Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Crossing the Country & Going Downhill in George

I was asked to shoot at the XC & DH nationals in George by Fritz Pienaar. I drove up on Friday the 13th just after lunch & when I got to the George Tourist Lodge Fritz & Wessel were still a little way away, so I made the most of the few min I had to wait & went to the park across the road called Skatelab & had a lil session which was great after over 4 hours of driving & sitting in roadworks stop points. We then booked into our rooms & went out for dinner to a Mexican place which was really good & got a relatively early night to get up nice & early for the race the next day.

The XC was at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, a really great spot & nice scenic track. Was quite a different experience to the DH that I'm used to... flat track, no big jumps, drops or rock gardens, so was a bit more of a challenge finding an interesting spot to shoot. I walked just about the whole track which was about 5 or 6km & with all my gear it was quite a mission, but fun non the less. About halfway through the race I found Steph Davies... or she found me. I heard someone shout my name in a rather enthusiastic manner & recognised the voice. We shot together for a bit & went our separate ways & met up later again & was good to have a more familiar face around to talk nonsense to. All in all it was a fun & different day of shooting for me & after being in the sun & walking most of the day I was not feeling too energetic & my plan of shooting a bit at the DH after wasn't sounding like such a good idea anymore. I went back to my room to chill, have a bite & watch a bit of TV... something I haven't done in quite a while.

Once I had gotten a bit of energy back I went for another quick lil roll at the park & Smittie & another rider came to the park with no shoes & their DH bikes... was quite interesting to see them in a park rather than on the slopes. Later on I got a message from Matt saying that they were having a braai on the other side of George... a whole 10min drive & invited me to come chill with them. A good evening of chilling & chatting to some great karaoke in the background by some rather inebriated & not very talented visitors of the Lodge. Everyone amped for the race the next day we got another relatively early night to be fresh for the race.

Up early & stop off to get a much needed cup of coffee to pry my eyes open & then to the shuttle for the trip to the top of the track. It's quite nice now that I know a few more of the guys & they know me a bit better, so we can have some time to talk crap on the way up as I just see them flying past the rest of the day. The top of the track is through the fynbos with many small rock gardens that claimed a few tyres. I moved down the 1st part of the track quite quickly (where I met Steph again) during the practice runs & wasn't too amped on all the phone & power lines going over the track. As I got to the 2 jumps before the forest & set up I heard that it was the break before the race & not to keen to wait half an hour in the sun I moved into the forest on search for something a bit more interesting in the shade. There were a few rock gardens & road gaps & a nice rock shoot, but all too crowded for my liking & the candy tape at the rock shoot was not going to make shooting there an easy job, so I found a quiet lil corner that I could have all to myself & with not too much supporter traffic to get in my way, so I was happy there for quite a while before I decided to move on.

For the 2nd race run I went right down to the end of the track to shoot the last jump & berms. This time spectators made my job a bit more challenging & with the candy tape I struggled for a little while before I was happy. After a few long shots I decided to go with the fisheye a bit & some woman in the crowd was not happy with my shooting style & I was getting a touch too close to her little one for her liking & after a mouthful from her I gave up trying to defend myself & explain my position. I got the few shots I wanted there & then went back to the long lens for the last few riders.

Pierre vd Merwe won the junior section by quite a bit & after a rather nasty crash on Friday nearly breaking his ribs I was quite surprised that he managed to ride so well. Prime mista that one!!! Pottie was in the hot seat after never losing a race on this track & Jonty Neethling gave him a bit of a scare, but he managed to hold his title.

After the prize giving I had to rush home to prepare & pack to go to Namibia super early the next morning where I have spent the last 2 weeks helping with the Desertlight Workshop & you can expect a few posts on that in the not too distant future as I don't think I could tackle 2 weeks in Namibia in one post with all the adventures we had.

Top 5 overall
1. Johann "Pottie" Potgieter
2. Jonty Neethling
3. Pierre van der Merwe
4. Gary Barnard
5. Louis Knipe

XC pics still on the way...