Dirt Rag Magazine

Vicki Barclay: Thawing out as training heats up for TSE

By Vicki Barclay. Photo courtesy of Dave MacElwaine.

One of the things I love about mountain biking is the way that people refer to trails as if they are living entities. I often hear local people here in State College talking about how the harsh winters in Pennsylvania allow the trails to “get a rest” under the blankets of snow, like a sleeping beast waiting for spring.

There are certain trails that are named after people whom I have never met, but I always end up judging the personality of the actual person based on the features of the trail (grumpy, relaxed, fun, etc.)

I reckon Mike Kuhn made a good choice using the trails around State College to host the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic. The local community—especially Nittany Mountain Bike Association—is so deeply connected and proud of its trails that it works hard to ensure that visitors get to experience all the personalities that the trails will throw at them across the week.

The new enduro stage at the 2013 edition of TSE will be sure to challenge even the local racers like myself, as we will be forced to race down some of those trails best known for having particularly unforgiving personalities. I often ride past Wildcat Trail with eerie avoidance, opting for a gentler ride down the mountain on the next trail.

Watching motocross racing last night, and checking out their training regimes, got me thinking as to whether I should continue with my upper body workouts right up until TSE to try and preserve some strength for the middle of the week enduro stage. It’s cool to think there will be a day that might involve more arms and guts than legs and lungs.

Regardless, the Stan’s NoTubes Women’s Elite Team will be in good shape for the enduro stage with our Cannondale full suspension bikes, full face Uvex helmets, variety of choice in Kenda tires that we can run at ridiculously low pressures, and feathery Magura brakes. My money is on my teammate Sue Haywood—be afraid be very afraid.

With the snow gone, and the race trails clear, it’s really time to start stepping it up a gear in preparation for May. I always find it so hard to judge whether I am fitter coming off a milder winter when I have been able to ride outside, but have been less structured, or one where I have been forced to kill myself in the basement on the trainer.

Sure there are watts and numbers and bells and whistles, but if you can’t put it all together on race day it means nothing. So far this year, I feel like the winter conditions have held me back from putting things together on race day, so I am looking forward to this journey through spring on the way to TSE. I hope you can join me.


Reader’s ride: Custom modified Klein Adept 29er

Kelly Noltensmeier’s Klein Adept features a custom rear triangle, modern components, and yes, 29-inch wheels.

By Adam Newman

When Kelly Noltensmeier decided to take on longer, more endurance-oriented rides and races, his all-mountain bike just wouldn’t do. After borrowing a friend’s 29er he knew the big wheels were the ticket, but rather than purchase a new bike, he eyed his Klein Adept and thought… “why not?”

Noltensmeier had a head start on the project: after all, he was a welder at the Klein factory in Chehalis, Washington, and is still committed to their quality. A friend supplied several broken Adept rear triangles to salvage parts from and after heat-treating some of the first batches of parts in his wife’s oven he was told to get his own oven in the shop, so he did. The latest version has modern pivot bearings and an extra pivot near the rear axle. It smoothes out the ride a little but the jury is still out on pedaling efficiency, he says.

What is likely the only 29er Adept in the world is getting a lot of attention on the trails of western Washington, which is still Klein country, Noltensmeier says.

Working at Klein was a great experience, Noltensmeier says, and the employees were like a large family that he still keeps in touch with today. He recounts his first day on the job when lunch rolled around and the foreman announced that since they made their production goals, Gary Klein had hired caterers for lunch. “Sure enough, there was a sit-down dinner being served on the production floor,” Noltensmeier said.

Fridays were the best days, because that’s when the work pivoted to product testing. “We could take the new bikes out and try to break them. We would grab a demo take them to Capitol Forest and ride the hell out of them,” he recalls. One bike didn’t survive. A guy nicknamed Junior—all 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds of him—grabbed one 22-inch XL Attitude and taco’d the wheels, bent the top tube and generally messed it up. They all had a good laugh until they got back to the office and Gary Klein was asking where his new XL bike was.

Noltensmeier says his modified Adept rides great. It gets some strange looks on the trails of western Washington, which is still Klein country, and word is getting around, too. He took it on a 50-mile endurance ride and knocked an hour off his time from the previous year.

“This is the bike they will bury me with,” he said.



Mountain bike poetry

We love hearing from readers, especially readers who are as passionate about mountain biking as we are. Alexis, 13, of Biddeford, Maine, sent us this poem that beautifully summarizes why we do what we do. Thanks Alexis.

Alexis is a member of the Biddeford chapter of Trips For Kids. Operating in the United States, Canada and Israel, Trips For Kids has opened the world of cycling to over 100,000 at-risk youth since 1988 through mountain bike rides and Earn-A-Bike programs. The over 80 Trips For Kids chapters we support combine lessons in confidence building, achievement and environmental awareness through the development of practical skills, and the simple act of having fun.

I know the surrounding woods like a life long friend, the squawking birds and wind rushing through the trees.

The bright leaves that littler the trail are like a collage of autumn colors, they are beautiful.

I start out on the trail, riding hard.

All I can see is the trail in front of me, all I can hear is the pounding of my heart, all I know is this moment, right now.

I hammer down on the pedals, tree branches whip at my arms and legs.

I concentrate hard, tearing through the woods, excited and anticipating what the trail leads to next.

My wrists are numb, my legs are aching, but I don’t care anymore.

The happiness and freedom that the trail brings me overrides the pain of the moment.

I grip the handlebars tight; dig in deep on the longest hill in the world.

My whole body aches, but I will myself forward, dig deeper, power hard, almost to the top.

Here I come! Screaming down the other side, exhilarated, terrified, gaining speed, sure to crash.

Flying over the winding path, I let off the brakes and just float.

I feel light as a feather, it was worth the climb.

Smoothly avoiding rocks and branches, I am flying around the twisting path, gravity is on my side now.

I feel so happy, banging around out on the trails, like I was born to do this, and nothing else.

The smells and sounds of the woods fill my nose and ears, leaves swishing, water rushing, the smell of trees.

I feel like there should be nothing more to the world than this.

Just ride


Watch now: ‘The Dirt Merchant’ – a trailbuilding film from Central NJ

Film by Adam Nawrot.

Mountain biking isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words ‘New Jersey’. Nevertheless, Jason Fenton has been building and maintaining mountain bike trails in the heart of Central New Jersey since 2004. "The Dirt Merchant" takes a peek into what it means to be a cyclist in the middle of some of America’s densest suburban sprawl.

The Dirt Merchant isn’t necessarily a documentary about Six Mile Run State Park or Jason Fenton in particular but rather a film about the cycling community and how its individual members make it what it is.

About the filmmaker: "I race bikes for Rutgers University, where I study filmmaking and graphic design. I grew up riding Jason’s trails at Six Mile Run in my early teens and I’m so excited that this film is able to give back to the community that has shaped my life so dramatically."

The Dirt Merchant from Adam Nawrot on Vimeo.


Bringing the mountain to San Francisco

The Puppies & Rainbows Ladies Jump Jam at the San Francisco Bike Expo was a skills clinic and practice session that brought the joy of dirt to San Francisco’s Cow Palace. 

By Joh Rathbun. Photos by Shane Mckenzie.

While San Francisco is a culturally progressive and geographically unique city that provides everything a metropolis can offer, what it doesn’t have is legal, fulfilling singletrack. Like most urban environments, those with a thirst for tasty dirt must leave the city to find it. China Camp State Park, Joaquin Miller Park, Pacifica, and Mount Tamalpais State Park all offer great riding, but are not in the city.

Enter small businesses like RideSFO and Clayton Bicycle’s Stunt Team. They bring bike events to urban San Francisco. Phil Segura, owner of RideSFO and the man behind the San Francisco Bike Expo says there’s no money in doing this, “but that’s not what it’s about.”

Originally founded in 2003 as an online forum for riders, RideSFO evolved into its current iteration as a retail outlet with a mobile dirt jumping/park mobile set and crew. Headquartered out of a warehouse called the Sand Box on Portretro Hill, RideSFO is a unique blend of bike shop and cycle-centric traveling circus.

There’s no one like RideSFO in San Francisco when it comes to the 26-inch bike. As such, Phil is busy with coordinating with others like Hank Matheson of Bicycle Fabrications—co-habitant of the Sand Box—to spread the word and make mountain biking accessible to city dwellers.

Events like the San Francisco Bike Expo highlight technical riding like AT’s Showdown, a jump competition that features 30-foot doubles with a fear-inducing run-in. Based at the Cow Palace, these folks are bringing the mountain to the cycling San Franciscan. The event also included a female-specific event, this year it was the Puppies & Rainbows Ladies Jump Jam hosted by my publication, Shine Riders Company. Shine is an online publication and community center for women’s gravity mountain biking.

When speaking of AT—Andrew Taylor—of AT’s Showdown—Segura says, “He works really hard—the course is a labor of love—he’s not making any money off of it, but we both love riding, and want to bring something to the riders. We’re the only people putting on urban slopestyle events. So, that’s where we really want to hang our hat, and these comps show the possibilities with the parks and therefore, providing access for us, and hopefully we’ll have a domino effect.”

The cousin of RideSFO is the traveling Clayton Bike Stunt Team. While they’re a non-profit, they “provide BMX shows for all occasions.” As a non-profit, they focus on “bicycle safety, such as safety gear, obeying traffic laws…and always being aware.” Clayton Bicycle Stunt Team recently hosted the Battle of the Bay on Treasure Island in San Francisco.

Mike Henry, a competitor and native San Franciscan, is thankful for the few organizations like Clayton Bicycle Stunt Team, and said, “I just like to pedal around after work. I like the Chili Bowl, in Balboa Park. I got into bikes through a friend in the Mission District. If you want a dirt fix, though, you got to go out of town. We just got our jumps plowed. Guess the city didn’t want no one getting’ hurt out there.” Without cycling-centric entities like RideSFO and Clayton Bicycle Stunt Team, the San Franciscan wouldn’t get their dirt fix in the city.

“We got to keep building momentum so we can bring it to the people,” Segura said. “The great thing about the Expo is you get exposed to a lot of different things, but a kid riding in a parking lot gets a glimpse at a different type of sport. Promoting a healthy lifestyle that embraces alternate modes of transportation like cycling is beneficial for the urban community, and incorporating different lifestyles like mountain biking along the way can only be beneficial for that community as well.”

About the author

Joh Rathbun is a sport and travel journalist, a pro mountain biker and editor in chief of Shine Riders Company. For coverage of West Coast events, bike adventures, cool tips and bike tutorials, like her on Facebook


Race Report: King of the Mountain Enduro

Words and photos by Harlan Price

This weekend, September 29 and 30, was the inaugural King of the Mountain enduro at Mountain Creek Bike Park in Vernon, New Jersey. The three stages on Saturday were for amateurs and pros while Sunday had two extra stages just for the pro class, which was really just an open class for anyone who thought they’d be competitive or could handle the more difficult terrain.

The weather on Saturday had threatened to be clear, but most of the day we were riding through heavy fog or a slight drizzle. The trails were amazingly resilient but there were enough fresh trails or short muddy sections to give everyone wet shoes and grinding drivetrain.

Todd Ford and Elwell Marjory are about to get their bikes dirty.

Stage one was a mass start by category and off the line it was chaos. After a 100 yard sprint up, we immediately dropped into a muddy access road with a half dozen water bars. People were sliding all around, taking lines on purpose and accidently. I immediately realized my goggles were only distorting my vision but couldn’t take a hand off the bars to pull them down around my neck. Mud in the eye is better than feeling like I was wearing bifocals. A mix of rough dualtrack, high speed corners, short quick climbs and a series of grass-slope turns brought us to the bottom. It was fun, intense and full of virtual elbow rubbing and corner chopping.

The transition to stage two had a little hill on it.

The transition climb to the start of stage two had a time bonus to keep people moving. The top third of each category got a 20 second bonus, the second third got 15 seconds and the last third got nothing. The first person to the top was awarded at the end of the event with some swell Saint components from Shimano.

Sean Pritchardthorp on stage two.

Stage two had a more cross-country style, except it was very technical with lots of awkward moves and big rocks to get through. Mountain Creek is developing it’s cross country trail system and there were some fresh lines to be had. It was the shortest stage but was a beautiful transition before heading back to the more gravity-oriented stages.

Stage three dropped down off the top of the mountain and mixed in the mountain’s green trails with some quick transitions to steep climbs to make sure it wasn’t only about your descending skills. Those transitions also allowed different trails to be connected that aren’t normally linked together. It was a great way to finish the day and the final section of berms left everyone with a grin that wiped away the pain from the climbs.

Paul Dotsenko on stage four. Paul ended up 6th overall.  

On day two and stage four the pros saw the sun come out and trail difficulty amped up. There were drops, tabletops, step-downs and some serious rock gardens to test bikes and riders. The climbs also came more frequently, got steeper, and more awkward. Cross country riders were feeling a disadvantage to the guys able to huck and whip, but the climbs kind of evened out the field. One notable feature was a high-speed step-up that was probably 10 feet tall then dropped quickly into a berm with a step-down out of it. Mountain Creek is a really well designed bike park.

Winner of the Madcap Enduro in August, Matt Miller got 3rd overall at the King of the Mountain. Look at that face. Enduro racing is hard! Photo by Matt Stiegler.

The last stage actually felt a bit calmer than stage four. It had several short table-tops that were about the perfect size for the speeds we were hitting, several drops that could easily be overshot, and just enough wooded sections to make you pucker and slide around on roots and slabs of rock. The finish through the trail called Indy had so many berms with descending radius’s I felt like I was gonna be spit out the end of a spiraling water slide.

Mountain Creek and course designer Jeff Lenosky did a great job on a first time event and they are looking forward to doing more next year! In a nutshell, it was a ridiculously fun and challenging event. I’ll definitely be back next year.

The women’s podium was a happy place. Maria Nyholm (Ridetopia) managed first in front of Kait Fields (MountainCreekBikePark).

The men’s podium hosted the East Coast’s burgeoning enduro experts. From Left, Derek Bissett (Pro-Mountain Outfitters), Harlan Price (Santa Cruz Bicycles/ TakeAimCycling), Jeff Lenosky (Giant/Teva/Fox/Shimano), Matt Miller (Giant id-Atlantic), and Keenan Hanson (DB 30). 


Respect the Rooster: The Chequamegon Fat Tire 40

By Stephen H. Smith

In the sensible Midwest, long before exotically-mapped fondos, gravel centuries, and mountain bike epics with entry fees steeper than a Colorado mountain peak, there has always been the Chequamegon Fat Tire 40. This meat-and-potatoes, point-to-point 40 miler has consistently filled the starting grid for three decades with racers eager to line up for the love of racing in a venue decidedly void of the trappings of A-lister cyclerati and hipster race names.

Sure, some notables have made appearances. In fact, down through the years Greg LeMond regularly toed the line (perhaps most epically riding post Tour de France in road shoes and pedals in a year [1990] that welcomed riders with hub-high mud bogs). And, just this year, Wisconsin native and professional roadie Matt Busche (RadioShack/Nissan) set a course record (40 miles in 2:00:32.8, a 20.3mph average), last set in 2011 by Brian Matter. But, at its core, this is an everyman bike race. You show up, you line up and you go!

Thousands of entries are narrowed down by a lottery each March, and for those lucky enough to earn an entry a demanding seesaw mix of trail plays havoc on head and hamstrings between Hayward and Cable, Wisconsin on the second weekend in September. The unrelenting course runs reverse on many of the trails used for the grueling American Birkebeiner ski marathon, a race that draws almost 10,000 skiers each February to the same Northwoods.

In these parts, any mountain biker worth a huck ALWAYS aspires to do Chequamegon. The magical mystery of one of the biggest and longest-running races in the country (in the world?) has drawn my cohorts for more than 20 years. With such an extensive trail record on the fabled course, we’ve come to thoroughly understand the quirks of the race. Traditions emerged and are now followed religiously:

Thou shalt ALWAYS upgrade: The annual rite of “Buying Speed” to account for the race conditions is part art, part science…and part temptation. This year, astride a new Milwaukee Bicycle steel 29er, buoyed my spirits with a chance to introduce a new story line into my personal 22-year narrative. This wide open course is made for big wheels.

Thou shalt dine on beer batter and fry: Friday nights in Wisconsin mark much more than the start of the weekend. It indicates a meal service in which fresh fish can be deep fried and served with coleslaw and a stout ale. Beer-battered perch and a freshly brewed River Pig Pale Ale at the Angry Minnow always produce a happy pre-race sleep.

Thou shalt watch HBO/cable TV right up until the start: "For a Few Dollars More" was an excellent way to get the competitive juices flowing!

Thou shalt manage the start: A three mile roll out on pavement (“controlled” …at 27 mph), quickly dumps competitors off-road and onto Rosie’s Field. Catching the right wheel on the fastest train is critical. Enjoy the schizophrentic “Flight of the Bumblebees” blasting the field through massive speakers; this is the last sight of humanity for the next hour.

Thou shalt burn many matches climbing Fire Tower Hill: This four-tiered mile climb forces a steady cadence, ability to avoid loose screed and walkers. Riding over the top earns you the affection of the two dozen tifosi up top, who may even offer you a beer for the fine work.

Thou shalt respect the Rooster: Since 2000, a dedicated group has raced for the honor of being the Big Cock of Cable. First across the line wins the travelling trophy, a ceramic Rooster atop a running tally of previous champions. Rooster hunting has inspired some top-70 finishes and ALWAYS demands a perfectly scripted day of racing.

Thou shalt celebrate like lumberjacks: In this case, the post-race feed must be taco pizza at Coops, topped off with cherry pie from the Norske Nook. Celebrating commences through the night starting with white Russians at Turk’s Inn, followed by dancing at The Sawmill and capped off with pool and pickled eggs at the Moccasin Bar, where my former racing buddy Gary B. almost got his ass kicked by a gang of locals for choosing a Nirvana song on the jukebox in 1993.

About the author: Stephen H. Smith, 46, races for the Cafe Hollander cycling team in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He finished his 23rd run at the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival with a personal record time of 2:29, finishing 199th overall. This means Smith gets to cherish his Big Cock of Cable Rooster trophy for the next 12 months. He’s lobbying to have the state motto changed to “Welcome to Wisconsin: Smell our Dairy Air!”. 


Race Report: The Whole Enchilada Enduro, Moab

By Matt Kaspryzk

Moab is an odd place. There are a lot of mountain bikers, ATVs, 4x4s, and hikers for obvious reasons, but there are also a lot of folks who look like extras from "Cocoon" walking around town. It makes for a strange dichotomy.

In addition to having some of the most sought-after trails, bus tours through Arches National Park and buying Native American lawn decorations must be an equal draw for this southern Utah oasis. People certainly don’t come to Moab for the nightlife, but The Whole Enchilada Enduro race weekend had a bit of a festival atmosphere regardless.

There wasn’t much of an expo area, but there were parties and group rides to keep spirits high. I was happy to run into some industry friends that I haven’t seen in awhile, let alone get to ride with. It was also a good opportunity to meet new riders from around the country.

Loading up the shuttles for the 6 a.m. roll out.

The event brought in riders from several corners of North America. Pros and amateurs mingled waiting for early morning shuttles or while enjoying PBRs at The Chile Pepper bike shop party on Friday night. Shuttles were prompt, the organizers were organized, and sponsors like Fox, Shimano, POC, DT Swiss and The North Face provided some fantastic raffle prizes. The field was capped at 150 racers because of restrictions with land management, so the event seemed almost like invite only.

Even organizers Bigfoot Productions hopes to increase that number by appealing to park officials with well-executed events and responsible riders. So if you didn’t get in this year, there could be a better chance in 2013.

The final push to the top of Burrow Pass.

The ride from the top of Burrow Pass down to the Colorado River is a bucket-list ride. Many mountain bikers who have done it believe that it was the best ride they have ever done, or will ever do. So an enduro race on the Mecca of all trails is a good idea, right? Time will tell, but a lot went well for the first official race down to Moab.


Zach White, at right, practicing his lines for the winning Amateur Men’s time.

The course sounds great on paper: more than 7,000 feet of descending along more than 25 miles. However, it’s incredibly punishing on body and bike. There were significant climbs at high elevation. Sections of the course are very technical, fast, and rough with lots of potential for serious injuries. It’s the quintessential mountain biking that most of us dream of. I just hope racing this course doesn’t ruin a fantasy epic. A group ride where you can drink in the scenery and appreciate where you are is much different than being blurry-eyed staring at your front wheel while hoping your fingers will work when they need to.

The finish doesn’t look like much here, but on race day it was the best sight ever.

If you need another reason to make your pilgrimage to Moab, this event could be it. Hats off to the promoters, sponsors, volunteers and racers. I hope to see everyone next year.

See full results here. 


Book review: ‘Mud, Snow, and Cyclocross’ by Molly Hurford

By Adam Newman

There’s no doubt author and racer Molly Hurford is passionate about cyclocross—after all, this is the woman who permanently inked it into her skin, an act made famous by her column known as “The Girl With the Cowbell Tattoo” that appears in "Cyclocross Magazine." 

She has recently turned that passion into her first book, “Mud, Snow, and Cyclcross,” where she traces the history of ‘cross in North America as it spread from humble beginnings in the 1960’s and ‘70s to the rabid, nation-wide passion it garners today. She tracked down and interviewed anyone and everyone who has had a hand in shaping the sport and collected it into an oral history, letting the subjects themselves tell the story.

Like most ruminations on the sport of cyclocross, this book—published by Deeds Publishing—begins with an explanation of the racing and its rules. Rather than rehash the expected “cross between mountain and road biking,” Hurford lets the racers and race promoters share their own thoughts on the matter: “It’s one of those things you just have to see to understand,” says one quote from elite racer and two-time National Champion Ryan Trebon. “Its like a road race and a mountain bike race, combined… without the crappy parts.”

Trebon is just one of dozens of elite-level racers, both past and present, as well as men, women, and juniors, that makes an appearance in the book, with each sharing their first-hand thoughts on why they love the sport. Katie Compton dishes in on her “Best Worst Day,” and racer-turned-race promoter Adam Myerson traces his career from winning collegiate Nationals in 1997 to winning the Verge Series overall title in 2010.

Women play a key role in the story as well, as female American racers have had far more success on an international level than their male counterparts. Mo Bruno Roy, a native New Englander who spends a large chunk of her season racing in Europe, recalls, “In my first race, there was a women’s category—Women’s Open—and there were 10 to 15 women, so now to see a Cat 3/4 field with over 100 riders in a phenomenal difference in a short amount of time.”

Recounting the drama of the racing and elite racers is to be expected, but Hurford goes beyond the course tape to share the spotlight with the race promoters in the early days that put in a massive effort to attract national sponsors and grow the sport beyond isolated, regional scenes. For example, Paul Curley helped organize the National Championship races in 1992 when, for the first time in the U.S., courses were designed, marked, and maintained by professionals with professional-level amenities for riders and spectators. “It’s the first time we had pro and amateur fields, locker room facilities, and hot showers. We charged admission. It took it to a slightly higher level,” he said.

While one chapter focuses on the individual race series’ and their key venues, one of my favorite sections is the contrast of East Coast vs. West Coast racing and their very different styles. The East Coast scene has a long-held reputation as being very serious and very aggressive, while out west the races are often more laid-back with a greater emphasis on spectator fun.

The spectators are as big a part of the sport as the racers, and Hurford gives credit to the hecklers—both at the races and online—for helping expand the popularity of the sport. After all, cyclocross is perhaps the most spectator-friendly type of bicycle racing. Jeremy Powers discusses being the subject of an online reality show, “Behind the Barriers”, and Hurford shares her advice for choosing the right spectating location: “Just visit any major race… and look for where the crowd is cheering the loudest. Congratulations, you just found the beer garden.”

Like the sport itself—and its often rowdy participants—the book is a little rough around the edges. One bummer was that despite the attention paid to the importance of women and equality, there is also no listing of the Women’s National Champions alongside the Men’s in the appendix. Hurford told me it would be added in the next printing.

Bumps and bruises aside, I thoroughly enjoyed “Mud, Snow, and Cyclocross.” Already a huge fan of the sport, I was glad that Hurford kept the introductory and beginners sections short. Most of the books I’ve read about cycling are written with a beginner rider in mind, and I never understood why some authors write books designed to introduce readers to a sport, despite the fact that most of the actual readers will already be well versed. Thankfully, Hurford avoids this trap well and presents a novel account of a sport I love. This is a rare book that can appeal to newbies and experts alike.

So what’s next for cyclocross in the U.S.? This winter, Louisville, Kentucky, will host the 2012-2013 UCI Elite World Championships, an event that is sure to boost the visibility of the sport and expand its American audience. “Most of the elite racers think that Worlds in the U.S. will be game-changer,” Hurford writes. “For one thing, there’s a mandatory clause that it needs to be televised, presenting the first chance to make a push for races to be watched and popularized… And that’s when the shift from a fringe sport to a major American pastime begins to happen.”  


Race Report: Chomolungma Challenge at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, WV

By Justin Steiner and Eric McKeegan. Photos by Emily Walley and Philip Duncan.

This past weekend more than 100 racers lined up to test their mettle at Snowshoe Mountain Resort’s Chomolungma Challenge. This endurance downhill event challenged riders to race down nearly 30,000 vertical feet of elevation loss, which amounted to 20 runs down Snowshoe’s Western Territory—1,500 feet of loss with each run.

Racers could choose to tackle this event solo or as a member of a duo or four-person team. Race promoter Mike Baker was wise to segregate solo and team riders on two separate courses. Upon race start, solo riders tore down the natural terrain Pro DH trail, while team racers ripped the mostly flowly, bermed jump line consisting of Judi Chop, Ninja Bob, Ball ‘n Jack, and finally Powerline. At Noon, racers switched tracks to keep things interesting.

Dirt Rag staffers Jon, Eric, and myself rolled down to represent in the Solo category. We arrived Friday afternoon and rode a few practice runs in between weather holds due to storms in the vicinity. Fortunately for us, very little rain fell in the Snowshoe area to spoil the absolutely perfect trail conditions.

For Saturday’s race start, riders were organized in Snowshoe’s Village area at the top of the mountain via random number generation. With a shotgun start, we were off, ripping down through the village, and down the road to the trails. Despite the road section, things piled up quickly on trail, resulting in a somewhat frustrating first lap—that’s racing, however.

Everyone from the middle of the pack and back had to deal with pile-ups on trail, as there were simply too many people on trail to make passing productive. This first lap was the only time all day I experienced a line at the lift. Even then, I wasn’t waiting too long. That said, the race leaders were completing their second lap just as I was starting up the lift for the first time. Lesson learned; next year I’ll be hammering as far to the front as possible. Better start working on my sprint training…

By my second lap down the mountain, the pack had spread out far enough to allow for quite a bit of flow before catching other riders. Despite an amateurish crash on my third lap, it was easier than expected to tick off laps over on the Pro DH track, which offers nice flow through a variety of terrain. For the most part, the course held up amazingly well to the abuse, though some of the more flowy sections sprouted gnarly braking bumps after a few laps.

Going into this race we were uncertain how our bodies would hold up during 20 laps of abuse. For me the first 13 laps on the Pro DH course went well, with just some hand and wrist fatigue/pain creeping in around the 10-lap mark. After switching tracks to the longer and more pedaling intensive flow track, I started to fatigue quickly and my pace dropped significantly. Who knew you ride every berm from top to bottom by sitting your inside thigh on the seat? I didn’t, but quickly found it to be the easiest way down the mountain. There’s a relatively straight, blisteringly fast section of Ball ‘n Jack that’s littered with baby head rocks which was simply torturing my hands on the last handful of laps.

I have to admit to being mighty happy to finish my 20th lap, both because I could stop riding and because I came away nearly unscathed. I wish the same could be said for your intrepid Subscription Guy, Jon. Unfortunately, subscription customer service may be running just a bit slow for a few weeks while Jon’s arm heals. Check it out below. Yikes! Here’s to a speedy recovery, Jon!

With mostly cloudy skies and moderate temperatures, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions for this race. Everyone I spoke with was thrilled by how well organized and executed this entire event was. Many thanks go out to Baker and the rest of the Snowshoe crew for putting on such a wonderful event. As the pain of my sore muscles fades away, I’m pretty certain I’ll be back for next year’s race, which will certainly be bigger and better than this year.

Racing aside, the opportunity to spend that much quality time in the saddle was great for my riding. This race pushed me to become a better rider, and that’s all I can ask for from any event, really.

Tech Editor Eric McKeegan’s race report:

I thought I’d sworn off DH racing, I really only ride downhill for fun, a timed run usually takes the fun part out of it for me. The Chomolungma Challenge and its focus on endurance rather than outright speed changed my mind.

Considering the broken bones, hard crashes, and mechanicals I saw and heard about, my race was pretty uneventful. Other than loosing some skin off my knuckles in low speed collision with a tree I was crash-free, and a broken shift cable was the worst of my mechanical issues.

I probably lost a few places bandaging up my fingers and adjusting the derailleur limit screws to get my bike out of its hardest gear, but I wasn’t really there to race other riders, I was there to see if I could finish 20 laps.

After our three run practice session on Friday I was worried I’d be a mess by lap 15, but I ended up feeling great for most of the race. My hands started to cramp on the Pro DH side, but once we switched to the course with more flow I started to recover.

At this point my XC fitness (thanks Trans-Sylvania Epic!) came into play, allowing me to pedal, pump and jump my way past some obviously flagging competitors, moving up from my first lap second-from-last position.

The Dirt Rag pit area was well-equipped with food, tools, and spare parts, but other than a few bottles of water, a banana and a 3mm allen wrench I had little use for it. This was mostly because the neutral aid provided as we got on the lifts was awesome. Two pleasant ladies stationed there provided fluid and food hand-ups, and the 10-minute ride to the top was plenty of time to eat and drink.

After a few days my hands are still a little weak feeling, but over-all I feel great, both physically and mentally. I had fun and bumped my DH skills up a few notches. This may be the best 1st year event I’ve ever attended.

There aren’t many events like this in the country, and none that I’m aware of on the east coast. Trestle Bike Park is hosting the Red Bull Final Descent 12-hour race on Sept. 8th and Mountain Village Bike Park will be hosting the Fall Tilt Telluride 12-hour race on Oct. 6th.

Across the pond, there’s the Fort William Downhill Endurance 6-hour race, which went off in July this year—you’ll have to wait for the 2013 event. So, the Chomolungma is nicely positioned to become the go-to event for east coaster downhillers looking to go long. Don’t dally to register for next year, I’m guessing this race will fill up quickly.




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