This sign should read: Welcome to the home of the harshest environment you will ever ride. The brutally rough and rocky terrain, matched with scorching heat, proved challenging to say the least.
Take a ride down the course with Evan Turpen and read his race report below
So it's been almost two years since I've ridden or raced a downhill bike and I thought the Bootleg Canyon ProGRT would be a good way to get back into it.
With over 50 pro men entered including, Aaron Gwin, Logan Binggeli, Mitch Ropelato, Mikey Sylvestri, Art Babcock and many more, this was a competitive race.
The course was a challenge for all. Long, rough, rocky, steep, loose and pedally were all words that could be used to describe it. Over the course of the weekend, ruts and braking bumps developed making it feel like a proper DH course from top to bottom.
With Gwin making his first appearance on his new Specialized ride, everyone was curious to see how he'd go. This would be his first race back since World Championships last year and admittedly he had just recently got back on the DH bike.
Qualifying in an uncharacteristic 4th place, nearly 7-seconds off the pace, all eyes were on Mikey Sylvestri and the KHS duo of Logan Binggeli and Kevin Aiello come the finals. Was Gwin really beatable?
Gwin set a blisteringly fast 3:46 and change, bettering his seeding by almost ten seconds, but only a couple seconds faster than Sylvestri's number one qualifying spot. There was a sense of intensity in the air at the finish. Everyone could feel something was going down. Kevin Aiello was next and couldn't best Gwin's time. Then it was Logan's turn...he was on pace. It was going to be close, really close. I don't know if it's the 650b-wheeled KHS DH rig or the massive destruction Logan has had racing the Fontana winter series, but he pulled the victory, by a mere 16 hundredths of a second!
All eyes next went to Sylvestri. He was fast, real fast, but seemed to fade slightly at the bottom final sprint and eventually fell just off the pace of his quali on a 3:48 for 3rd place. I swear though that Mikey is the wild card and will definitely pull out a big finish sometime this season. Hopefully when it most counts. Pretty sure he was one of the only pro's racing on worn out tires, too, at least what I could see on the rear while pushing up for my race run. He's got pace and I've got faith.
As for me...my first race back went well. I guess quite a bit better than I could have expected. A crash in seeding put me in 28th. Then taking 18 seconds off that time to secure myself a top 20 finish in 13th. I was happy and feel like there's a lot more left in the tank.
One thing is for sure though, DH racing is alive and well and it's going to be one amazing season! Can't wait to see how it all unfolds...
Credit: Dan Severson 2013
Credit: Dan Severson 2013