Bikers conquer Deer Valley Resort
July 1, 2008
Riders took big climbs and caught big air at the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) this weekend as hundred of bicyclists from around the world converged on Deer Valley Resort to test their skills in a handful of different competitions.
The NMBS is a string of races administered by the National Off-Road Bicycling Association incorporating both professional and non-professional athletes. These hardy individuals risk life and limb to ride cross country, run short track, bomb downhill, race dual slaloms and cruise super downhill.
far the longest of the events, the cross-country course stretches for seven miles in a loop around the rims near the Snow Park Lodge. Tom Spiegel of Team Big Bear, the events group that staged the race, said that the course may have been as much as 75 percent single-track. This meant that most of the course was so narrow that bikers could not pass and had to ride virtually single-file.
The course also featured some significant swings in elevation with a total of 1,100 feet in overall change. In fact, the course began with a significant climb just out of the parking lot and up a fire road before it worked its way toward some of the single-track. Some of the major descents along the track fell on single-track sections making it difficult for strong descenders to get around some of their weaker counterparts.
Both the professional men and women raced the cross-country course on Saturday and both races had notable finishes.
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The professional women took three laps around the course and Katerina Nash finished first with a time of 1:50.53. Nash, born in the former Czechoslovakia, has competed in three Olympic Games and missed representing her country this year due to a leg injury. Her leg now healed, Nash spent much of the race in the lead, finishing in front of Georgia Gould from Ketchum, Idaho to win her first-ever cross country NMBS race.
"(I) made my move on the second lap," she said. "Catherine (Luna Women teammate Catherine Pendrel) made a little mistake on the downhill (and I took that opportunity.)"
Local racer Jennifer Hanks, who finished in the 19th spot, said "I think this is the best race of the whole series."
The men’s race was even more of a nail-biter as Ryan Trebon and Jeremy Bishop dueled for the lead through most of the race. Just behind them for most of the race was Geoff Kabush, the top ranked racer in the United States, who threatened but never closed the gap.
Trebon hustled into the finish taking a solid lead in front of Bishop with a comfortable 40-second lead. Trebon said that he tried to keep tempo with Bishop for most of the race and made his move on the climbs, even though they were tough.
The top Utah finisher, Alex Grant of Salt Lake City, said that the Snowtop section was the most challenging porttion of the race and that the competition didn’t ever let up.
This short-distance event bares some resemblance to its skiing counterpart and launches bikers at fast speeds down a heavily-featured track. Riders make hairpin turns, jump over carved ruts and get launched by dirt ramps.
The professional and semi-professional riders took their finals in two-person heats. To advance to the next round, riders who made it past qualifying stages, relied on their combined times in the two heats. Those who hit gates, slipped gears or failed to properly stick a landing, could lose valuable seconds.
The highlight of the afternoon belonged to Aaron Gwin, who "gapped" or jumped over five moguls at the end of the course.
Park City resident Nick Van Dine, who finished in the top half of competitors in his first professional race, said that the course was fun although it was difficult. "One little mistake and you’re done," he commented.
Cameron Cole finished first in the professional men’s event and Melissa Buhl took first in the professional women’s race.
Riders broke out the heavy hardware for this event, literally. Adrenaline junkies seated on full-suspension bikes rushed from the top of the Homestake Lift at 8,100 feet to the base of the Silver Lake Express at 7,200 feet. Along the way, they jumped off walls, made dusty, quick turns and snaked through unstable and narrow trails.
In the men’s division, two Parkites finished in the top seven. Once again, Nick Van Dine placed, this time in the seventh spot, and his brother, Chris, grabbed a spot on the podium by riding into a fifth-place finish.
Parkites on the hill
Aside from the Van Dine brothers, other locals lit up the hill during professional and semi-professional competitions.
Tom Noaker and his Young Riders team did some damage in several of the cross-country races. Noaker won the expert level single-speed race on Saturday. Single-speed racers are tough breeds who choose to ride courses with minimal assistance from their bikes. Although Noaker expected a larger field of competitors, he said, "No matter what happens, you’re gonna get some stiff competition."
The Young Riders, a team of teenagers that Noaker coaches, took spots on the podium as well. Keegan Swenson finished second in the 16-and-under cross country race while his teammate, Conor Matthews, finished eighth. Ethan Fedor, Blake Wiehe and Parker Degray also had strong races.
Also of note, Whitney Thompson finished in fifth place in the expert Super D category. Super D is a modified version of the downhill race course that takes a few longer switchbacks to get down the hill.