New to town: Chalk Creek 4X action

Originally posted March 31, 2004. I had just moved to Colorado, and this event blew me away. I’ve been racing and teaching at Darner’s ranch for going on four years now, and it’s even better now.

Thanks to Josh McGuckin from motionboy and cameracourage for the photos.

The deal

Early season local-style mountain cross races run by Keith Darner of RPM/Yeti and Eric Jean from Cycle Cyndicate. Out in Nathrop, between Buena Vista and Salida on Highway 285. They raced on both Saturday and Sunday, but I only hit Saturday. Here’s my report:

The conditions

Cold and windy! It was 30-40 degrees here around 8,000 feet. Snow flurried in the nearby mountains, and a few flakes made it our way. Everyone seemed to be freezing arse, at least until racing started. The wind made the final straight sketch-o-riffic. For a boy from California, this was both a shock and a treat.

The course

Think of a nice, flowy BMX track, only downhill.

Get a few strokes out of the ABA gate, suck up a steep roller then hammer to the first corner. If you’re on the inside, early-apex it and cut off the rest of the gang on the berm. Pump a dip, float a step-up then backside into a nice left. Pump that baby and swing into a 180 right. Pedal! Clear the table into another 180, get in a few strokes then hit the crux rhythm section. Most fast guys rolled the first bump, sucked up the face of the table, doubled from the table to the back of a roller, then doubled into the right berm. Land as high to the left as you can and carry speed to another step-up. Careful though: This guy is easy to over clear. Puuuump the smooth roller, then sail over the table. Pedal! Manual, roll or jump over the last four rollers, then you’re done. Whew!

The builders — Keith, Eric, Ross Milan and others — really nailed this course. I could ride it all day long. Wait … I did!

The format

The normal way: You get a qualifying run. The promoters fry their feeble brains trying to set up the brackets. The fast guys race the slow guys, with the fast guys picking their gate positions. The top two advance toward the finals. The slow guys spend the rest of the day spectating. “Yay! I drove four hours for this!”

The Chalk Creek way: No qualifying. Names come out of a hat and go directly into brackets. At the line, everyone draws cards for their positions. If you end up in Lane 4 with Steve Wentz, Jon Watt and Ross, too bad for you! After the first round, the top two advance in the “primary” bracket, and the bottom two keep going in the “secondary” bracket. On Saturday, all of the experts got to go three rounds, with the last round deciding the final placing. Not that anyone cared about the result sheet. We were stoked to keep riding the course.

The action

There was lots of great racing: slips, recoveries, passes, power and deviousness. A good 4X is like taking a week’s worth of riding drama and boiling it to 30 seconds. Great fun. Highlights:

The mighty Jon Watt owned the pro class.

Michael “Pepe” Ontiveros went 1-1-1 in in the open expert class — in khaki pants, yellow polo shirt and his trademark green jacket. This guy rides so smoothly you’ll never guess he’s fast — until you see three good experts trailing behind him. Very impressive.

Bobbi Watt controlled the women’s races, but Lisa Myklak makes her work harder every time. Clash of the titans, baby!

I raced in the open expert class, against all the junior punks and everyone else. In round one I cramped everyone’s style in the first berm and led the rest of the way. Round two was mayhem. I don’t even know how many times I passed or got passed, but I wound up No. 2 behind TJ, which is fine with me. The final was stuffed with tough characters, and I drew gate three for the start. Ouch. I looked for every opening, but I didn’t find any against these fast dudes. I hit the crux rhythm at about 80 mph, hoping to take the inside line and low-high them in the last berm, but I lost my pedals, exploded and caught total front side on my ass. It hurt so badly I thought I’d shat my pants. Oh, well. That’s 4X!

After racing, everyone sessioned the rhythm, did coaster races (Bobbi and Lisa were beating me with one stroke each), and basically digging the fellowship. I’ve only been living in Colorado for a couple months, but I’m stoked on the scene. And let’s not even talk about Sea Otter. After I win everything, they’re gonna ban me for my high-altitude hematocrit!

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