MSC #4: Chili Challenge action fest

This year’s Chili Challenge rocked as usual, with the double-extra bonus of its UCI E2 status and the sweet World Cup courses.

Joey Schusler road-gaps it on the DH course. Photo by Mike Eubank.

Sorry about the lack of photos. Between racing and coaching I was a busy monkey. If you have good shots, please share.

This year’s Chili Challenge rocked as usual, with the double-extra bonus of its UCI E2 status and the sweet World Cup courses. To wit:

Angel Fire Mountain Resort sits in a remote part of New Mexico, at the south end of the Rockies, about 30 minutes from Taos and great Mexican food. The base lies 8,600 feet sea level, and the longest continuous lift in the U.S. carries silly monkeys to the summit at 10,677 feet. For you physics nerds, that means plenty of potential energy but very little atmospheric pressure. So bring your kung fu and get ready to gasp.

Cross Country

This is the World Cup course, and it’s real mountain biking. The climb is long and technical, and the descent has real singletrack, some of it swoopy and sweet, some of it rocky and ridiculous. You won’t see anyone wining this on a road bike.

In the pro men, our favorite power-ripper Ariel Lindsley led for a while but succumbed to the power of some guy named Ned Overend. Ariel wound up third, with Ned and Nick Gould finishing first and second. Nina Baum took the pro women, with Ariel’s truckmate and evil better half Abigail Hippely finishing second. Funny: Abby hardly mentioned her XC race; all she wanted to talk about was downhill.


Shawn “Mini Mac” Neer boosts the road gap. Photo by Mike Eubank.

Oh yes. Again, we’re talking World Cup course and real mountain biking. Team Big Crank designed and built the sucker. I think those guys grabbed a deck of wide open ski runs with one hand and a deck of flowy woods with the other hand, then shuffled them like cards. They stacked like this:

– 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … Go!
– Wide open straight ski run
– Rocky, flowy woods
– Flat corners down the ski run
– Rooty, flowy woods
– Under the bridge
– Flat rock garden (rat tat tat!)
– Wide open ski run
– Wooden drop to ramp
– Fast, rocky woods
– Off camber turn to drop
– Fast woods
– Superfast ski run
– Flat pedalfest
– Monster hip to infinite landing
– Wide open ski run
– Short woods to road gap
– Kicker landing on infinite ski run
– Hyperspeed off camber
– Fast woods with a tricky chicane
– Wide open ski run
– Pump the roller and pedal to the line. Sweet!

David KlaassenVanOorschot rocked a 4:56.32. Chris del Bosco ran an untested second, and Luke Strom came from Australian summer to take third. Curtis Keene (the fastest electrician from Fremont, CA) gasped to a rocking sixth, tied with Golden, CO madman Willy Warren.

Melissa Buhl rolled a 5:43.41, with Michelle Dumaresq and Front Range Rocker Lisa Myklak six seconds back. The top ten men won money and got World Cup points so they can race the Angel Fire World Cup. Only the top four women got that treatment. Wendy “The Desert Pixie” Reynolds finished fifth, just one place beyond that coveted point. Bummer.

Hot amateur action: In expert 30-39, Phu Nguyen (Team Mojo Wheels) finally ran that perfect run, and he won the class. Nice work Phu! I raced semipro for the first time and finished 28th out of 40. Nice place to build from. Goal: top third.

And the SMBA dudes I coached did awesome! Joey Schusler rode like a champ and placed second in junior ex. Thanks to Curtis Keene’s help, Ben Gager rode the whole course (including the dreaded wood drop) and took fifth in junior beginner 17-18. And young Dylan Patterson kept his elbows out and head up, and he piloted his 24-inch Lens Sport like a precision instrument. He finished 7th in junior beginner 13-14, just ahead of Madision “Mad Dogg” Bailey (son of badass photographer and sport 40-49 champ Brian Bailey).

If you can come out for the World Cup, do it. Watch the top pros wring this course like a damp cloth, and race your amateur class while you’re at it.

Mountain Cross

Strommie leads the final into the last straight. It goes drop, medium table, big table, huge double.

One word: HUGE!

Again, World Cup course and the real deal. Seven straights, six banked turns, two drops and something like 16 jumps and rollers. The jumps ranged from little BMX rhythm to mongo Supercross. The final double is an honest 40 feet from lip to backside, and only a few characters boosted it, including #1 qualifier Ross Milan (43.21). While practicing for the final, Ross overshot the lead-in double and broke his collarbone. Heal fast Ross!

– Check out this video of Ross practicing the top of the course. 3.8 MB Quicktime style.

Check out the course! Not perfectly to scale, but pretty darn close.

Several pros and lots of amateurs skipped this event because of the magnitude and potential danger. Some of the lips on this fresh course were a bit funky, but overall the race was fun to ride and fun to watch. Luke Strom led pro men start to finish with James Stiber and Fast Jon Watt on his tail. Melissa Buhl crushed pro women while Michelle Dumaresq and Bobbi “Snap!” Watt chased.

Hot amateur action: In one of the junior classes a kid got balled up on a step-up double, and while he crouched over his bike another kid landed across his back and went on to advance. No harm, no foul. The entire sport men class did a Keystone Cops all the way down the course and wound up tangled on that same step-up. The only thing missing was the fast piano music.

SMBA rock star Joey Schusler rode smoothly, never gave up and finished seventh in junior ex. Ben Gager made a brilliant pass but crashed on that evil step-up and got eliminated in the round of 16. Great work by both dudes. By the end of the summer they will be killing it!

I’m working on a course diagram, and I’ll get it up asap.

Super D

Behold the future of our sport. Super D rewards cross country fitness and downhill skill, and you can run the same bike you ride every day. Again, this course was the real deal.

We ran uphill to our bikes then bombed straight down a ski run. While the sheep followed the double track, we wolves carved across the grass, through the baby heads and into the lead. A super-rocky descent led to another ski run, then to woodsy singletrack, then to a bastard of a climb. This was my first race in open/pro, and I was pinned going up that climb. As I teetered above my aerobic threshold Jon Watt came up, said something encouraging and motored away. That was the last I saw of him.

I diced with some very strong XC guys the rest of the way, gaining a second in every turn but losing major time in every pedaling section. I’m strong as a 36-year-old expert, but I’m worthless and weak compared to these dudes. After some swoopy singletrack we blasted wide-open dirt roads then sprinted uphill to the finish.

In open/pro men Mike West and Ariel Lindsley cranked their Mavericks to a 14:38 and 14:54 — a full minute off the front. Lyn Franklin was the fastest woman with a 17:46. I ended my 30+ Super D winning streak in 9th place, two minutes behind the tough guys. Let me say this: The top XC guys are not only strong; they also downhill like champs, and most of all, traffic and dust mean nothing to them. They just charge into the abyss, all Lycra and shaven legs and horsepower. Very impressive.

Full Chili Challenge results

Mountain States Cup