MSC #2: Chalk Creek Stampede

June 9-11, Nathrop, Colo. – We beheld the courses Keith Darner built, and we saw that they were good.

Dual slalom

Jon Watt and Ross Milan give ‘er — dual slalom style.

Beep beep beep BEEP! Pedal pedal, pump the roller then fold into a blue-grooved 90-degree left. Your knobs and jowls stretch in opposite directions. Reel in the Gs and hit the two lippy doubles — pop pop — and land in the rock-hard berm already carving. Braaap! Press into the mag-chloride prepped dirt, unweight over a little roller then plunge into the hole — the Abyss of Opportunity. Jump from the edge to one of the steps, or manual the whole thing.

As you gather speed, gather your wits for the hard 90-degree left. In the right lane it’s tight; in the left lane it’s tiiiight. Rip goes the dirt as you redirect and lay down the power. Manual the twin rollers, hook onto the table, then prepare for the last berm: In the left lane, pedal some more, set an edge and carve as hard as you dare. In the right lane, downshift, brake hard and send your head right through the flag. Steer your bike around the outside and pivot on your ear. Whew. Pedal!

Shimmy through the flat left and right, just clipping the gates with your shoulders, then stick the rutted left … wait for it … NOW! Pedal as hard as you can. Manual the double rollers, hammer around the soft right, then do what you like with the triple rollers: pump, hook-double, double-hook, triple-manual or just plain triple. Catch the last backside, sneak in a couple cranks, break the beam then bleed speed over the tabletop jump. Oh yes. Heart rate: 200. Happy rate: a zillion.

Darner and the RPM-Yeti boys maintain the course the way an obsessive compulsive washes his hands. At every break they swept off the dust and pumped water from the creek. We racers got a fun but tricky course. Some wimps compained about the flatness and pedaling, but I say this is mountain biking — just shush and ride.

Fast Jon Watt showed the pro men where he got his nickname. Bobbi “Snap” Watt did the same for the women’s field. The amateurs displayed random acts of brilliance and violence. In slalom, staying calm and waiting for the other guy to screw up will get you a lot farther than spazzing out. A course like this definitely separates good dirt jumpers from good mountain bikers, but it unites everyone in the “OHMYGOSH THAT WAS COOL” club.

What a scene. It’s all good except Phu with his shirt off.

Out of the gate and wheeeee! Chuck Pitts (in red) drove from the East Coast and took second. Matt “Napolean” Thompson says, “Shocks and pegs … lucky!”

Bobbi holds it together while Neven tries to get sneaky. Photo by Brian Bailey (Check out his work; it’s awesome).

Teddy Benge with the sweet jumping form. Photo and coaching by Brian Bailey.

If you don’t dial the left, these rollers will break you.

Rudy Unrau. Nice.

VetEx is getting serious. Zach and Chris rip the berm before the Abyss of Opportunity.

Landing this double into the berm … delicious!

Friends off the course … Joey Shusler and Rudy Unrau fought hard but Joey rode cleaner.

VetEx fast guys Troy Cooperman and Grant Shoemaker dive into the Abyss. They wound up 2nd and 4th.

Right down left: By now things are happening fast. Kevin Smith and Nick Simcik in the semis.

The top of the course was BMX/pump track. The bottom was mountain biking. Who really knows how to turn?

Mountain Cross

The third straight is so fun, and check out that view!

DarnerLand has two mountain cross courses: Original and Extra Crispy. Original is a tilted BMW track: very flowy and easy to rip. A beach ball would roll off the start and emerge smiling at the end. Extra Crispy is MTB-ish: more lines and some flat turns. It requires more physical and mental effort to rip, but it makes for better racing.

Mt. Princeton looks so damn cool out yonder, but you must focus. Beep beep beep BEEP. Snap! Pedal pedal pedal over a little camel hump, then skate into a flat left. Hold on … Flick left over the double and into the mammoth right berm. Jump the roller to table, manual the twin rollers then rip into the big 180 left. Braaaaap! Relax: medium double, short step-up (don’t overshoot it!), medium double into 180 right. Pedal! Suck up the big BMX double-table, then rail the 90-degree left. Pedal! Step up to a little backside, then pedal over the rest of the mega triple-table. Pedal! Rail the fast 90-degree left. Pedal! Six pointy rollers: double, manual, pump or whatever. Sneak in one more crank and you’re done. [APPLAUSE]

Ross chases Petr in the final. Photo by Brian Bailey.

Bobbi Watt made mincemeat of the pro women. People are telling her to step up to semipro men, but as a semipro man who gets snapped by her, I say NO! The pro men finished with a loaded gate: Petr Hanak, Ross Milan, Jon Watt and Dave Ziegman. We all surmised that Petr or Jon would take it, but that Ross would try a bold move, one that go either way. Clank went the gate and pow went the riders. Petr, then Jon, then Ross piled through the S to the 180. Ross attacked Jon and … made it stick. From there it was a turbo parade. Petr, Ross, Jon then Dave. Fun stuff.

The action carried through every class, and with more than 160 riders, there was a lot of action. If you wonder where the sport is going, just behold the bubbling palette of groms: Mojo orange, Gravitee gray, Kona blue and The Fix red. These dudes are the future, and I have a feeling the next few years will be even bigger, and even more colorful.

Notes from the scene

Lame duck race promoter: Eric Jean has sold Cycle Cyndicate. He looks forward to actually racing.

What do we call the place? The accolades were flowing like racers down a sweet course. The Best Gated Racing in the World. The Sickest Square Mile on Earth. I like the last one.

Johnny Cash: The P.A. seemed to be on a loop: “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.” I changed it to “I snapped Jon Watt in Nathrop, just to watch him cry.” But it didn’t work out that way.

Monstrous dog: Booh the 150-pound malamute came into my van.

“Hey, wacha doin?”

“Eating some strawberries.”

“Wow, those look goooood.”

“Here ya go. Just don’t eat me.”

Scourge of the Christian preschool: Mike and Shannon Ambrose’s son Devun ripped around on training wheels, in a Misfits t-shirt, wearing a mohawk. This is what happens when punk downhillers have kids.

Free short track clinic

Judy Freeman (Naked/Cannondale) and I taught a free short track clinic on Saturday afternoon. The scheduling was all balled up — with slalom running late and Judy having to make an XC podium appearance (she finished 2nd) — but we got nine people. Lots of kids, a few parents and a couple independents.

As we rode the course together, we talked about start strategy, picked places to attack, practiced cornering lines and worked on our body position. Everyone seemed to dig it. The next day, Judy taught another short track clinic — this time to the pro women’s field. Judy won it by 40 seconds. Yay!

Up next

MSC#3 – Wildflower Rush
(XC, DH, SD)
Crested Butte, CO
June 24-25

24 replies
  1. ron cook says:

    woo hoo! only 10 days back on my bike after a broken leg and I posted a faster qualifying time than you in 4x, with no practice before the race. you looked pretty scared out there racing the pros. maybe you should come down to my class so we can battle at the state championships.

  2. Grant Shoemaker says:

    Wow, Ron – you are always on, aren’t you? Lee – it was great talking with you this weekend. Thanks for the couple of hints and words of encouragement! That was a fun, but very tiring weekend.


  3. leelikesbikes says:


    It was fun hanging out, and it was superful watching you rip. You are on like Donkey Kong!

  4. Cody Wilderman says:

    Lee, Don’t listen to that Ron Dude. You looked fast this weekend. I think your boy Ron has a little bit of a complex. Ron- If you have to tell people how cool you are all the time then obviously you are not that cool. Any way great article about the race this weekend. Keep it up.

  5. leelikesbikes says:

    Cody, thanks man. Well said.

    Ron did indeed outqualify me in 4X by 0.1 second (whoo hoo!), then he took 6th in VetEx. Interesting given his Dec. 14 comment on this site:

    “I was the most dominant BMXer in Colorado in the 80’s. … You might not know who I am now, but you will after 2006. All master competitors better train their asses off, because I am going to sweep all the 4x races next year and then go pro the next year.”

  6. Pee-Who says:

    hey lee,

    “what the deuce?” i don’t remember signing a model release form. i need to be on a asian redneck calender YO..!

    seriously Ron… do you know how big an ASS you come off online? you’re much nicer in person. i’m not trying to be a jerk but i wasn’t sure if you knew.

    anyways… great racing this weekend Lee and nice write up!

    ps.. i’ll be expecting my royalties in the mail.


  7. leelikesbikes says:


    Dude, the site is totally blowing up since your torso appeared.Traffic has doubled, as have revenues: Up from 0 to 0. I’ll tell you what buddy — It’s all yours!

  8. Mike Ambrose says:

    Hey Lee, Thanks for the mustard and the funny comments. Had my surgery on Mon and everything went well, and they did’nt need to take a bone chunk from my hip, so I’ll be healing faster. Nice to see you Co-camper.

  9. ron cook says:

    I also got to meet Lee McCormack. He is the author of “Mastering Mountain Bike Skills’ and the man behind The best book and website around, in my opinion. However, Lee himself, got under my skin in the height of the Winter when he challenged me to a race and stated he was tired of just beating old guys with asthma and that is why he turned pro. Well, I have asthma, I am old, and anyone that has ever challenged me to a race has lost. (Back when my parents were the track directors of Pikes Peak BMX in the 80’s, I would get phone calls from faceless challengers a lot. Just to meet them the next day and woop em.) He stated ‘anytime, anyplace’, so I made suggestions for us to meet and race, but then he said I had to go to Boulder to race him. I suggested meeting in Castle Rock, but he declined. This weekend he kicked my butt in slalom, and I was impressed with his skill. The track was more of a pump track than a slalom track though, and he lives to pump. I’ve never been on a pump track. Even steven comparison on 4x though and I beat him by a tenth of a second. I am very satisfied with that coming off my injury. I very much look forward to the day I get to throw elbows with him.

  10. ron cook says:

    the dr says that my leg is six weeks away from being able to race on it. we’ll see where i’m placing in the field then. i bet it’s higher than sixth.

  11. Alex Vidal says:

    Man, this Ron character won’t give it up… there’s always one in the bunch it seems. Thanks as always for the great writeup!! I’m always stoked to see the race updates on your site, keep it up!

    Also, does anyone know of a photography source for the event? I checked vastaction and it doesn’t appear as if they covered this event. I sure did see a TON of photog’s so if anyone knows where I could find the pic’s I’d be stoked.. Thanks!

  12. ron cook says:

    lee – i saw you in lane 4 in your elimination run in 4x. I saw your strategy of letting folks go ahead of you because you were hosed with your gate lane. however, when you let the guys slide buy you, you just sat back there. once they slid by you, you needed to attack to the inside as hard as you possibly could, then rail the hell out of that 2nd berm, pass a guy down the straight, then swoop the next on the turn. mix it up!

  13. ron cook says:

    hey phu! my wife agrees that i come across as an ASS online too. She wouldn’t even talk to me after I posted that comment to Lee last night. She thinks you’re a funny guy.

  14. Linda Ripley says:

    Hey Ron,
    You’re on the wrong website for smack talk! Go to MTBR with the rest of the over-the-hill gang! We were all cool in the 80’s!

  15. Tea Party says:

    Wow. I don’t even know if this Ron guy is worth my time or breath. You’re an “old guy”? I usually respect “old guys” because they’re suppose to be older and wiser, sounds to me like you never grew up and are still living in the 80’s, not deserving of ANY respect!!!!! Are you really part of the mountain bike family?? YOU’VE GOT SOME BIG TIME ISSUES!! We all have issues, but damn!! Ease up buddy!!!

  16. ron cook says:

    I raced Lee in my mind, at the BMX track, almost everyday since he challenged me to a race in December. I was heart broken that i broke my leg and was not going to be able to beat him for at least a year or so. Shockingly, I didn’t even need two legs to beat him.

  17. leelikesbikes says:

    If any of you are pursuing graduate degrees in psychology, I know someone who would make a fascinating thesis.

    OK, now back to MSC #2, the Chalk Creek Stampede.

  18. Cody Wilderman says:

    To answer your question. The dude that rode the slalom in his boxxers is Nate Scherling team rider for Team Totally Wired/Yeti.

  19. ron cook says:

    I bet a lot of vetex riders are going to train a bit harder now, so they can kick my ass. That’s awesome! This smack talking will raise the bar in a lot of peoples performance. My dream is that Colorado riders become the dominant force in mountain biking. Californians have ruled for too long. We all need to bring it!


    I’m out

  20. leelikesbikes says:

    That’s a great sentiment.

    From now on: No more smack talk. Save that business for forum sites. At leelikesbikes we celebrate the sport and each other.

    Uncool comments will be deleted. Uncool people will be banned.

    And — yes — let’s bring it!

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