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

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