If you’re a regular Concrete Lines shopper and came to the store in June-July this year, you were probably greatly disappointed to find your favourite staff member (i.e. ME!) wasn’t there. This is because I was lucky enough to spend the two months travelling around Europe racing the IDF (International Downhill Federation) circuit and skating some of the best roads the world has to offer.
In the beginning of June, I boarded a plane bound for Europe with three of my good mates. After the longest two flights of my life, we arrived in Germany and drove straight to the Loser Mountain Freeride in Austria. All I had heard about the road is that you can break 100km/h in three of the straights and that the top straight was still under 10m of snow…
Thankfully, when we arrived most of the snow was gone and we spent the next 4 days taking endless runs with a sick squad of the other Aussie boys. The road was amazing and the event was run extremely well. The road is far from beginner friendly, but you’d be surprised how relaxed it can be if you aren’t trying to go fast. Overall Loser Mountain Freeride was awesome and I’d love to go back.
After Loser, we spent the next three weeks living out of tents on the side of the road and skating amazing mountain passes through Switzerland, Italy and France. We spent a little over a week skating in the French alps where we met up with heaps of other Australian and New Zealand skaters. We ended up with probably 15 people sleeping on the side of the road and taking gnarly pack runs together every afternoon.
When our time in the French alps was complete, we begun the drive to Barcelona to support the other Aussie men and women competing at the World Roller Games. The track was short and surprisingly fast. It made racing very tight and a lot of unexpected moves left Harry Clarke the last Australian in the bracket. He was then able to hold it together for a solid 2nd place behind Canadian Dane Hanna.
With the completion of World Roller Games, it was time for the European leg of the IDF races to begin. First up in Italy was the Verdicchio race. Due to some bad weather, I regretfully sat out on all the practice runs on the first day so, on qualifying day, I had 3 practice runs to try and memorise the track before times qualification begun. Unfortunately, I was unable to find my lines in my solo runs and ended up qualifying 40th.
Race day came next and all the heats were stacked full of amazing skaters from the first round. I was able to fend off fellow Aussie, Tim White in my first round and move through to the second round with Chase Hiller from America. in the second round, Chase and I met up with Yanis Markarian and Grégoire Schwab, two stupidly fast European skaters. Due to some silly passing attempts in the top chicanes, I was stuck in the back battling with Grégoire. Unfortunately, neither of us were able to catch Chase or Yanis and were both eliminated although hyped on such a fun heat. Overall Verdicchio was probably the most fun and relaxed IDF race I’ve ever attended.
The next stop on the IDF tour was Kozakov Challenge in the Czech Republic. This is a hill I’ve dreamed of skating since I started on a board. After my very first run I was shocked, everything about the track seemed smaller than it looks in the videos, but it was just as fun as I had expected.
Due to the airlines losing the IDF timing system, we had to use the “race to qualify” system. I was right on track for A bracket after finishing 2nd in my first two rounds but in the final round I took a heavy crash trying to make a pass into 1st. Due to my crash, I was bumped down into B bracket where I had some of the most fun race heats of my life. I ended up coming 5th in B bracket which secured me a spot in A bracket! I was hyped but once again ended up with a VERY stacked first round where I came 3rd and was eliminated.
It was now time for the final European IDF race which happened to be the Transylvania DH event at Pasul Vulcan. This road is fast and technical with two sections where reaching over 110km/h was a very real possibility! If you’re lucky enough to survive to the bottom of the run, you get to skate straight to a gondola and cruise straight back to the top. This was a super cool experience because it meant you didn’t have to stop to wait for a bus back up and you got to watch all your friends skating down as you’re travelling up over them.
Having survived Pasul Vulcan, it was time to head to the KNK freeride. After my first run on KNK, I was quite underwhelmed. Compared to the other roads I had skated in the months before it was very slow and beginner friendly. I soon realised that I was doing things wrong, so I threw on some slippery wheels and started dropping with bigger groups having some of the most fun runs I’ve ever had anywhere! On the second day, we managed to have a 33man pack run where we all stayed super tight the whole way down and somehow, I managed to stay on my board while avoiding the chaos that was happening all around me.
KNK was an amazing event for everyone. Because of its beginner friendly nature, everyone can skate it ,and if you don’t take it too seriously, you can have a blast no matter how high your skill level is.
After KNK, it was finally time to jump on the plane and come home. My two months of Europe were over, and I was ready for home. I enjoyed every minute of my time there and can’t wait to go back next year. It was amasing to see how many Aussie boys made it out to all the events and I really hope we will see even more out there next year.