Regular readers will know that teamrider and UK Downhill legend Pete Connolly has been gearing up for a trip to “L’Ultime Descente” – an downhill gravity speed event, now in its second year, in Quebec.
Following a trip to the north of England to find the fastest hill in the UK, and a series of equipment shakedown runs in Switzerland, Pete flew over to Canada with the intention of going faster on his longboard than he’s ever been.
However, what he ended up with was way more than a personal best… Pete became the first person in history to go over 90mph on a skateboard, and is now the fastest downhill skateboarder on the planet!
L’Ultime Descent, what an event! After skating this hill in 2016 I knew two things for sure – I was coming back and I could go faster.
The line here is not as simple as you would think; there is a mellow chicane before the speed trap, with cracks and bumps that can unsettle you at speed. How you navigate the various cracks, is ultimately how you pass through the speed trap.
At 80+mph your board is sensitive and un-weighted, the wind will get under you and pull you out of your tuck, if you let it. You need to keep your tuck neutral enough to remain in full balance at all times, and be able to make corrections without changing your body position. The hill is not as easy to skate as it looks.
Day 1 passed in a blur of speed and I tried to dial in a good line for the speed trap, avoiding a crack that runs from the kerb across three quarters of the road. My second run hit 82 mph, an improvement on last year’s speeds already, and in subsequent runs my speed crept up progressively. I was sitting in 5th place at the end of the day, I knew that I had to improve my line and went to sleep dreaming of alternatives.
Day 2: First run, try a new line. I ride my ideal line, it takes me over lots of the cracks and bumps, instead of around them, let’s see what happens… No wobbles and it’s a better line, I get a straight setup for the speed trap. With my line sorted I start pushing it on the next two runs and hit 84mph consistently.
My confidence on the hill cements, I feel I can go for it now.
Lunch break, and the wind starts picking up. For the afternoon session I break out my new leathers, a custom made aero suit that I have been working on since February with Chris from 9Lives.
I haven’t skated this hill in them yet as the suit only has minimal protection. Armour and thick leather make you feel safer at these speeds and I have felt secure and familiar in my BTR suit thusfar. I haven’t wanted to change suits until I was confident in my line. The aero leather suit represents my commitment, speed above all else….
By now, a strong tail wind is blowing. Everyone is excited on the start line; we all know that the conditions are about as good as they are going to get for the event.
My first run feels insanely fast down the main section and I know it’s my personal top speed. Just before the speed trap some of the cracks unsettle me, my board wobbles a little and my arms come out of my tuck, lifting my chest up a bit. I catch it and tuck on, 140.62kph/87mph. I know from other people’s speeds this run that I am going to be fast if I get a clean run.
Next run and I don’t worry about pushing in hard or being quick to my tuck, just take my time to get settled into my body position.
Over the blind crest into the 18% grade part of the hill, remember to breathe and keep relaxed, blink, the speed trap is gone.
Try and uncurl, but the wind is SAVAGE!!!
I reach the apex in the sweeper and I have only just managed to lift my shoulders a margin and take my knee out, by now I am normally fully stood up.
Going this fast in an enclosed space brings my speed into focus, I am standing on my rail full lean, but start to run wide in the turn, the concrete wall is flashing by my left side. That moment burns bright in my mind.
I make the sweeper and know that run was the fastest I have ever been on a board!
Reaching the bottom of the hill and the riders there are shouting and jumping around as I pass. Getting off my board I need to lay on the road to get myself together…
146.73kph/91.17mph, how did that happen!?
We have one more run left in the day, I now have some fear about going through the sweeper at that speed again, but I know if I don’t take this run I would regret it forever, time to send it!
The run is tight, but I get some crosswind that blows me about a meter sideways before speed trap, I am better prepared for the sweeper this run and stay in full control.
146.14kph/90.80mph for my last run of the day. I think I have a few more grey hairs after that day’s skating. My speed is standing as the fastest of the day for skateboarding and is a new World Record; I still can’t believe the speed myself… There is one more day of the event left though; it’s not in the bag yet.
Day 3: Feeling comfortable on the hill after yesterday’s skating, I drop in for the first run of the day with a smile on my face.
I am curious about my aero leathers still and want to have more data, 133.16kph run, this turns out to be the fastest speed set that day. The wind today is slightly across, we are not going to see the speeds obtained yesterday.
The riders know this and everyone starts having fun, skating in packs and getting footage of the hill. On my second run I kick-off with my friend Kami San for some filming and so don’t clock a speed that run. I spend the afternoon catching up with some of my luge friends and filming a few clips, just enjoying the last few hours of the event without the pressures of trying for top speeds.
The session finishes and the winners from each category go for a photo shoot on the hill before the main prize presentation with all the riders. My friend & training buddy, Damien Andrey, won Luge with a speed of 101.83 mph! He has eaten poutine at least once a day since arriving in Canada and has become known as Team Poutine, as such he takes a portion of poutine with him for his photo shoot.
At the end of L’Ultime Descente there are four skateboarders in the 90mph club. Tim Del, Anders Inde and Max Capps join myself in being the first people to hit 90mph on skateboards on the 15th September 2017. I’m sure more will follow shortly and I’m sure there will be a 100mph club soon too…. I just hope I get the opportunity to join it!
I had amazing help from quite a few people in my preparation for this record attempt. Lush Longboards have supported me through achievements and injuries for over a decade now, my Speedbyrd deck is perfect for me, I wouldn’t want to skate anything else!
I have been with Sabre Trucks since their creation, being the first fully forged precision truck for downhill, their innovation and quality is up there with the best… I was riding the CF38 truck with 170mm hangers. I have been on this same set since the beginning of the 2016 season, doing the whole Euro tour/BDSL season and countless freerides and mountain bombs and now TopSpeed on this set, I TRUST these trucks with my life.
Chris from 9 Lives Leathers has become a friend over the years of repairing my battered leather suits. When I approached him to try make some aero leathers back in February, he was game for a collaboration. Between us we designed and made the pattern for an entirely new suit, taking months of prototyping and fitting to achieve. The aero leathers played a large part in the record speed, thank you Chris!
Fellow skate nerds, Vanny & Azzy supplied my bearings, these were not skateboard brand bearings but very special bits of kit. Damien helped me a lot with training before the event and having the UKDH scene to hook-up with and skate has been vital. My wife Zoe believes in me more than I do! Thank you everyone who has helped me!
To Charles, Jonathan and all the L’Ultime Descente crew, thanks for putting on the most epic speed session of all time!