James Wanklyn tells us about hot weather, pool parties and competing in the European Mountain Board Challenge in Serbia
After a five hour flight, stopping off in rainy Switzerland, we arrived in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. It was around 8 o clock in the evening on Thursday but it was still about 30 degrees, very different from the weather we had left at Heathrow. We were picked up from the airport and after an hour drive into Novi Sad one of the first things we saw was a giant fortress by a river, and then a billboard, with European Mountain Board Challenge Serbia on, with some wicked artwork of boarders racing. This is where we met Marc, the main man, almost the Raph La Roche of Serbia, without the Mohican. He took us to our hotel, a Mediterranean style courtyard with loads of rooms and a swimming pool in the centre.
Here we met all the other European riders, who had heard an English rider was coming along and seemed very glad to see us. There we spent a night of socialising and drinking and getting to know everyone there. There was loads of different nationalities there, staying in the hotel were Germans, French, Dutch, Romanians, Slovenians, Polish, Russians, and then me and Laura.
Friday was race qualifying, we jumped in a van with the Germans, or rather squashed into the van, and drove for around 10 minutes into the remote hills, here we came upon the track. The track consisted of around 13 or 14 corners, each one getting faster and harder as you went down. It was a technical and really fun track, the hardest bit for me to get used to was how dry and dusty it was, as they had only had one day of rain in two months.
For qualifying we all signed up, and had 3 randomly assigned races over the course of the day, the top 32 riders out of the 40-50 of us qualified for race day, and were seeded for our first heats. The top 8 riders were in the red category, 8-16 in blue, and so on, so that in the first heat, we had one rider from each colour, creating an evenly spread race.
Friday night came our first pool party, the first of many, as soon as we all got back to the hotel we all started jumping in the pool from the first floor. Alexis from France doing forward backflips, Nicky Geerse doing a double back from the first floor, and then Sonja from Romania trumping us all by being the first to jump from the second floor balcony into the pool. We then all took a walk around the beautiful fortress of Novi Sad, and had a party back at the hotel.
Saturday was race and freestyle day, the racing kicked off at 2 with the some sick races, super close on the top section and some gnarly bails. As we got to the semis, the races got super hard. I found myself in a semi final with Banovic Slobodan, the Serbian who built the track, and was super quick, and Piotrek Dameski from Poland, a powerhouse who was a formidable racer. The race was super close, with Piotrek and Banovic on my back wheels the whole way down, but me and Piotrek came out 1st and 2nd.
This made the final a four man of myself, Piotrek, Nicky Geerse from Holland, and Andre from Russia. It was a nuts race, all four of us in a group for pretty much the whole track, and being treated by a crowd of moonies on the second to last corner. After a ten minute break, which was not a long break whilst riding in 35 degrees, we kicked off with the freestyle.
The jump was about 20 feet long on top, with a very long landing slope and a smooth upface, after some maintenance as the jump was super dry and loose we kicked off. Nicky Geerse throwing down 5s, switch 5s, switch fronts and getting super close to switch 7s, Krzysztof Dybczak from Poland doing 7s, and just about getting away with a crazy one footed backflip, and the young and mental Dawid Rząca from Poland chucking fronts, rodeos and nearly landing a 7. Prize giving came, with the entire boarder x podiums showing the results from the day, and the freestyle results putting Nicky Geerse in third, Krzysztof in second and myself in first place.
After another pool party with Alexis backflipping off the second floor, we had a free meal and open bar party at a restaurant near Bonavic’s house, with a mental party being fuelled by free alcohol and Nicky throwing down some sick tunes. We all left quite worse for wear at 3 in the morning, got back to the hotel which resulted in another pool party at 3 o clock.
Sunday we all chilled and recovered in the sun, and people slowly getting in their cars and starting the long drive home, myself, Laura, Nicky and Timothee from France stayed Sunday night, taking a trip into the city and being treated to the sights and some pizza from Banovic, Tanja Djakovic and Marc. We had a night of chilling at Bonavic’s with chatting and watermelon, and watching clips from the weekend.
It was the most amazing weekend away, Laura and I would like to thank all of the riders in Serbia for how accommodating they were to all of us, and all of the riders who made the trip even better for becoming our friends and making the trip so special.
Written by James Wanklyn.
Photos by Laura Ellis and Mountainboarding Serbia.