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January 29, 2020

More to it Than Flying Down a Mountain

There’s a lot more to bobsledding, I’ve learned, than the push, getting in quickly on an icy surface, holding on for dear life, and screaming at the top of your lungs while racing, as quickly as possible, to the finish line…and stopping.

I’ve learned there are a lot of behind-the-scenes tasks many of the athletes have to do before, and after, races.

Not all athletes, mind you. Many are on teams with budgets and they have people who take care of those chores. The Canadian team, for example, showed up for the World Cup last week with a masseuse and a physical therapist. Team Austria doesn’t enjoy such luxuries, especially teams not in the top two, which leaves Bobteam Geiger fending for itself.

As Turo Viers explained it to me, they sometimes get to the track hours in advance just to prepare the sleigh. This can involve cleaning, lubricating, swapping parts like runners, sanding the runners, and more. Then they have to load it in the transport from the garage and get it to the top, all the while lifting, turning, pushing, tipping over, and moving the sled. Rules state that a four-man bobsled has to have a minimum weight, while empty, of 463 lbs. while a two-man sled has a minimum weight of 384 lbs. empty.

After they get the sled to the top, then they can warm up and wait in the cold. Bobbahn IGLS ( Austria) has a lounge where they can hide between races, but a lot of the time is spent outside, standing on ice, waiting their turn.

Add to all of this that the teams help each other out, and it’s common to see members of teams jumping in to help carry, move, fix, and loan tools for other teams’ sleds. The day before the World Cup, Turo went to the top simply to help where needed, as he wasn’t running that day.

The point is, the average Joe would be exhausted before they even hit the starting line.

On the first day of the World Cup, Team Geiger was the front runner, going before the competitors to test the ice and get in some training runs. There was a mechanical problem with the sled that prevented them from their first run. Patrick Geiger and the team (Turo Viers, Nick Kompain, and Jakob Mandlbauer) worked on the sled up at the top, in the cold, and got it ready in time for the next run. Luckly, Patrick is pretty handy with a wrench and can fix anything on the sled.

After each run, they have to lug the bob off the track and into a transport to go to the top and do it all again.

When the last run is over, then it’s back to the garage to clean, dry, and fix the sled to get it ready for the next time. Sometimes they simply disassemble to let things dry out and they’ll put it all back together on the next race day.

Some sleds can stay parked in the back room, which is pretty easy to get them in, and out, of. Other sleds, like Team Geiger’s four-man sleigh, gets stowed away in a “locker” at the front of a big hall. Imagine trying to navigate a 12.22 ft, 500 lb. sled to fit in that…and then pull it out straight, and turn just right, so it clears the lockers on the other side. It’s work.

So here are a few behind the scenes pics I took of Team Geiger from the last couple of weeks.


Russell Viers

I'm just a guy who finds the world an interesting place and likes to capture certain moments with a camera. They aren't for sale, or anything. I just like them. Well, usually. I've taken a lot of photos I don't like, as well.

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