‘I love it out here’: Riders battle for dual slalom glory at Truckee Bike Park
The tension begins to build in a pair of young riders as they sit atop the dual slalom course at Truckee Bike Park, awaiting the gate to drop on the season’s first competition.
Soon they launch down the course, racing in adjacent lines, pushing faster and faster through rollers and berms before one pulls slightly ahead as they reach the finish line at the bottom.
“I beat you again,” one youngster says to another as they bump fists after the first-round matchup. “But it was a good race — a really good race.”
The battle was one of many at the Truckee Bike Park last Saturday afternoon as riders ranging from ages 6 to adults gathered for the year’s first competitive event at the park, dual slalom racing. The format featured riders going head-to-head in an elimination-style bracket.
“I always knew they had a slalom course, and since I was here for the summer I could actually race it,” said Sacramento’s Sumi Yuki, who made the trip to Truckee and outpaced a handful of riders to capture first place in the women’s division. “It’s definitely something I wanted to try.”
Yuki, who races collegiately at Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky, said the competition was her first at Truckee Bike Park.
“You have to really believe and have faith in your tires going into those turns,” she said on the course, which takes riders from the start line to the finish in less than 30 seconds.
“I thought this was a really nice course,” she added. “Skill-wise, it was close.”
For the past several years one man has ruled over the competitions at the bike park.
The dominance of George Stephenson has resulted in Truckee Bike Park co-founder Brooks McMullin reaching out to other competitors via the BeatGeorge hashtag on the bike park’s Facebook page ahead of competitions. Still, no athlete would be able to answer the call as Stephenson again took home first place.
“I’ve had about three or four seasons out here and I’ve won almost every one of them,” said Stephenson on racing at the park. “Every time I go out here, (McMullin) throws up the challenge for anybody and everybody to come out and beat me.”
Stephenson outlasted the field in Saturday’s season opener, taking advantage of the No. 1 seed as he topped his opponent in the semifinals before outpacing pro mountain biker Danny Manning in the finals to take the win.
“It’s such a short course, I mean you’re talking 20 to 22 seconds,” said Stephenson on being fast on the dual slalom course. “Everything from the gate start to hitting the corners in the perfect spot is key. There’s such a small margin for error that you have to be dialed. Getting a good snap out of the gate, I think what that does is kind of gets in the head of the guy next to you. If you’re ahead of him, he’s kind of chasing the rabbit.
“It was sick, I love it out here. I’ve got my 6-year-old son Alister here, and it’s cool to see him come here and watch his dad win.”
Going forward, the next generation of riders will have to contend with Stephenson’s son, who was itching to make his competitive debut.
“He was actually bugging me to race … he’s always been afraid of the gate start, but today all of a sudden he was just sending it. So, he would’ve been ready today, but next time he’s definitely going to start racing.”
The day’s dual slalom event featured racing in the amateur division as well, which was won by 14-year-old Kai Morgan, who moved up out of the 11-14 age group to top four other racers for first place. There were also brackets for ages 6-10 and 11-14, which brought in roughly a dozen youngsters for the year’s first competition.
The competitive season at the bike park will now move to the straight rhythm section for a round of racing, which will be held on Saturday, Aug. 10. The bike park will then host its biggest event of the year, the Little Big Bike Festival and Skills Clinic, on Sept. 21-22. The annual event, which usually is held in spring, was moved to late summer this year due to the amount of snowfall leftover from winter, and features skills clinics for all levels of mountain biking and a variety of competitive events.
For more information or to register for upcoming events at the bike park, visit TruckeeBikePark.org.
“I’m just stoked that (Cortney Knudson and McMullin) maintain this place,” said Stephenson. “This is the best bike park … I’m stoked to have this here.”
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.