The BRITS Skicross 2016
The Ski Club’s Digital Content Editor, Chris Madoc-Jones, tells all about his experience racing in the British skicross championships in Laax:
Competing at The BRITS was not exactly what I signed up for, but before I knew it and after some gentle persuasion from other Ski Club staff members – I’d paid my 20CHF entry fee and was entered into the skicross on Day 1 of the 2016 BRITS.
Everything I had done previously was racing alone, against a clock and on a smooth (well mostly in the case of Hillend…) course. A skicross race could not be more different. Although qualification is raced alone and against the clock, from then on you’re racing three others on a course designed to make everything that little bit harder. Big jumps, banked turns and adverse cambers add to the challenge but also these additions add significantly to the excitement.
As for much of the week, the weather played a big part on skicross race day at The BRITS. A strong and warm foehn was blowing across the Crap Sogn Gion mountain high above Laax, dropping a thin layer of Saharan dust on the course which was also extremely soft in the mild temperatures. As a result, the window for training runs was limited (I only got one chance to race the course at full speed) and qualification was capped at one run.
During a course preparation hold, and in real need of some advice and tips, I spoke briefly to Ian Mackay, the chair of the GB freestyle skiing, at the bottom of the course who simply said “race your own race”. Good advice but perhaps trickier to implement when racing head-to-head with three others…
I also spoke to many of the parents waiting at the top of the course for their children to race – the youngest of which was 8-year-old William Norris. There was a real mix of skiing backgrounds on show, with some families coming straight out of UK dryslope racing and others from a freestyle background. Some were winter nomads, following skicross competitions around Europe and some had even come from the USA specifically for the BRITS.
After the course was patched up it was time for my qualification run – just me vs the clock. I was the last to head down from my category which meant the course was pretty rutted (maybe I’m just making excuses) but I came down in 7th just over two seconds behind the leader – British #1 Laurence Willows who recently finished 31st in the Europa Cup races in Sweden. I was pretty pleased with this result!
My qualification time meant I was seeded last for my semi-final heat and as a result I had to settle for the worst start gate of the four. Incredibly this played into my hands as Will Tucker on my inside had a big stumble out of the start gate and I was able to scoot round the outside into 3rd place – which I managed to just hold on to right through to the finish. Although I hadn’t challenged for the lead I was happy to have not finished last and also make it down in one piece.
As a result I was drawn into the “small final” to battle it out for fifth place. Sadly the more experienced racers I was up against pulled away right from the start and despite taking the aerial route over the final set of rollers I couldn’t quite catch up.
So a 7th placed finish (out of 7…) wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for but given the standard of opposition I think was the best I could achieve. Their starts were far stronger and they weren’t afraid at all to get their elbows out and take the best racing line. I’m sure if I raced again I would improve my times, but the hustle and bustle of the 4×4 head-to-head racing is something that only a lot of hard work and training can improve on.
I must congratulate the overall winners – who’s speed and ability to race head-to-head was exceptional. Matthew Ray stormed down the course in the men’s final following a big crash involving Laurence Willows and Luke Feneley to take the British title,with Emma Peters claiming the gold in the women’s races.
Will I be back next year? Hopefully. Will I finish higher next year? Probably not. But was the experience worthwhile? Of course it was. The buzz from racing down a track just inches away from to others is something that cannot be replicated when racing alone and as I found out in Laax, the excitement of head-to-head racing for the spectator takes the competition to another level.
I travelled to The BRITS courtesy of SoulSports and Laax Resort, with flights provided by Swiss International Airlines and transfers by Switzerland Travel Centre. A big thank you to all these partners, but also to Amanda Dade for some of the additional photos – best of luck to her boys Jake and Tommy in the future! Full results and reviews from The BRITS can be found here.