A royal, rugged visit | ParkRecord.com

A royal, rugged visit

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff

When Park City’s Chris VanDine got the call inviting him to be a part of the Jeep King of the Mountain 2007 Mountain Biking World Professional Championships at The Canyons Resort, he couldn’t believe his luck.

After turning pro just a year ago, the 27-year-old has spent most of his time competing at World Cup races in Europe far away from the mountains he calls home.

The exclusive event will be held Saturday, Aug. 4, and will feature competition between some of the nation’s best downhill mountain bike racers and a full day of activities.

Race director Ted Martin explains that at each series stop, they try to find local racers that can compete at the level of their top riders. He asked numerous area bike shops and local experts and VanDine’s name kept popping up.

"It’s going to be incredible," VanDine said about being asked to join the race. "They bring a new level of marketing, promotion and professionalism to mountain bike racing."

Having spent a year in top-level events, VanDine admits that he has taken a few lumps along the way, so he is entering this event with an open mind and no expectations.

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"I’m looking to learn and make it through a few rounds," said Van Dine, who is competing in the Crankworks Festival in Whistler, British Columbia this weekend.

He has been racing with most of the riders on the King of the Mountain tour all year long in World Cup competitions, so he knows what type of effort will be required. He is hoping, though, that with a local crowd behind him he will be able to push even harder.

Event marketer Denise Lavaroni said that the series decided to make a stop in Park City the first ever in Utah because if its ability to house both a great course and great entertainment.

"The competition aspect with the festival atmosphere it’s the perfect mix," Lavaroni said.

She says the series has been working hard with the Utah Sports Commission to make the race happen. Snowbird has hosted the winter skiing competition for a number of years and they wanted to have a presence in Utah in the summer.

"Utah is the perfect venue. The mountains and resorts abound," Lavaroni said. "We would love to continue working with the Canyons. I think it’s the ideal spot."

The course is built on a Y-design, somewhat like the typical snowboardcross or ski-cross venues complete with berms, jumps, rollers and other features. Two racers will start at the same time from different starts and meet up to race each other through the rest of the course. They then switch starting lines and race again to determine the winner. Martin said that The Canyons was perfect because they could place the finish line at the Plaza to give the event both a rugged and urban feel. The layout will also make the event easy for spectators to watch. Martin says that typically each race lasts about 40 seconds, which is also fan-friendly.

During the race, vendors will offer hands-on activities and prizes and the Canyons will wrap up the day with a concert on the plaza by The Supersuckers and Bonepony. The public can also meet the racers in the morning before the race begins.

VanDine hopes to see the presence of downhill mountain biking grow from more than just a few races each summer. He has spent the past few winters living in Salt Lake and says that the prospect of returning to Park City at the end of the racing season this fall is very exciting.

"I’m super excited to come back to Park City," VanDine said.

Most of his friends are living in Park City and he wants to start growing downhill racing in the area. He loves the cross-country trails that are already in place and envisions a mountain biking resort atmosphere in Park City that would be much like that in Whistler and other areas.

"I’d love to help bring new-school mountain biking to Park City," VanDine said. "It’s one of the best prospects in the U.S. It’s such a cool spot. It could compete as a top downhill mountain bike destination. I’d like to do my part to facilitate that."

According to Lavaroni, the World Professional Champions are crowned based on a system of cumulative points earned throughout the Jeep King of the Mountain Series, which will include three races to be held from August to September 2007. The winner will receive more than $100,000, and the keys to a new 2008 Jeep Liberty. In addition to the race at The Canyons, the series includes an event on Sat., Aug. 18 at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and a finale Sat., Sept. 1 at Beaver Creek Resort in Beaver Creek, Colo.

For more information visit http://www.jeepsports.com .

King of the Mountain box

11 a.m. – Meet the Pros Bike Clinic

2 p.m. – Athlete Training

3 p.m. – Interactive Expo Village Opens (Paul Mitchell Cut-A-Thon, plenty of prizes and giveaways for fans)

3:30 p.m. – Mountain Biking World Professional Championships Begin

5 p.m. – Award Ceremony at The Canyons Plaza

6 p.m. – Live Concert by the Supersuckers and Bonepony at The Canyons Forum