Round 1 of the 2008 Conehead Cup was all about the weather. Saturday's ditch race was cancelled/postponed because of water in the ditch, so instead the racers congregated at the Sidonia Garden, the site of Sunday's race, for an extended practice session. Occasional drizzle meant frequent periods where everybody waited until the course dried before resuming tweaking technique and gear.
Awaking on Sunday to grey skies and drizzle, it seemed impossible that any racing would occur, but after arriving at the race site we were stunned to see that the road was dry. Alas the rain came again, and unlike Saturday it was heavier and more frequent, and the course never dried out.
It seemed clear that no racing could occur, but, undeterred, Jackson Shapiera and Steve Daddow began running the course while everybody watched in disbelief as they started to really lay down some blistering practice runs.
This created some pretty heavy peer pressure - if those guys could grip it and rip it in the wet then it seemed that everybody else should at least be able to give it a go. And so one by one everybody was lured into running the course, with the rain coming down and the water spraying from the wheels.
And so the race was ON. Qualifiers were run, with most people still not believing that the race could really be run in these conditions. But on it went, the course varying between wet and extremely wet. And the final result heralded a changing of the guard in the world of Australian slalom - Jackson Shapiera claimed his first ever victory, and it was much deserved after being the first to show that skating slalom in the wet was possible. He had to battle it out with Steve Daddow over three separate rounds, and finally clinched it with the fastest run of the day, a cleanly-run 15.128 seconds. Even so, the difference between the two was 0.07 seconds - about the length of a wheel.
The other big performers were Boomerdog, who in his first proper race looked at ease on a tricky course, Boyd McMillan, who has stepped up a few gears in the last 6 months, and Nathan Paff, who has become a genuine contender and beat the 2007 Conehead Cup winner Haggy Strom in one of the rounds.
But the big story was the rain and how it didn't matter. Who would have thought it was possible to skate slalom in the wet? Was it only the uniquely grippy surface of the Sidonia Garden road that made it possible? Has anybody else ever held a slalom race in the rain? Whatever the answers, there was a special vibe on the day - a feeling that history (of a bizarre and unique nature) was being made.
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