It’s been over a month since I’ve been under the tutelage ofpro downhill bike racers. Still,not a day of riding has passed without me crashing and flying through dirt athigh speed. I have put every piece of armor to use, and I was evendeveloping perma-cramps from braking in my hands for a little while. So clearly,it was time to put all this work to the test.
Fortuitously, nearby Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyoming,has been building up their summer downhill biking scene, and is holding theirDownhill Race Series for the second year.
The course at Targhee is a long one by DH race standards; about7 minutes for the fastest riders, a few minutes longer than average. It is also, according to othercompetitors, considered a bit ‘pedaly.’ As in, you might actually have to take a pedal stoke or two. (So I hopethat my Kona CoilAir Deluxe, being of slightly more freeride construction, willgive me a bit of an advantage on this course.)
Downhilling attracts more guys than girls, and on race day,there are over 10 guys for every girl. Unfortunate, but the tide seems to be shifting. Hey, at least I canclaim to be part of some kind of change.
Even though this was a local race and not part of a largercircuit, you never know who will show up at these things, so I had no idea whatto expect. The race takes place in a best-of-two-runsformat, and during each, the women’s class saw a bunch of mechanical problems. Against advice, I did a mediocre job of tuning my bike(i.e. I lubricated the chain and called it good). But mybike didn’t fail me. I finished with the fastest women’s time and even beatsome of the guys (woohoo!).
The second run I tried to beat my initial time. It was going well, until I collided with a huge rock in the trail, apparently at thewrong angle. I landed solidly on my shoulder. Thankfully, since my surgeon sewed it up last year (with Kevlar thread and some screws) after some skiaccidents-it stayed firmly in place. I bruised my other palm, and had tospend some time looking for my bike. I ultimately found it in the weeds nearby. It turns out the slower second time didn't hurt me, because my first run time held.
So I think that by now, I can conclude downhilling is aworthwhile endeavor. I’ve seen the light. Friends have been telling me DH biking is like a powder day, every run,all summer, but who could believe that? (I actually made a bet against it,which it looks like I‘ve lost.) I’vecome out of this project with some girls to ride with, new friends, an enormousshiny belt buckle, and a new way to get rid of what little extra money I mayhave.
photo: Brigid Mander