Awesome event – Keystone Climax

The Mountain States Cup’s grande finale blended cool people, great courses, perfect weather and crazy action.

Jon Watt beat Jamas Stiber in the dual slalom semifinals.

Dual Slalom – oh, the humanity

The showdown: Mike Kreger and Ben Lann from The Fix.

This course ruled. We’re talking snap out of the gate, get some cranks, suck up a roller, squash a small double then cut a hard left against the hillside. Coast a steep roll-in, pump a roller, suck up a 10-foot double, then really suck up a lippy 12-footer. Catch mega backside into a tight right berm, manual the double, pump the roller then hang the flat left. This separated the BMXers from the mountain bikers. Crank over a small double, hang another bermed right, pump another roller then sail over the stepup. Whee! Fall, fall, fall into a tight left berm then bounce onto the final straight. Weave between the gates and pedal your ass off, because the final double is a doozy. Nice.

Dr. Watt banking that first left.

The racing was fun to do and exciting to watch. I love dual slalom because it mixes the precision of BMX, the all-mountain handling of downhill and the mental toughness of nuclear submarining. Who can crank out 10 runs (2 qualifiers and all of the rounds) perfectly, each a little faster? Well, not me. I qualified 31st in pro/semipro, which was really cool for my semipro slalom debut, but I faced fast Aussie Luke Strom in the first round. Witnesses say I pulled him for a few pedal strokes, but then he disappeared. Ol’ Strommie must have gotten lucky. Getting eliminated from a fun race is usually a bummer, but I was happy to take some pictures and cheer for my bro’s.

Fast Jon Watt put on a clinic. That guy is probably the smoothest rider out there. And the strongest, and the fittest. He controlled his rounds up to the final, when he faced Strommie (who had barely squeaked past me).

Bobbi and Michelle in the final.

The pro women’s final was just too much. Bobbi “Snap!” Watt snapped everyone through her rounds then faced Michelle Dumaresq. Michelle has been beating Bobbi this year, so when Bobbi narrowly won the first run the crowd went crazy. In the final run, Michelle out-muscled Bobbi and pulled ahead. Everyone on the hill went nuts, screaming “Go Bobbi!” and paying tribute to her with motorcycle noises, “Watt Waaaaaaattttt Waaaaaaaattttt!!!!” It felt like a football stadium: As Bobbi and Michelle jumped and railed and cranked down the course the noise filled the entire valley, and everyone’s hair stood on end. They raced down the final straight and Michelle crossed the line first. Silence. Did Bobbi have a big enough advantage? Did she do it? Tears rolled down cheeks. A pause, then the announcer: “Yes! By five one hundredths, Bobbi has won!” Oh, the humanity!

Evan Powell is fierce like a wolverine.

Meanwhile, Jon Watt was in the gate for his final run. He’d been sick all week, and he was tired. But after seeing his wife put in that performance, he dug into his reserves and pulled out one more sweet run. “Watt Waaaaattttttt Waaaaatttttttttt!!!!”

My SMBA boys: My SMBA dudes rode like champs. Joey Schusler took 7th in Jr. Expert. Evan Powell and Ben Gager took 2nd and 5th in Jr. Beginner. Good work gentlemen.

>> Check out the bonus photos >> 33 more reasons to like bikes!

Super D – pure lovefest

Mike West training at Hall Ranch in Lyons, CO.

For Super D we got to blast down Keystone’s sweet green and blue runs: Girl Scout, Suze’s Cruz, Mosquito Coast, Jay Bird, Ride On, Celtic Way, Bluegrass, Sleepy Hollow, Easy Street and River Run. On a mid-travel bike these trails are hard to beat. They’re swoopy, moderately technical and just straight fun.

Once the fast riders got out front, the dust came up. Passing on these singletracks required some creative line choices, but once you got out on your own it was a pure lovefest of speed and rocks and roots and turns. Forget that it’s a race; you’re just railing the beejeebers out of this sweet trail with a bunch of really good riders.

In Open Men, Mike West did the expected and killed everyone. Well, not killed. He won by a mere 15 seconds in a 24:21 run — he must have been tired. Julie Larsen won Open Women in 46:20. As for me, I had a good run on a course that suits me and wound up third in open men, only 30 seconds behind Mike. Now that’s a “Dear Diary” moment.

Downhill – long and fast

Zach Griffith blasts through the top rock section last year while he was with Yeti-RPM. He’s now with Full Tilt Cyclery.

Oh, man. Keystone’s downhill course is these things: long, fast, technical and varied. You got your tight woods, rubbly rock gardens and wide-open ski runs, all to the tune of 9+ minutes. To win at Keystone you need skills, fitness and self knowledge. To pin it like a maniac would spell certain doom.

On Sunday I did runs with some of my favorite riders: Jim Norman, Jon Watt, Steve Wentz and Zach Griffith. As the day wore on we found tastier and tastier lines, and we went faster and faster. I’ve been off the DH bike for a couple months following a thumb injury and — oh boy — is downhilling fun!

As for the racing, Eli Krahenbuhl ran a stupid-fast 8:18 to take pro men. Ryan Sutton was only seven seconds back on Keith Darner’s Yeti DH-9 (some jackass stole Ryan and his Astrix teammates’ bikes). Darner, affectionately known as the Turquoise Tortoise, ran an 11:03 on that bike and would have sworn it was slow. (Hey, we love you Keith.) In pro women Michelle Dumaresq ran a 10:07.01, beating Wendy “The Desert Pixie” Reynolds by a mere 0.7 second. Close!

Zacharoo gets bucky in the last rock drop.

Going to Keystone, I never really planned to race downhill. My thumb is still iffy, and when I got on the lift Monday I felt like I’d already had a great weekend. I wanted to bail on my DH run altogether, but I decided to roll it slowly. Which is what I did. That was fine, but I must say seeing my time — a slow 9:49 — was a blow to my ego. We’d been running in the low nines the day before, and I felt that sting of not trying. I dunno, if you’re not going to race your run, don’t take your race run. You know what I mean?

To sum it up

The Keystone Climax made for an awesome weekend. All the characters were out in force, the riding was great and Cycle Cyndicate ran the show like the pros they are. After Mammoth we’ll race Final Descent in Angel Fire, then we’ll be waiting for the Nathrop Spring 4X Series. Hope you all had a great season, and here’s to a fun 2006.

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