Friday, September 10, 2010

Grassroots Race Team @ Winter Park

A few of the last standing Grassroots racers went up to Winter Park for the last Gravity race of the Mountain States Cup Race Season. Pete Knepper, Kazzy Saito, & I (Eric Landis) made the trip and got 3 days of great riding over the Labor Day Holiday Weeekend. Noah Sears with MRP also traveled with us and is a virtual local to the Winter Park Resort. He is always great company and an even better tour guide on a mountain I had never ridden before.

Things Kicked off Saturday with Dual Slalom. The course was pretty short and not too technical so the start was very important. Once on course attacking the gates was key and being careful on the hard packed, slick soil.

Kazzy is always a factor in the Cat2 30+ class and showed well. I heard his name announced multiple times over the course of the competition and finished well in a large class in 8th.

I had a great qualifying run and to my surprise was in 2nd place in Mens Pro right behind Chris Boice a factory supported rider going into the finals. I ended up going up against Michael Buell and kept him honest but he knocked me out for a 5th place finish.

Down Hill Was not until Monday so we all had a play/practice day on Sunday. We walked and rode the DH race course in the morning then got to go for some play runs on some of the amazingly long & large and well built runs. Noah Sears with MRP put together this great video of some of the action:

Monday for the actual down hill race was pretty cold. It caught a few of us by surprise and the cold air actually affected breathing and even our hands. I started first with my qualifying run that went pretty well. There were rumors of the pros running chainless but I decided to run with chain on to see what I could do so I could compare times with my teammate Pete Knepper. I qualified in 5th and felt pretty good with a 6:45.

Kazzy went next and with a good run he finished in the middle of a stacked field in 11th.
Pete dropped in and went for it. This was an extremely physical course and was difficult to ride the whole thing linked together. Pete had been killing all the most difficult lines in practice and even did a scary rock double I was afraid to try and never did do. I knew he would do well no matter what and he came across the line strong with a 3rd place finish in Cat1 19-29 with a 6:52.

In my finals all of the Pros did decide to go chainless and it was a very fun and relaxed atmosphere at the top. Usually the Pro staging is super stiff and a little umcomfortable with the competition in the air but this time everyone was joking around and were pretty loose. They even made a unofficial rule that you could not "run start" & only push out of the gate twice. I kind of felt dumb but I gave my 2 best pushes and rolled slowely into the first drop feature. I almost endoed trying to pump it too hard but was on my way. I obviously had to focus on not braking and keeping my momentum by pumping the terrain and staying low to avoid wind resistance.

As I went down I was surprised how fast I was able to go even with out pedaling. I was even more surprised to find how hard it was physically. I was worked! My whole body and especially my leggs could not hardly hold me up from crouching and pumping every little bump. I came across the line with a 6:52 putting me in 9th place, my 2nd top 10 of the year in DH. It felt great and I could not believe I was only 7 seconds slower than my mad pedaling run. I learned a ton about what I can do besides pedaling to go fast & I look forward to the next race.

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