FROZEN

A small tribe of weirdos gather in the Ital­ian Alps to prove that some peo­ple will “spike” any­thing to have a good time

Cycle World - - Snow Quake Race Watch - By Gary In­man Pho­tog­ra­phy by Tom Bing

nce upon a time, not so long ago, lived a hand­some prince. One bright and early morn­ing Prince Gary drew back his heavy, bro­cade cur­tains, looked out from his bed­room, high on a moun­tain­side, and sur­veyed the rugged, snow-cov­ered land. Be­low, un­der a sky the color of a duck’s egg, his sub­jects were busy­ing them­selves for the day’s ac­tiv­i­ties. He chuck­led to him­self as they wad­dled, like fat mother geese, up and down the stairs to and from their sparse rooms to their filthy, salt-en­crusted car­riages. They wad­dled be­cause they wore so many clothes—lay­ers of thin ther­mals, then plas­tic body ar­mor, over which they pulled cold, stiff leather suits, and topped off with thick, padded ny­lon outer gar­ments and col­or­ful knit­ted bon­nets par­tially cov­er­ing their cheer­ful, mis­shapen heads. The shush-shush sound of the serfs’ legs rub­bing to­gether was like that of Princess Sha­nia’s blades on the mir­ror-smooth sur­face of her fa­vorite se­cret skat­ing spot.

O

No won­der the com­mon­ers were wrapped up so toasty and snuggly. It was cold enough to freeze the horn straight off Hil­lary’s fore­head. Hil­lary be­ing the prince’s fa­vorite uni­corn, of course.

The brave Prince Gary had just ar­rived in his tem­po­rary win­ter domi­cile, on the out­skirts of Riva Val­dob­bia, in the Pied­mont re­gion of Italy, af­ter an ex­cit­ing ad­ven­ture of his own. Against the ad­vice of many of his sub­jects, the no­ble­man had rid­den from the edge of East Anglia, in the United King­dom (which be­longs to his Great Aunt El­iz­a­beth), over the bar­ren waste­lands of France, through the great Mont Blanc tun­nel, and on­ward into Italy. He un­der­took the ride on his trusty steed, Sport­ster, a 25-year-old nag that the prince had be­come un­fath­omably at­tached to. The ride was cold, the mer­cury not creep­ing above freez­ing for the whole 700-mile trot through France. Bravely, he rode into the night when the tem­per­a­ture dropped to 5 de­grees Fahren­heit. Luck­ily, the royal out­fit­ter, Icon Raiden of the sav­age bad­lands of Port­land, Ore­gon, had sup­plied the prince with a suit and hel­met as black as the Earl of Hell’s waist­coat that pro­tected the in­trepid royal. Such was the in­su­la­tion that barely a sin­gle ex­ple­tive ush­ered from his lips dur­ing the trip and only thrice, in well over 800 miles, did he have to pull Sport­ster over to the hard shoul­der and dance a red-nosed jig to urge the feel­ing back into his dig­its.

Sport­ster had to stop ev­ery 65 miles be­cause of its tiny blad­der and was bur­dened with heavy ice rac­ing wheels, er, I mean, hooves, in a cus­tom-made car­rier for the up­com­ing win­ter tour­na­ment that had the whole land bub­bling with ex­cite­ment, for now was the time for Snow Quake.

Snow Quake is a race for the bravest lords, ladies, and gen­tle­folk of the whole of Europa. Well, that’s not en­tirely true. One needn’t be a lord, lady, or,

…ONE MUST ONLY HAVE AN OLD OR IN­AP­PRO­PRI­ATE BIKE, THE TIME TO STUD SOME TIRES, THE ABIL­ITY TO MISS WORK ON A THURS­DAY IN JAN­UARY, AND A LAISSEZFAIRE AT­TI­TUDE TO BE­ING RUN OVER BY THREE OR FOUR OTHER MOTORBIKES, ALL FIT­TED WITH SHORT, SHARP, HEXAGON HEAD SCREWS, EACH SCREW JUST BEG­GING TO TAKE A PI­RANHA-LIKE BIKE OUT OF A HU­MAN’S EPIDERMIS.

in­deed, gen­tle to be in­volved in this frigid foray; one must only have an old or in­ap­pro­pri­ate bike, the time to stud some tires, the abil­ity to miss work on a Thurs­day in Jan­uary, and a lais­sez-faire at­ti­tude to be­ing run over by three or four other motorbikes, all fit­ted with short, sharp, hexagon head screws, each screw just beg­ging to take a pi­ranha-like bike out of a hu­man’s epidermis.

Rid­ers jour­neyed for days from far­away lands such as Ro­ma­nia, Ger­many, Aus­tria, Switzer­land, Eng­land, France, and, of course, Italy, the repub­lic that plays host to Snow Quake.

While it is a race, and some of the par­tic­i­pants are wont to take it more se­ri­ously than per­haps the oc­ca­sion de­serves, the at­mos­phere is jovial. Army tents were erected to serve hot food and drink pre­pared by Mi­lan’s won­der­ful Deus Café. Painted oil drums filled with wood and lit to keep the hardy spec­ta­tors warm. Deus Ex Machina handed out screen-printed ex-ital­ian Army blan­kets and a queue of ea­ger rac­ers formed to pay their 50-euro en­try and 10-euro in­sur­ance (one euro is equiv­a­lent to about a dol­lar).

The va­ri­ety of stal­lions was mind-bog­gling. Small-frame Ves­pas, long-legged 850cc Guzzi, flat-track framers, cus­tom Ducati Scram­blers, a fac­tory MV Agusta Bru­tale, a cav­alry charge of Yamaha SR400S, dozens of twin-shock and/or two-stroke vin­tage en­duros, even an exsteve Mcqueen Husq­varna 350. Yes, re­ally.

Prince Gary stood atop the fender of an In­ter­na­tional MXT 4x4 to de­liver a speech on the na­ture of the day. It was an ad­dress that spoke of fun but warned of the con­se­quences of mis­be­hav­ior and ended with a plea for no one to stop breath­ing be­fore the sun set. The pro­les stood rapt, many not even dar­ing to lay their hum­ble eyes on his for fear of caus­ing of­fense.

Then, sur­pris­ingly close to the sched­uled time, brave rid­ers took to the track. The Ice Rosa Ring is lo­cated in a val­ley bot­tom. Steep, jagged walls of gran­ite crowd it on ei­ther side. At the north end of the val­ley is 15,200-foot glacial Monte Rosa, the “pink moun­tain,” the sec­ond high­est peak in the whole of Europe. It is clearly vis­i­ble from the track and high enough to catch the sun’s weak rays, but down in the val­ley bot­tom, even on a beau­ti­fully clear, fairy­tale of a day like this one, di­rect sun­light never reaches the rac­ers.

It is the per­fect lo­ca­tion for a track that re­lies on low tem­per­a­tures. Ice Rosa Ring of­fers a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence than those en­joyed by most of the world’s ice rac­ers. In­stead of re­ly­ing on a lake to freeze over to cre­ate a flat sur­face, the Ice Rosa Ring is like a mini Cad­well Park, and although it doesn’t have quite the same ex­treme changes of el­e­va­tion that the Bri­tish Superbike cir­cuit does, the track rises to the height of a full-grown dragon’s shoul­der or the equiv­a­lent of a two-story house. From the start line, at the low­est point of the cir­cuit, it ser­pents up and through a right and left be­fore

loop­ing around and de­liv­er­ing a mean 90-de­gree right, 90-de­gree left combo be­fore a 50-yard straight and a much tighter loop brings the shorter start-fin­ish straight into view.

The rid­ers’ skills and ex­pe­ri­ence is as mixed as their choice of ma­chin­ery. For­mer WSB, AMA, and cur­rent World Su­per­moto rider Giovanni Bus­sei rode a Honda 250cc two-stroke to bat­tle with short-track rac­ers on home­built big sin­gle framers. Ducati Corse’s Mo­togp test rider Luca Scassa took a dif­fer­ent an­gle, rac­ing a Shet­land pony of a Suzuki, sneak­ing past more timid rid­ers on pow­er­ful mounts.

Morn­ing prac­tice was long, due to many of the par­tic­i­pants’ com­plete lack of ex­pe­ri­ence, be­fore a break for lunch. The rac­ers and their valets par­took in hearty food.

The pres­sure was on to start rac­ing. Or­ga­niz­ers, and those who have com­peted at the pre­vi­ous Snow Quake, were keen to get things mov­ing be­fore what light was there was lost and the tem­per­a­ture de­scended fur­ther.

The 50 or so rac­ers were split into three cat­e­gories: Racer, Vin­tage, and In­ap­pro­pri­ate. Racer was for the dirt track­ers, Vin­tage con­tained the old en­duros, and In­ap­pro­pri­ate col­lected the heavy­weight Cly­des­dales and diminu­tive Shet­lands. Prince Gary com­peted in the lat­ter on Sport­ster, which, de­spite its age and long jour­ney here, was rar­ing to go.

Sport­ster scram­bled for grip from the line in the two heat races, dig­ging a trench in­stead of mov­ing for­ward, but the prince bravely made up places. An un­likely tus­sle in one race saw Sport­ster neck and neck with a Guzzi 850 with de­sertcross­ing sus­pen­sion. Sport­ster ran with no front brake, dirt­track style; the Guzzi re­tained both stop­pers and snuck in front at one of the down­hill 90-de­gree bends. The prince could not stop and had no op­tion but to nudge the Guzzi rider. Sport­ster’s buzz-saw hooves cut ev­ery buckle off one of the rider’s old leather MX boots. Luck­ily it did no more dam­age.

Like Dirt Quake, this event’s sum­mer cousin, the day is about par­tic­i­pa­tion, yet the rac­ing was nearly hot enough to thaw the track. The bearded Bus­sei won the Snow Quake Su­per­fi­nal, with the gold fringes of his white Alpines­tars leathers blow­ing in the icy blast.

As soon as the rac­ing ended, most of the rac­ers scut­tled away from the track, des­per­ate to climb back in their car­riages, but Prince Gary took time to lose his layer upon layer of cloth­ing be­fore don­ning more com­fort­able robes. He was in no rush. With the warmth of the ca­ma­raderie, the cold never both­ered him any­way.

THE 50 OR SO RAC­ERS WERE SPLIT INTO THREE CAT­E­GORIES: RACER, VIN­TAGE, AND IN­AP­PRO­PRI­ATE.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.