Race Report by Liam O’Neil, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team. Racing Photos: PB Creative
This weekend I braved cold, wind, rain, hail and a flat tire in the Nevada desert, but came away with my first win in dual slalom.
The DVO Nevada State Gravity Championship took place at Bootleg Canyon near Boulder City, Nevada Jan. 19-21. Like the other races in the DVO Winter Gravity Series, it featured downhill, enduro, and is one of the few within driving distance to include dual slalom. I raced my first DS race last year at Sea Otter and have been waiting for another chance. Races at Bootleg are pretty similar to Southridge races at Fontana; it’s a little mountain with shuttles, vendors, friendly riders and a cool vibe. It’s right near Hoover Dam, which is worth a visit and going on the tour.
I was really looking forward to racing my new Polygon TridZZ that I special ordered from The Path. The weather report looked perfect earlier in the week, but Saturday afternoon when I showed up to practice, I could see rain off in the distance in the desert.
The qualifiers were scheduled for 4 p.m., with the races heading down after dark. We each would get one timed run that would determine our race brackets for head-to-head racing. Because the races were set for after dark, they had a company there setting up these cool helium balloons with lights to illuminate the course. Unfortunately, the winds were so strong, it was like they were trying to fight one of the Macy’s parade balloons in a hurricane.
Right when our qualifying runs were about to start and most of us were at the top of the hill, it started raining. Then, it started HAILING. Luckily, the storm passed pretty quickly, leaving us with some hero dirt but a cold bite in the air. We got through all 70 or so racers’ qualifying runs and they posted up the times. Now they had to put together the brackets, which generally start with the fastest racers in each category racing the slowest, and moving on elimination style to the semi-finals and then finals.
The bracket-crunching gave the lighting folks the chance to work their balloon magic. They managed to get up about four lights on the course, and some spectators filled in the gaps with headlights from their cars parked by the finish line. I got a bye for my first bracket, and two wins -- one in each lane -- in my semifinal. In dual slalom, you race your bracket competitor once in each lane (orange and green in this case). I found the orange one to be the slower lane.
Winds were whipping at the top of the hill in the starting gate and temperatures were around 40 degrees. On my first run in the final, I was out ahead but I could feel my tire starting to lose air. It was almost completely flat when I crossed the finish line. I still managed a win and grabbed my floor pump out of the truck. My mom hiked with me and the pump up to the starting gate for my last run. I aired up the tire just before my turn and hoped we wouldn’t have to wait long in the gate. Fortunately, I made it down to the bottom and got the win. I was so excited to win my first dual slalom race!
It was getting late and everybody was freezing cold, so they held a hasty awards ceremony. I was honored to get the USA Cycling gold medal for CAT 3 at the Nevada State Gravity Championships! And even better, I got to pick a great prize from the array laid out in the back of Downhill Mike’s truck!
I’m already looking forward racing dual slalom in the DVO Mob N Mojave at Bootleg Canyon President’s Day weekend! I’ll be sure to bring a spare tube, a parka and an umbrella this time!