Carry dropped Paul and I off at Eindhoven airport at 6am to go to the Snickers Soul Bowl contest. We were both hired to judge the comp. Once in the plane we had to sit there for 90 minutes because the air traffic control computer had crashed and needed to be rebooted. On arrival we saw a Snickers sign with our names on it. Thanks for waiting for us Wendy.
From Heathrow airport all athletes, organizers, judges and riders were directed to the Ibis hotel to chill for a bit. The big Coach (Paul's Coach travels) was leaving for the Donnington Park at 15:30pm. It was a 3 hour drive from London but with everyone (a.o. Koji Kraft, Kevin Robinson, Jimmy Walker, Jamie Bestwick, Steve Swope, Page Hussey, Big Island, Jay Eggleston, Achim Kujawski, Stefan Geisler, Tom Stober and a bunch of skateboarders) in one vehicle it was bearable.
Five minutes into the Shizzle de Fizzle hotel, we tried out the hotel bar. 4 hours and lots of (drunk)conversations later OBG had bought EBC, FATBMX, PB and H*B for a whopping 18 million pounds. Yeah, one more round please.....on OBG!
On Friday we checked out the venue. The Soul Bowl had been transported from the States to good old England for a contest. It gives you an idea of what kind of money Snickers had to throw down to be the sole sponsor of the event. We should be grateful there are still companies willing to do this. We can go back to local jams any time later in life (and still have fun). Paul and I had applied for press passes as well. You never know what it's good for. Our wristbands got us where we needed to go on the BMX-judge side, but there was a music festival going on at the same time with some bands like Slayer, Pennywise and Metallica or something..... Yup, the festival was huge with 100.000 visitors over the weekend. The judging area didn't have free booze so we tried to work our magic with the press passes. OBG had already checked out security on all sides. His borrowed pass would get him backstage but no press allowed. We were stuck with paying 3 pounds for a beer (that's $5 USD) in the VIP/Press area unless we tried to storm through security. 10 minutes later we were enjoying a fridge full of cold Carling, were playing pool in the "Performer" area and used the pinball machines, RC cars and took free shots of Aftershock. Good times.
Saturday was pure business at the ramp. More riders had shown up like Baz Keep, Shaun Eglington, Jon Taylor, Simon Tabron, the SE guys, Matt Fairbairn and even Jason Lunn had a few go's on Koji's bike. The old school Raleigh sponsored quarterpipe rider entered the skateboarding contest but showed he still got skills on the BMX. Interview here on FATBMX soon. After plenty of practice on the 11 feet deep bowl the qualification was on. The USA boys looked good as did Simon Tabron. Barely missing the cut (again) was Jon Taylor. He even did a handplant in the bowl (how's that for soul?). OBG was taking it easy for 3 reasons. 1) Slayer was going to play when the finals were schedule the next day. 2) He had just been operated upon his ankle 3 weeks ago and needed to give it a rest... 3) He was the new owner of 4 BMX companies and couldn't care less about making a few extra bucks. He had found access to the free Carling anyway. For the SE riders the contest was a good experience and Shaun "Knowledge" Eglington, who just got back from the Hotwheels Scandinavia tour, had a few too many crashes to make it to the top 10.
The finals on Sunday were one to watch. Funny thing is, one guy in the crowd fell asleep during the finals. BMX MC Paul Roberts noticed it, stopped the contest, told everyone to wake the guy up by yelling but it didn't work. Then some loud Slayer followed but it didn't wake up the guy either. Jamie Bestwick climbed the fence and sat next to the guy, put his arm around him, pinched his cheek with hundred of people watching and laughing. At this point I thought the guy had not only passed out, but passed away....... No, he was still alive but it took the paramedics to wake him up and walk him off.
The dude missed out on a lot of good stuff. Kevin Robinson did a few 540-s in the pocket/corner of the bowl and cancan-corkscrewed from side to side. Bestwick went super high, had super flow and span his bars on a 540. Seeing Jamie ride the bowl makes you wonder why there are not more bowl contests. It's so much fun to watch as it isn't the regular up and down vert riding. Jimmy Walker owns part of the Soul Bowl back at his home park in Chicago. It showed as Jimmy had things wired. Opposite airs with smooth variations, 540-s, whips, flairs both ways, pocket airs and lots of variations. Good stuff.
Koji Kraft is something else. It's scary to watch at the first time but once you get used to his style you know no better. He's young too so he'll brush himself off the middle section and hops back on. Koji only knows how to ride full throttle, practice or contest it don't matter. Good for the crowd and good for the photographers as any of his airs is one to remember. Koji won the high air contest. The lowest point of the bicycle counted. On his 1 footed invert air, Koji's seat got stuck at 13 feet. Insane. Matt Fairbairn has some sketchy barspin variations but I guess you need to get used to his style of riding too. The Aussie seems to be able to grab back onto his handlebars when the tires have touched the wood already.
Jay Eggleston went high as ever and does 540-s that give me a heart attack. How he manages to pull these things off is beyond me. Baz Keep paced himself with a hurt shoulder and a week of touring ahead of him. Achim manualed/wheelied around the corner and did high turndowns and alley-oops. Tom Stober did one-footed seatgrab-one-handers and pulled the sweetest double tailwhip I've ever seen. Good stuff. Last but not least Simon Tabron 540-d with loads of variations and used the ramp in a V-form where he hit 2 corners and the middle of one section. Although no superspinning like hell (900) took place, Simon scored 93.00 points for third place.
We watched Metallica play after the finals and then headed back to the hotel to get picked up at 2am for our 3 hour bus ride back to Heathrow airport. It's no fun waiting at the airport for a few hours when you haven't had much sleep. Carry picked us up again and it was straight back to work. Oh wait a minute, didn't we sell our companies to OBG?
1 Jamie Bestwick 95.25 points
2 Kevin Robinson 93.25
3 Simon Tabron 93.00
4 Koji Kraft 92.00
5 Jimmy Walker 89.75
6 Tom Stober 86.75
7 Shaun Eggleston 85.50
8 Bas Keep 82.50
9 Matt Fairbairn 81.25
10 Achim Kujawski 79.75
Hi Air: Koji Kraft 13 feet (lowest point of the bike, his seat in this case on his one-footed invert).