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Report by Gene Hamilton
Action shots by Justin Dawes

Downhill racing is alive and well in the US!  Despite having two winter downhill races on the same weekend (within 4 hours of each other) the turnout at both events was huge and the US racers are really stepping it up. It was sad that both the Fontana race and Bootleg Canyon race were held on the same weekend as I am sure many racers would of liked to go to both. I was coaching and racing at the Nevada State Championships in Bootleg Canyon so this report is on that race.

Riders hiking up for a practice run

The field was big, right around 200 racers and included the first ever single speed downhill race (designed to make pedaling less of a factor and skill more of a factor) put on by Canfield Brothers Bikes. The weather was bizarre, sunny and windy one moment, cold and rainy the next but by race time the sun was out and the track was tacky.

Here's an overview of the super rocky course courtesy of Dirt Corps and Matt Patterson:

Double-click to edit

The Junior Cat 1 15-16 had some super fast times. Dallas Pynchon (Joyride Cycles) and Kellen Lutz (Totally Wired) both ran 3:49’s but Kellen was faster with a 3.49.16 to snag second place ahead of Dallas’s 3.49.83 for third. That is tight racing! Luca Cometti laid down a smokin’ time that would of put him in 2nd in the 17-18 Cat 1 class, a 3.33.94 (Marzocchi). I think we will be hearing a lot from this young ripper in the future.

The Junior Cat 1 17-18 class was the second super fast class to start and was full of up and coming stars of the sport. Christian Wright (Commencal / EX Drinks) was looking great in practice put had a bobble in his race run and had to settle for 5th place. Anthony Marino finished 2 seconds ahead of Christen in 4th place while Steven Baldock edged out Anthony by .5 of a second for 3rd place. Another second faster was Brandan Bohl taking home second place and the big winner by 7.5 seconds with a time of 3.30.10 was Cody Kelly (Cafe Rio/Brothers Bikes/BetterRide). Cody is only 16 (racing age 17) and is definitely a threat with a time that would of put him in 17th in the stacked pro field!

The most anticipated class of the day was the single speed dh race! Okay, maybe not the most anticipated but probably the most fun class filled mostly with old pros out for a good time with pedaling too hard! Coming back from a snowboard accident that had laid him up for a month of no exercise until the Thursday before the race was Mike Fucci (All Mountain Cyclery/ Brothers). Former Redbull Rampage podium finisher Lance Canfield (Canfield Brothers) took fourth and yours truly, Gene Hamilton ( Brothers) earned 3rd place. The Battle for first was tight with Chris Canfield ( Brothers) finishing second and Jeff Frampton (owner of All Mountain Cyclery) winning the race on a 29er! (Don’t tell anyone) The single speed format was great and really made the racing tight, I hope this format catches on. Just think of the money in derailleurs that you could save.

Jeff Frampton on his way to a win in the Single Speed DH event

The Pro Women had a small but fast class with Cierra Smith (Specialized Allride) in her first pro race earning a bronze medal and Gabriela Williams finishing fast for second place. Jackie Harmony (All Mountain Cyclery/ TLD) would take the victory with a smokin’ 3.48.65. Jackie has been training hard this winter and has her eyes set on some top placings in the World Cups this year.

Gabriela Williams flying around a turn
Pro Women winner, Jackie Harmony
Before we get to the pro men I want to thank a few people for helping the sport. First, we all owe a big thanks to Brent Thompson for building such a fun playground for us. Second, I want to thank everyone who showed up to race, help out or cheer their friends on. The camaraderie at downhill races still reminds of the sport 15 years ago - people helping each other out, cheering for their competitors and having fun. Lastly thanks to Downhill Mike and the crew for coming all the way out from New York to put on the race. If you have never put on a race or volunteered it is hard, long and often thankless job.

Now for the pro class, which was stacked with fast young riders and a Redbull Rampage winner! I get the feeling that the top racers here are names that we will see at the top of the board through out the year. The racing was tight with 2nd through 12th place separated by less than seven seconds. In 12th with one of three 3.26s was Arthur Babcock who came all the way from New York for the race. Topping Arthur by just two hundredths of a second was Robert Stenson (Absolute Bikes Team) and taking the final spot in the top 10 was Naish Ulmer with a 3.26.44, eight hundredths of a second up on Robert. Erik Nelson ran a 3.25.52 for ninth while Cam Zink (Evil Bikes/Monster Energy/Oakley) went .16 of a second faster to earn an 8th place finish. It was great to see Rampage Champion ripping it up, having fun on the shuttle and looking very smooth on the race course. What other sport do the best in the world hang out with the amateurs?! 

Cam Zink making an appearance in the DH race scene.  Will we see more of him at the races?

Jon Widen (All Mountain Cyclery/ Brothers) decided to take a break from snowmobiling in Mammoth and race hop on his bike for the first time in months was rewarded with a 7th place finish, besting Zink by half a second. Yeti’s Tyler Immer was looking fast all weekend and ran a 3.24.01 to slot in at 6th place (I believe 6th through 1st were all 21 years old or younger). Look out World, here comes the young, fast North Americans. 

Mikey Sylvestri, second place finisher in Pro Men

The podium starts with Derek Teel who ran a 3.22.00 for 5th place (the best finish of his pro career (in a field of this caliber). Tyler Allison came down from Whistler to race and earned a solid 4th place with a 3.21.37. Shaving a full second off of Tyler’s time for third place on the podium was Bryson Martin. He threw down a 3.20.35 proving that he is quite a threat this year. Hailing from Truckee, CA and riding for the Specialized Allride Academy, Mikey Sylvestri ran a 3.19.69 to earn second place. Your Nevada State Champion, with a winning margin of 8.5 seconds, from Ogden, Utah, riding for Steve Peat Syndicate/Oakley/ Drinks with a time of 3.11.18, Mitch Ropelato!

Mitch Ropelato, crushing the Pro Men field by over eight seconds

The last race of the day (with the biggest field) was the open chainless race. 5th place went to local Las Vegas ripper Benjaman McClelland, 4th was Jr. 17-18 Cat 1 winner Cody Kelly, 3rd place belonged to Cam Zink. 2nd place was earned by Mikey Sylvestri (Specialized Allride) with a 3.30.86 and the winner of the chainless downhill was Mitch Ropelato (Steve Peat Syndicate/Oakley/ Ex Drinks) with a 3.29.62!

--- More Race Photos ---

--- Full Results ---

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