Friday, 20 January 2012


'So, Fantasy Bob – here is your mission......should you choose to accept it.

'You are at 1665 metres above sea level.  The snow-covered ground in front of you slopes away at a gradient of 51%.  You are expected to go straight down - and will probably accelerate 0-90kmph in about 3 seconds.  In 150 metres the slope becomes 85%.  You will take off and are likely to be airborne for 80 metres.  On landing, probably travelling at well over 100kmph, you have to turn sharp left and cross a wall of sheet ice on a gradient of 62%.

'You have 2 planks tied to your feet and a stick in each hand …oh, and a plastic helmet.'

Er………….. FB’s first thought is ‘Can we go home now…………….please?’

This is the start of the great Streif on the Hahnenkamm, the downhill ski course in Kitzbuhel, reckoned to be the most testing in the world.  There is a history of huge crashes on the course.  The Hahnenkamm World Cup race, the blue ribband event on the skiing circuit takes place this weekend.  The winner will cover the 3.3km course in a bit under 2 minutes, descending 860 metres.  Maximum speed will be over140kmph.  Average speed will be over 100kmph. FB is not competing. 

The start, as described above, is terrifying enough, but it is not even considered the most testing part of the course.  That comes about 1 minute in when the legs are beginning to burn and the terrain and light change and several turns are required.  Then, just to bring things to a close, there is a huge jump on the finishing slope.  

If you want to know how the legs feel during such a journey – try sitting with your back to the wall knees at right angles but nothing supporting your bum.  Then try it with 3.5 times your body weight on your shoulders - for that is what the G-forces and the centrifugal forces do at these speeds.

Fantasy Bob came late to skiing.  Growing up in Aberdeen he thought that anyone going into the Cairngorms during winter must be mad.  Scraping the frost of the window to let in the light so he could find his rugby shorts was trial enough.  But who knows?  Had he taken it up earlier he might have been a contender.  The racers cover the course in 2 minutes.  Were FB to ski it he might take between 40 and 50 minutes.  He would then need to lie down for 2 weeks and be subject to a course of intensive psycho- and physio-therapy.  He might never recover.

This weekend Didier Cuche of Switzerland will  attempt to become the Hahnenkammseigler for a record 5th time and to emulate Franz Klammer’s distinction of winning it 3 times in a row which he did between 1975 and 1977.  Some hattrick.  Cuche is a true skiing great - see his winning run from last year here -  but probably not a cricketer...but more on cricket in Switzerland on another occasion.

At the starting gate on every run Cuche reminds himself ‘Pour le plaisir’ – ‘For the pleasure.’  

That is not quite what FB would be saying to himself were he to find himself at the top of the Hahnenkamm................

1 comment:

  1. Since posting this FB has learned that Cuche announced today that he would retire at the end of the season. He he one more big race in him?