Aaron ‘Mono’ Bartlett reports from the Hafjell Staff Race
Images kindly supplied by Sebastien Shieck
Coming out to Norway for the final round of the World Cup series and heading to Hafjell, my original plan was to skip the “Industry race” which was to be held on the Wednesday after track walk. I mean come on; a downhill race for a bunch of overpaid, lazy, halfwit camera geeks a day before the big finale starts which our lavish and luxury lifestyles all rely on… One mistake here could equal a one way ticket back to a life of cheap motel rooms and a job in the local supermarket, especially if a serious injury ruled you out of the big weekend.
So despite the small risk for the UCI that every single one of the Mountain Bike media circus could have written themselves off and left the race with absolutely zero coverage, this ridiculous race went ahead anyway. Like I mentioned before, my original plan was to take absolutely no part in this silly idea. At 3pm, I still had no designs on racing a borrowed bike and kit down a track when ruining myself could have such large effects on my job for next year… But then I hadn’t factored in the inevitable peer pressure that was bound to come my way, especially when you bump into the biggest perpetrator in Sven Martin whilst taking part in the relatively safe activity of walking the track. 30 minutes later and I’d walked the “Industry race” course (which used much of the last section from the WC downhill) and was doing a lap of the pits dressed in Matti Lehikoinen’s race kit, riding Joe Smith’s Nukeproof Mega, wearing Matt Simmonds’ helmet looking for a set of goggles…!
So basically after Brook Macdonald had lent me his James Stewart Oakley goggles, I now looked even more factory than probably 90% of the World Cup downhillers and up I went for my practice run… At least I looked good even if I was probably going to come last!!!
Unfortunately, time waits for no man. And that man was me. Taking so long to change tyres, gather kit and look good was not an ideal way to go about wasting an hour of my life, especially when that hour was the allotted practice time allowed for the race. “You’ll have to do it blind” was the declaration from the official race commissaire at the top of the track! FML. A blind race run down what was part of a World Cup downhill track on a short travel bike (which wasn’t an Orange) which I’d only ever ridden through the pits and to the lift… Not exactly ideal! But then again, who the fuck cares, it’s a laugh and a free beer at the bottom (which in Norway is not something to pass up on)!
My race run basically consisted of a sketchy as fuck weapon run down a pretty tricky course, fraught with danger and spiky rocks. The off camber grass sections were a bit of a lottery as well; it’s easy to forget how good the best in the world are when you’re stood at the side ridiculing them for touching the brakes for half a second too long when you can’t even ride down the track slowly without nearly crashing. The wooded sections were even trickier with all the sniper rocks covered in a layer of grease from the earlier rain shower. I elected to be a complete pussy here; stopping and going round one rock drop and almost crashing on an off camber rock section.
But the race run wasn’t over even after the life long dream of riding through the UCI World Cup finish arch had been realised. At the bottom, the time wasn’t stopped until you’d downed a can of expensive Norwegian beer in front of all the interested spectators (mainly comprised of racers and others who hadn’t raced). Luckily enough there were no chunders to be seen, although many suspect beer “drinking” techniques were going on unpunished by the race organiser… No fingers pointed but some ended up with more drink on their face then in their stomach. Lots of banter and heckling ensued and there was even a bloody commentator!!!
A special mention has to go to Nigel Page who was undoubtedly the fastest on the course, but snapped the tab on his beer meaning he had to squeeze it into his mouth… Finishing in 2nd just 0.09 off the win. I know he was devastated after all the training he’d done on the course, but there’s always next year mate! UCI technical delegate Chris Ball was 3rd and taking the win was the very smug Sven Martin… There were some rumours of false starts and incorrect beer consumption but unfortunately no hard evidence was available, so the result stands.
So there we have it. I hope this is on the calendar again for next year, as it was brilliant fun and a great way to sign off a year of hard work on the World Cup circuit. And as far as I know, we had no casualties, which means the public still get to keep up with all the action via Instagram and Twitter.
Special thanks to Chris Ball who organised this race and made it happen!
Cheers to Mono and Sebastian for their words and images. Stoked!