ABOUT THE BOOK
Miles Pussett is a former steeplechase jockey. Now he gets his adrenalin rush from riding down the Cresta Run, a three-quarter-mile Swiss ice chute, head first, reaching speeds of up to eighty miles per hour.
Finding himself in St Moritz during the same weekend as White Turf, when high-class horseracing takes place on the frozen lake, he gets talked into helping out with the horses. It is against his better judgement. Seven years before, Miles left horseracing behind and swore he would never return.
When he discovers something suspicious is going on in the races, something that may have a profound impact on his future life, Miles begins a search for answers. But someone is adamant to stop – and they’ll go to any lengths to do it . . .
I know I’m in trouble on the run down towards Shuttlecock, but I am laughing – I don’t care.
I am once again riding in a Grand National, the first time in nearly eight years, but this isn’t the four- and-a-half-mile steeplechase over the thirty fences of Aintree Racecourse. This Grand National is a different type of race altogether – a nerve-jangling, teeth-rattling, buttock-clenching, roller- coaster ride down a three-quarter-mile-long ice chute – the Cresta Run in the Swiss town of St Moritz.
As I enter Junction Straight I pull myself further forward on my toboggan. Not some sit- up- on wooden- slatted affair for the occasional snowy slopes in your local park, this toboggan is thirty- five kilograms of precision-made steel and carbon fibre, with razor-sharp runners and grab- handles to hang on by.
Moving my weight forward gives me more speed, and speed is the king. The difference between winning and losing is measured in milliseconds.
Speed. Speed. Speed.
Only speed will let you win – provided, of course you don’t have too much, and crash.
All I can hear is the rushing wind and the constant clatter of the runners on the ice as I hurtle, face down, along the straight at sixty miles per hour, ever gaining that elusive speed on the steep slope. I stare ahead, searching for familiar landmarks, but my vision is blurred by the vibration. I have never been this fast before at this stage of the run.
I feel rather than see the sharp change in direction as Junction Straight runs into the right- handed Rise where the track even lifts slightly, causing the G- force to squeeze my body onto the sled.
I flash under Nani’s Bridge and through the kink right at Battledore.
Next is the infamous Shuttlecock curve, where so many have fallen there is even a special club for them all, and the big question in my mind is: Am I going too fast to make the turn?
I slide my body back on the toboggan, allowing me some degree of steering by pressing the tail of the inside runner harder onto the ice. But do I also rake?
On my feet I wear special boots with three jagged metal spikes protruding from the toes – a bit like Rosa Klebb with her poison toe blade in From Russia With Love, only more so. These are my rakes – the only means I have of slowing me down.
Do I slam the points down onto the ice? Or do I take the chance that I will fly out of the track at Shuttlecock?
Unlike an Olympic bobsleigh run where the outside walls of the turns are concave, helping to keep the sleigh in the track, many of those on the Cresta are convex, which has the opposite effect. A curling stone released at the top of a bob run will make it to the bottom, but on the Cresta it will slide out at the first corner. Hence, it takes great skill to stay in, and is also deemed to be safer for the out-of-control rider, with so-called ‘soft’ areas of straw and loose snow provided on the outside in an attempt to reduce any injury.
I lower my left foot slightly to slow me a fraction and to help with the big ninety-degree left-hand turn.
As Shuttlecock begins to tighten, I can feel my legs being thrown out to the right into fresh air, so I lean my weight more to the left. I have fallen here before, in previous runs, and I am determined it will not happen again.
Not now. Not in this race.
Not in this blue riband event that I have strived so hard to be a part of.
I lean more to my left, almost further than I dare, and hang on to my toboggan for all I am worth.
And I am laughing again.
This is what is meant by living.
And the Cresta Run has helped save my life – there is no doubt about it.
My thanks to Hayley of Midas PR for the tour invitation and for providing the extract.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Ebook, Hardback (16 September 2021) | Paperback (9 June 2022)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Felix Francis studied Physics and Electronics at London University and then spent seventeen years teaching Advanced-Level Physics. The younger son of crime writer and National Hunt jockey Dick Francis, Felix assisted his father with both the research and writing of his novels in a father-and-son writing partnership. Continuing his father’s legacy, Felix has written fifteen successful novels.
The Felix Francis & Dick Francis novels combined have sold over 80 million copies worldwide in 40 languages.
Follow the Author