The fastest qualifying time, a trip to the medical tent, tasty Argentinian beef and some talented South American downhill longboarders.
That’s just a taste of what Vernon’s Quin Finocchio encountered as he ventured south for the International Gravity Sports Association’s Circuito Sudamericano de Downhill.
That Finocchio didn’t reach the finals of the one event he competed in seems irrelevant. In terms of life experience, he came away a winner.
“The culture in Argentina was amazing,” said the Vernon Secondary grad. “I came away with a lot of really good experiences and some observations that will really help as I begin travelling on my own to these places next year.”
Finocchio got his first taste of the laid back South American lifestyle when he showed up for practice session.
“I was at the hill every morning at 8 a.m., just like the schedule said, but there must have been another schedule that I knew nothing about,” said Finocchio.
“The South American riders rolled in between 9:00 and 9:30 and they were early. We didn’t get a warm up run started before 10. It just seems to be the way it is. There was no anger or frustration. Everyone just seemed to go with it.”
Finocchio entered the IGSA Snake Skeleton Downhill in Potrero de los Funes, Argentina. The race started with a practice day under a scorching sun. The heat and pavement made life difficult for all the riders; a strong tail wind turned the hill into a “festival of crashes.”
A field of 229 riders made for a long qualifying day, but Finocchio placed 12th overall, and was the first in the Junior class.
A stout headwind picked up after lunch, making qualifying times slower, some by more than 10 seconds.
“For me, headwinds are an advantage because of my tuck,” said Finocchio, who lost less than two seconds on his afternoon run.
“My time ended up being the fastest run in the afternoon session. It was the first time I’ve ever won a qualifying session. It rocked.”
The field was whittled down to 96 racers on race day, and Finocchio won his first heat to advance to the final 48.
A slow start in the next race saw Finocchio trailing in fifth place after 300 metres.
“Things got frustrating from there as the two riders directly ahead of me rode in tandem, and whenever I tried to pass one or the other would block my line,” he said.
With about 350 metres to go, he tried to pass between them coming into the last corner. It didn’t turn out so well. Forced to pass on the outside, Finicchio said: “He blocked me again and I tried pushing him with my arm to get him out of my line but he kept sliding me outside until I was too far out on the apex of the road and crashed really hard into the hay bales.
“It got dicey at medical. They had a couple of doctors who looked me over, tested for a concussion and did a very thorough evaluation to ensure I was fine.”
The medics wanted to send Finocchio to hospital for further observation, but after insisting he was fine, Finocchio was cleared to compete and made it to the top of the run for the Junior 2 semifinal heat. He finished fourth, missing the finals.
In the consolation final, Faulke Nehren of Venezuela, a friend Finocchio made earlier in the trip, asked if he wanted to butt-board (sit on skateboard) the race.
“Seventh vs 12th points had no impact on my world ranking,” said Finocchio. “I beat him, finished fourth in the heat and 10th in the J2 race. It was a blast.”