send it to him. We finished tea and went back to the hotel for a much-needed sleep.
The next morning, we had breakfast and headed back up the hill to grab the trailer to start our next Adventure to Switzerland.