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Wow! That is all I can say about Highlands Bike Park, the Claymore Challenge, my trip with Gail there, and about all of the people involved. Highlands Bike Park is run by a passionate man, Mark Hayes with an equally devoted crew of workers and volunteers. Dave Smutok designed an awesome course and his crews worked tirelessly to ensure that it was running flawlessly for the event. Dave unfortunately was not able to ride due to the weather and his devotion to the park, but all of the riders were grateful and appreciative to Dave’s sacrifice so the rest of us could ride.

The Claymore Challenge was in its second year. This year there was a large list of top Pros invited to the event with two qualifiers for the event held. One a few weeks ago and then a Last Chance Qualifier held the day before the event. Being from Boulder, CO, I was unfortunately not able to attend the qualifier at Highlands a few weeks ago, so Gail and I flew out for the LCQ. Three riders were taken from the LCQ to the Finals. I was able to put together 2 solid runs and qualified in the top spot for the finals out of the LCQ.

The finals were awesome. Quite a bit of rain dropped Friday night and the course was pretty saturated for morning practice. The lower half of the course was only slightly modified from last years Claymore, but the top was all new, so it had not been weathered in yet and thus held more water. After some digging and buffing by the Highlands crew and us, the riders, the lower half of the course was running and running perfectly. The rain allowed us to fix up some lips and get them dialed in for the finals. For the finals, the top two features were not running due to the moisture, so we started just above the step down. Smutok was about to open the top two features for the super finals. The top 10 from the finals went to the super finals.

The entire event was amazingly well put together. The entire Highlands Bike Park crew works hard and is very friendly. Kara Chase was the energizer bunny all weekend and was working the entire time to make sure the riders were taken care of with food, water, beer, and that the logistics were handled appropriately. The lift guys were quick to unload your bike when getting off the lift. The bike shop was well stocked and was more than willing to loan a tool to keep your bike running. The food at the lodge was the best I have ever had at a bike or ski resort. This was a very well run event and mountain. The only downside, I did not get to ride everything. There are a ton of trails at Highlands and the ones I rode were top notch. The dirt jumps are on of the highlights for me, but the trails are great as well.

It is truly remarkable that this place has not completely taken off and been compared to Whistler yet. Looking around the mountain, I saw no less the 50 features or jumps from recent Disorder films and DH Productions films. They were all over and more things were being built for upcoming films.

While I did not qualify for the super finals, I had two god clean runs and after seeing what did qualify for the super finals, I know that with some work and a little more time riding my Transition Double, I am not far from making a final. I started to get my Supermans sorted out and dialed so they aren’t “Wonky” anymore. I also was getting my Superman seatgrabs pretty stretched. The rest of my tricks are becoming pretty automatic, I just need to step up the amplitude on them and sending them over bigger gaps.

In my two finals runs, I put down a line only attempted by two riders previously, Clint and Tyler. After the quarter pipe, I sprinted straight at the 8 foot tall spine and transfered about 25 feet to an overgrown, unused landing. It was a pretty loose cannon line, but I thought it necessary to use a different side of the course to set myself apart. The line went well and was pretty fun. All in all, I am becoming more comfortable riding in front of larger crowds and keeping my head and putting down clean and smooth runs. I tricked every jump on the course. (Good call Turman)

Gail and I went to Lake Winnipausakkee and went to Weirs Beach to hang out, play some games, eat the “Best Crabcake you will ever eat”, watch a movie at a drive in movie theater, and just hang out. It was really cool. We got to meet some locals and ate at great little restaurant. The trip there and back isn’t the best due to lengthy layovers and tough to get flights, but it certainly was a worth while trip!

Get to Highlands soon. I know I will be back as soon as I can get the time off work to do so. The place is super fun, very well put together and is taken care of by a 40 person staff. There are bigger resorts that hail themselves as major bike parks with less people than that! This park is not just for pro either, there are nice easy dirt jump lines along with nice flowing single track. There truly is something for everyone at Highlands Bike Park.
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