LooseFEST hit La Ferme Libert Bike Park in Malmedy, Belgium, again on July 18. The boys started rolling in and the madness got started right away...
The guys warmed up on the line that ran between the beasts which, for normal people, has quite big jumps, but compared to what was coming, it looked like trails you’d make in beach sand.
The gaps are mind blowing. You have to stand next to them to get a true sense of the scale and speed. The guys wasted no time and got through all the jumps on the first evening, so it was a sign of good things to come.
Seeing a man disappear into the distance in a matter of seconds like this is almost beyond comprehension. The forces going on here are not what you're used to seeing anywhere else on a bicycle.
Even the run in was mental! The steep drop into a 90-degree left hander, into a 180 right, and then down this shark fin, would give most riders a run for their money. These boys, however, had their eyes on what lay after that in their sights, and flew through it effortlessly. Their concern was to work out how much speed they needed out of the step-down to make the first big hit. Things were running nice and fast the first few days, and they actually needed to tap the brakes a bit not to over-jump it.
Some MX boys joined for the first few days and was crazy to see them sharing the jumps with the bikes and follow trains. Tyler Bereman stopped by before hitting Zwarte Cross and, damn, this boy can ride a bike. He was just oozing style over everything and squeezing out some spectacular whips, despite the lips being a bit on the mellow side for the MX bikes.
The light in Europe is so different to what I'm used to in South Africa. Our best light after sunset lasts about 10 to 15 minutes, but here it was lasting about an hour, so it meant I could get a lot more done in the power hour. The full moon on the first evening was a treat! Every evening after that was overcast, so the opportunity to use it was only for that first session.
Some of the guys headed into the woods during the mid-day heat. There were some fun features we don't have much of back home. It was fun to shoot and the general difficulty on the trails was a bit higher than the average track in South Africa.
Big jumps means lots of work, and luckily the Fest boys are not scared to get their hands dirty to keep things running minty fresh.
As the week went on the guys were getting more and more comfortable on the line, and tricks started to sneak their way into the mix. The hip at the bottom had a bit of a steeper lip, so that seemed to be where the guys were the most comfortable. Conor sent a flip on day two and Ethan 450'd it on day three. Madmen!
Loosefest just happens to have Belgium's National Day, slap bang in the middle, and there was a nice little market/festival in Malmedy, so I had to take my camera on a little tourist walk to see what it was all about. There was a fun vibe with loads of fun things to keep the kids entertained, and lots of stalls selling random things, from cold meats and cheeses, to caps, fluffy toys, old instruments and ornaments. A little light popped through onto the buildings with dark clouds behind, it really made this beautiful town look like the most amazing place... which it was.
Unfortunately the king of big air had some personal things back home he had to sort out, so he only joined for a day, but seeing Andreu ride anything is such a treat, and he took his big bike for a couple sideways laps.
By now the boys were pretty comfortable on the beasts... or as comfortable as you can be on things this big. Sam and Nico were sending the biggest whips I've ever seen, and Conor was tricking pretty much every jump!
There was wind and rain forecast for the weekend, so that was going to be the last big sessions. Nico got to work and smashed out a nice jump up in the trees. Friday afternoon had everyone make their way up to that. Being a bit smaller and only one jump, the guys got to some wild trickery quickly. Again, Conor, Sam and Nico were the standouts, going through their trick list with ease. A few of the younger guys also showed what they've got. It was such a fun vibe, with everyone cheering the boys on.
Sam unfortunately had some bad luck on a super seat indy and missed the bar on the way down... he got whipped to the ground and smacked his head hard on the solid landing, giving everyone, including himself, a fright. Support rushed over to make sure he was ok. Luckily just a bit dazed and confused - and with a really sore ass. He was able to walk away and take in the vibes for the rest of the event. Sam smashed the back-right side of his helmet and cracked it open completely. If there was ever a good helmet ad, this was it, it did its job well.
Chores don't do themselves. Keeping the line clean was a constant job. The injured list was getting bigger as the week went on, a small spill is all of a sudden a serious crash on these monsters, so the list of riders was slowly dwindling, but that didn't mean a shortage of awesome riding.
Saturday saw a little drizzle, but not enough to stop the fun. The guys cleaned the line and the games continued. The damp ground meant that the line was running a bit slower, so a bit of speed recalculation was necessary. It didn't take long to get back into the swing of things and the tricks started to come to the table again.
Sunday played with us. A little drizzle early on made our hopes of riding drop, only to have the sun come out later. Everyone did their best effort to minimize the mud sludge to hopefully have it dry by ride time, but it wasn't meant to be. The clouds rolled in again and put an end to any hope we had left. For the Loosefest crew, this just meant the fun moved somewhere else. Spa was just around the corner and some go-karting seemed like the only sensible option. Being soaking wet and slippery, it only made things more fun and the boys went in, stealing lines and forcing others into the tires, while some were just struggling to keep traction.
I really fell in love with this little town, clean, quiet, lots of beer, good food, and an amazing bike park five minutes away.
Before getting on the plane, we had a quick power-hour tourist session in Brussels. It was a great end to a most crazy week with the best guys. Loosefest is such a rad event! Thanks to Nico and all the guys for making it possible, Hope to see you here next year.