Monday, August 1, 2011

Crankworx Colorado—yes, that's the name of a race

Tonight I feel like an old man: Three long days (at least 10 hrs each), five trips down the mountain, and a thrown-out-of-whack back will do that. But in retrospect, it's all worth it (except maybe the wrenched back). This weekend's UCI C1 Downhill race came off OK, and I feel that I had at least a small role in the outcome.
Yes Louise, that's 3,676 meters!
Winter Park, one of Colorado's premier winter destinations, is a cute little town on the other side of the Continental Divide. You see yourself how high incorporated land goes here—not just in dollars but in elevation. As a matter of fact, after annexing Winter Park resort a few years ago, WP could lay claim to being the highest incorporated town in the US. Peaks in the vicinity top out at more than 13,500 feet—for our European friends, that's more than 4,000 meters!

Crankworx is a commercially run mountain bike event that has the reputation of attracting some of the sport's most radical athletes to engage in pretty nutty activities. "Slope Style" riding involves multiple sets of man-made dirt ramps and other obstacles, with riders doing aerobatics worthy of motocross riders. "Sick" is a work that you hear a lot when milling around the crowds, meaning "this move was extremely courageous and rather innovative, with a dash of danger thrown in." Sick, indeed.
Some dude working the Slope Style competition
I didn't have anything to do with the "sick" stuff, although I can't really say that bombing down a 1.6-mile single-track dirt trail on the side of a ski-slope mountain is any less sick. The sport is similar to downhill skiing, where young men (and women) who obviously know no fear nor have any brain functions that register DANGER!!! hurl themselves from a starting platform to test equipment, body armor, and Lady Luck to be the fastest after a bit more than 4 minutes and a vertical drop of more than 1,000 feet.

My role was that of PCP, or the President of the Commissaires' Panel, for this UCI-sanctioned event. Refer to me as Chief Referee, and you have the nomenclature that USA Cycling uses. Working with (and "under") me were three other commissaires, all of whom have more experience in the sport than probably anybody else. Colorado-based Dean Crandall (who literally wrote the rulebook for mountain biking some 30 years ago), Sheri Barr (one of the best finish judges I have ever met and with whom I had worked at the Sea Otter Classic several years in a row), and Rogene Killen (whose son, Jimmy, was a fixture in US mountain biking for years) were my crew, and we had a grand time.
Winter Park is the second largest mtn. bike in the world!
My job consisted of riding the ski lift to the top, telling hapless racers that they could not race because of a snafu in their registration process, inspecting the course while walking down to the mountain's base, grappling with timing issues, walking down the mountain again, making sure we had the right start and finish facilities, walking back down the mountain, instructing course marshals while walking back down the mountain, and a few other minor things. It was a physically but also mentally taxing three days. I can't express enough gratitude toward my crew for working as a team and helping out as much as possible.
Winter Park and the Fraser Valley as seen from the Zephyr ski lift
It may have been taxing in many ways, but the job also involved riding the chair lifts to the start at the top of the mountain. The weather mostly cooperated, and you can tell from the accompanying pics how beautiful it was. The only rain we experienced came today (Sunday—the time stamp on this post is Monday) during the finals, and even then it was just a slight shower (which two hours later became a full-fledged thunderstorm that kept me from riding my bike).

I'm not going to bore you with race details. Like anywhere, there were (avoidable) problems, and there were aspects that were unexpectedly outstanding. It's always like that. Bob Holme, the race director, proved to be a competent, open, and communicative partner who honestly valued our presence. Crankworx has a huge reputation among the "sick" riders, and other participants (cross-country racers, families, etc.) had enough to do, too. The event's festival atmosphere was aptly condensed into the hilarious Intergalactic Pond Crossing, which saw riders attempting to cross a pond on a narrow board laid out on floating pontoons. It was a crowd pleaser, let me tell you!
The Intergalactic Pond Crossing in its early stages ...
... and the later stages
During my one "early" afternoon, I managed to ride all of 22 miles—good thing that American Airlines transports my Ritchey BreakAway for free. I had fun, and I worked hard. To think that somebody pays me 105 euro a day to go to such a place and work my ass off is a true pleasure! I can't think of a better gig.

There's so much more I could write, but quite frankly, I'm so tired that I'm almost falling off the chair. So that's it for tonight, folks. Next up: a trip to the Seattle area in about 10 days. Lubbock, I'm coming home!

Tomorrow I'll drive my rental car back to Denver International and fly home, to the land of the baking heat.


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