With a crisp, clear morning, there was an exciting day ahead: Race Day. An entire year of hard work, culminating years of training, racing and travel, led up to this. The 2017 world champion was about to be crowned. Everybody roused themselves out of bed, brought everything they would need to the hill, and prepared to load up the trucks for morning practice.
Unlike the first two days with cloud covered skies, the weather held out for us and the sun was shining bright all day. It started with the standard rider meeting at the bottom of the hill. After reviewing radio protocol and marshal assignments with the staff, Organizer Mike Girard moved on to the rider meeting to review the schedule, flagging and race formats. Fully briefed, it was time for practice.
After one all-category practice run, Open Repechage heats started the day. Riders who qualified beyond the 27th position would race for the remaining 5 spots in the bracket. This made for some very entertaining racing. By now, racers were comfortable after 2 full days raging the hill with tons of practice and timed quali runs on Friday and Saturday. Many of the other competitors came to the bottom left turn to watch it go down. All the competitors put it on the line to make their way into the Open Class but only 5 prevailed: Sawyer Kulman, Ryder Hathaway, Cassandra Duchesne and Stephan Vaast advanced via finals, and Kai Salam snagged the first place consi slot.
With the Open standup bracket solidified, it was time to move on to Luge, Masters & Women's.
Killington - aptly known as "The Beast" - is a speed-fiending luger's dream track. With multiple high speed 50-60mph, edge-of-traction, multi-apex sweepers and a challenging bridge section dumping into a Super Straight that more than triples the road's speed limit, it is a truly thrilling run. Lugers sound more like F1 cars as their 6 wheels scorch past you.
In the luge class we had 10 riders from 3 countries sending it as fast as 83mph down The Beast Of The East. Ryan Farmer from California was in attendance and aiming for the win. It would take a 1st place finish - nothing lower - for Ryan Farmer to launch past Malaysian Abdil Mahdzan and secure the 2017 Luge World Championship.
We spoke to Ryan the day before the race to ask him about the track. He said the most notable part was ‘the braking - let alone braking at 80mph.’ His eyes were set on David Dean (ex-world champion) and track veteran Kolby Parks, and competition was set to be fierce.
Through 2 exciting rounds, David, Ryan, Kolby and Tim Koch battled into the final heat.
After drag stripping the 80+mph Super Straight, Ryan and Kolby led the way coming into the final "Tetanus Corner" hairpin. It appeared that Kolby might be able to make the slingshot draft-and-pass on Ryan’s outside, but the overtaking speed wasn’t quite there for Kolby. Ryan managed to maintain his lead through the finish, earning him 1st place for the event and the title of Street Luge World Champion.
While the women’s class was smaller than we would have liked, it did have one of the best international presences: 8 women from 6 different countries!
These competitors were charging down this hill to do their best to give previous Women’s World Champion Emily Pross a run for her money, but it wasn’t going to be easy. In an earlier film run, Emily clocked 64mph by herself. She was not going to give up 1st place without a fight. The first round of racing led way to Emily and Sabrina advancing in their round and Cassandra and Jenni advancing in theirs' after Candy slid into the hay bales losing her 2nd place position.
During the finals, Emily held a very strong lead to secure her win and also her title as the Women’s World Champion.There was also a crash further up on the course with Jenni Shauerte that left her with an injured leg and fourth place. Fortunately her injury was not severe. She remained in good spirits and made it down to spectator corner afterwards to watch more racing.
Not only did Emily earn 1st at Killington in Women's and Women's 2017 World Champion, she also secured 9th place in 2017 IDF Open World Rankings. This marks the first time a Women's rider has cracked the Top 10, a very admirable and impressive feat with lots of hard training and determination throughout her voyage.
This year’s Masters Class at Killington had two competitors (Jeff Molongoski and John Fletcher). Both racers got in heaps of runs throughout the weekend and Jeff held it down with a solid speed throughout the course, winning Masters.
With 8 Juniors competing, we had a full 2-round bracket to race. Taylor Cook of New Zealand entered race day as #1 junior and fighting to stay atop the rankings. He was skating fast and working hard to maintain his title, but there were other equally fast skaters on the hill that day. The finals came down to Taylor Cook, Daniel Minsky, Bruno Vieira and Christopher Antrum. Coming into the final corner Taylor had the lead, but Daniel maintained the best exit speed and made the pass coming through the finish for 1st place.
The Open Class was full of epic racing and many surprises. Not only was this a very stacked group of heats with many of the world's top racers, but it was the fastest track on the global IDF circuit this year. Several standup heats hit 69mph (111 kph), and luge maxed out at 83mph (133.6 kph)!
One of the first surprises was when #1-qualifier Brennan Bast crashed out in the quarter finals (into the IDF media station - check the live feed) giving room for Emily Pross and Kyle Wester to advance. In that same round, 2-time world champion Carlos Paixão and #2-ranked Mitch Thompson (AUS) were also eliminated, leaving the door open for Thiago Lessa to sieze the World Championship.
The semi finals had some of the most-stacked heats we’ve ever seen. Just the names alone would strike fear into a would-be competitor's heart: Pross, Wester, Ballesteros, Hampshire, Lessa, Rosario, Hiller, Capps. It was about to get real.
When the dust settled it was Max Ballesteros, Aaron Hampshire, Tim Del Rosario and Thiago Lessa in the finals. All four racers came into the spectator zone's Tetanus Corner super hot and in close proximity. Thiago led the group and managed to take a smooth entry and exit, securing him not only the Killington victory, but also the new title of World Champion.
After awarding the Open podium, it was time for the final ceremony: World Champions! If you didn't read our lead-up post, it provides some helpful context regarding what was on the line, and how certain top rankings may change. Safe to say, some of those upsets did end up materializing. Ryan Farmer's last-race, must-win Luge triumph sniped him the World Championship, and Thiago Lessa had to finish at least 6 places ahead of Guto in order to win. His 1st-place finish in Open was more than enough to unseat Carlos and crown a new World Champ!
It was a pleasure to finish the World Cup tour with a strong, confident conclusion with consistent timing, action-packed racing and tons of runs. As a first-time World Cup organizer, Mike Girard is excited to bring back an even bigger and better #KillingtonWC in 2018. We are excited to present the 2018 schedule, which will feature a more developed North American calendar and several new events worldwide.
Thank you to the volunteers, racers, IDF representatives, residents, sponsors, Town of Killington, Killington Resort, Killington Police Department and Regional Ambulance, and anyone else who contributed to such a special experience. Stay tuned for our official event video recap! In the meantime, check out the Killington brackets, 2017 IDF Final Rankings, Day 1 and Day 2 recaps, and lots more at internationaldownhillfederation.org.