Clear-Cut Line Choices - Pro GRT Port Angeles Track Walk

Round two of the the Pro GRT is underway in the damp and slick Pacific Northwest with spirits at an all-time high.

Clear-Cut Line Choices - Pro GRT Port Angeles Track Walk

Washington's Olympic Mountains are a staggering sight. Jagged peaks poke up from behind dark ridgelines of conifer trees, with low, dense clouds drifting through the spaces in between. The temperate rain forest is dense and green, creating a mystical feeling as you gaze into the thick vegetation.

Story, photos and interviews by Zach Faulkner

The backdrop to Port Angeles is stunning.

This is Sasquatch country, and it slowly becomes easier to understand how a big hairy beast could hide away in the hills here.

The potential for moments of science are common at Salt Creek.

The region was first explored by Spanish explorer Franciso de Eliza, who claimed the land for Spain and in the process named it Puerto de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Port of Our Lady of the Angels). Native tribes traded with the new-comers, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that Euro-Americans started to properly settle in the area. Initially, a small village comprised of fishermen and whalers was built, and then in 1856-1857, the first proper settlers moved into the region.

The woods are super dense here on the Olympic Pennisula. You never know who's watching.

In 1859, President Abraham Lincoln designated 3,520 acres at Port Angeles as a federal reserve for lighthouse, military, and naval purposes. 1890 saw the city dubbed the “Second National City” because it was the only other place than Washington D.C. to be officially laid out by the federal government. 1914 saw the construction of a large mill and railway as a boom in logging took off in the area, jump-starting the local economy after a small regional depression. That industry has carried on strong through the century, only finally being challenged as the breadwinner once tourism began to become a mainstay for local businesses.

Steve Walton has some interesting race preparation techinques. #weapon

Welcome to Port Angeles.
The logging industry still reigns supreme in the Pacific Northwest.

There was a lot of downtime before Track Walk. Luca Cometti and Steve Walton took to skipping stones.

Lars Sternberg liked "Van Life", but wanted a little more, ergo "Mini Bus Life". Loam High, time to get educated.

Lars hits the books in the audio

Now, in 2017 we are here for the second round of the Pro GRT, USA Cycling's national-level downhill series. The race is being held at the infamous Dry Hill track, and it’s looking anything but. Rain is in the forecast, and it’s already made itself known during track walk. It looks like we are going to be in for a wet weekend, but riders are still excited to get on track and slide around in the new, fresh-cut section of trail. This venue is one of the highest-attended events, consistently drawing over 400 riders on regular race weekends – there were over 600 entrants to this race last year. With a stacked Elite field already onsite and scoping lines, the weekend is shaping up to be a wild one! Stay tuned for the action from practice!

Dylan Conte taking a breather after a solid hike to the top of the hill.

Dylan Conte, from the East Coast by way of 3 month road trip in audio

It's wet right out of the gate. Dylan Conte and I hiked up the road to the top, and at the start straight caught everyone who walked up the track for their ascent.

Steve Walton, giving away no secrets in audio...other than the fact he almost wadded on the walk up.

The holes have filled with water, so it's going to be a game of avoiding the puddles - many of which are in the middle of the track.
Too much power for this rider.
Dylan Conte, one man's misfortunte is another man's steez.

Max and JIll walked down the hill, discussing the inside lines.

Max Morgan, stoked on the wet!

Sick whips will be happening here, and perhaps some bathroom pitstops.

Whip Etiquette 101

This scorched log was allegedly lit aflame during last year's race from pure speed of an unknown passing rider...or it was lightning, believe what you want.
This region of the pennisula is actually considerably more dry than the rest of the state due to being in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains.  So, the stumps only need to be cut horizontally, and not in the typical hatching pattern.
The lush greenery is hard to believe at first.  Being a temperate rainforest, the region is densely grown-in.

The Dry Hill track has some big gaps if you're willing to pull up and hang on.

Steve Walton on the Gnar Gap and Bruce Klein being The Hulk

Track Walk was a seriously social affair, with a lot more banter about the goings on than line choice.

Ryen Melton providing the perfect sample for the next Top 40 MTB hip hop song.

This is The Orange Stump.  Not an offical course marker, but notable enough for riders to already be using it as a reference point.
The saw dust from the Orange stump was fashionably matched to Ryen Melton's L.L. Bean boots. #mtbfashion

Custom stickers will always be cool; Luca Cometti reminding us to keep it creative.

Luca Cometti, totally, seriously committed to taking out Tanner Stephens.

The rain started to fall about half way down during the walk, Sean Bell was prepared.
In 18hrs from when this photo was taken, this spot will be multiple ruts with tire tracks and the foot prints of excited riders will be erased.
Just in case you get lost on the way down.

A living legend; Smokey was sending it long before Larry Enticer had even discovered denim.

No train gaps, no problems. Smoky in audio.

A new huck has a few people looking at line choice, but mostly everyone was just pumped to have a formerly boring section livened up.
Caption these converstations...

Ben Furby on the new Yumps.

This lone flower on the side of the track was a surprising find.

Juniors like to huck.  Steve Walton hiked back up to do this a second time for the camera.
An unknown builder put their seal of approval on this freshly packed corner.

Tanner Stephens, hyped to ride after a long drive. (Listen in for car ride music suggestions).

Tanner Stephens, 2016 winner and road trip advice columnist

Budweiser Factory Racing.

"We were losing money if we didn't buy these," Budweiser / Wal-Mart Factory Racing

The light seems to turn on and off here at Dry Hill. With heavy cloud cover, it felt like it was nearly night time mid-day.

One of the nicest people you'll meet in the world of MTB, Ella Skalwold is noticeably excited for the weekend to get underway.

Ella Skalwold at her first Pro GRT

These flames will be roaring all weekend.
We are in Lumberjack territory after all.
The Furbie brothers have a mean van.  Nate and Luca Commetti talk about the finer points of Van Life.
Seriously, this van is legit(imately scary looking).

It's going to be an all-time weekend of #USDH racing, so stay tuned to Vital MTB for the goods.

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