Posted June 7, 2004
Angel Fire 4X and DH

Well, I made it down to Angel Fire for the Mountain States Cup race, and it was just freaking rad. Great courses, perfect weather and a ton of cool people.

Mountain cross
Eric Jean of Cycle Cyndicate claims to build the best 4X tracks in the country, and I can't disagree. Angel Fire's course was tricky, pass-friendly and almost entirely gravity fed. Despite generous watering, the course developed a foot of bumpy dust in all the crucial corners. Riders were going down like crazy, and each fall looked like an explosion.

Dominance: Jared Graves ruled pro men, and Jill Kintner did the same for pro women.

Karma-kaze: The BMXer by the name Kamikaze (really, that's his legal name) was giving everyone a hard time and talking smack like none other. He was going way beyond funny into just plain mean. Well, in qualifying he looped out in the first rollers and came in last place. In his first round he got the gate and jumped into the second turn with outrageous speed. Everyone was wondering, whoa, can he make the turn? The answer was "No." Maybe you can hit paved BMX berms as hard as you want, but these corners required a light touch.

Nice: Damien Anderson took time off wrenchin' the Team Yeti bikes to do some ridin'. Even with a broken derailleur he managed to win Expert 19-29, which shows you how gravity-fed the course is, and how fast Damien is.

Apology: I qualified fourth, which is great for me. In the first round I got the gate and entered the second corner first. I entered inside and was coming out thinking I was home free, but all of a sudden Carsten Almskaar slid across the *far* inside and knocked me off course. Damn! I crossed the line last, all pumped with adrenaline, aggro and wanting a re-run. I was like, "I did everything perfect, and that guy ruined it!" But after a while I calmed down and realized I should have taken the turn even farther inside, so nobody could have pinched me. As pro winner Jared Graves said, if you were out front you had to aim straight for the red flag. Exit speed didn't matter. Only blocking your opponents mattered. I wanted to keep racing, and I acted like a jerk. For that I apologize.

Downhill
About 10 times a day since I moved to Colorado, people have been telling me Angel Fire is the s--- and, again, you'll find no disagreement here. The course is long, rough, technical, fast and all that. I though Northstar at Tahoe was the ultimate, but I think Angel Fire is just as gnarly, but for longer periods.

Destruction: Practice was truly punishing. Just holding onto the bike was tough, and my legs were so worked from shock absorption that pedaling was almost impossible. Like many others, I spent time fixing flats and installing a spare derailleur. Greatest accomplishment of my life: A collision with my thigh rendered my XTR shifter useless. After 4X, in the parking lot, as the sun went down, I took that mysterious thing apart, figured out what was bent and bent it the other way. Viola it worked.

Photo: Brian Pier of Tiny Cog Racing hits the "Jedi" drop in 2003. Photo by Bill Sommer. More here.

Blisters: Many, many people's hands looked like this by the end of the weekend.



Dominance: Ben Cory ran a stupid-fast 6:00, breaking Ryan Sutton's 860-year winning streak by a second. Our man Jared ran a 6:10. Of the top five men, three were Aussies, one was South African and one was from this other country called "The United States of America." Missy Giovi turned up and ran a ceremonial low 7, then took off for Maui. Our friend Lisa Myklak was bummed with her run -- "I couldn't concentrate. All I could think about was Lee's calves" -- but ran well enough to take the pro women.

LeeLikesPodiumsDotCom: I struggled with some braking overdoses, a few tree smacks and a stall as I passed my guy in the lava rocks. I wasn't stoked with my performance, but I wound up second in the Expert Men 30-39 With Asthma class. I must give props to my bike: The Demo 9 with X-Works Dorado works way better than I do.

Misc.
The drive home: I gave Jill and Jared a lift to the airport. They helped me stay awake, and it was cool getting to know them. Jared ate two Choco Tacos and some kind of crazy swirled ice cream cone. Good thing he isn't racing XC anymore.

Greased lighting: When you go to Angel Fire, stop by the Pizza Stop and get a pastrami sandwich. Not the healthiest food choice, but definitely good living.
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