2019 Northstar Downhill Race Series champions crowned
A four-time champion and a 20-year-old, who returned after a five-year absence, were crowned series winners on Sunday following the final race of the 2019 Northstar Downhill Race Series.
South Tahoe’s Tasha Thomas and Santa Rosa’s Duncan Nason capped off the downhill bike race series at Northstar California Resort with podium finishes to capture the overall title in the five-race series.
Nason, 20, returned to compete in the entire series for the first time as a pro rider, and put together a dominant run with wins in four of the five events and a second-place finish in the other.
“In the past I was never around to compete in the whole series, so I didn’t even bother, and then I was home every weekend for the series this year, so I figured might as well do it.”
Nason won the series as a 12-year-old, competing in the youth division, and said he wanted to add a pro title to match the one he’d earned as a youngster.
“I wanted to get the overall just because I had it as a kid too,” he said.
During this past race season Nason also competed in Enduro World Series Events in New Zealand, Australia, Portugal, and also at Northstar, where he finished second in the U21 division.
Though he’s raced all around the world this past summer, Nason said returning to the place he rode in his youth was the highlight of the season.
“It was cool to kind of be back to my home roots and do that series, because I did it growing up,” said Nason.
“I’ve been racing for a while now, and I’ve never rode anywhere that compares to Northstar — just like it being super rocky, super high speed, and a lot of consequences if you were to crash. And that type of dirt, you just can’t find it anywhere else. It’s like a weird powder, that once you get used to it you can actually find a lot of traction in it.”
Of the five courses racers competed on, Nason said the second event, which featured the Northstar’s Dog Bone trail was the most difficult.
“That was the gnarliest one out of all of them,” said Nason on the downhill event that he won by more than six seconds.
Nason captured first place in the series with a perfect score of 100 points (top four performances count toward the overall series).
“It was awesome to have everyone out there and to have Eric (Whitaker) put on such a cool series, and doing the finals on (Tell No Tales) which is super fun — new track, they built it for the EWS, and they did a good job building it,” said Nason.
“Overall, those guys killed it with the course selection. There was never any hiccups with timing, and it was cool to be on the home course just racing with friends. It was awesome.”
Austin Fotinos finished the series in second place with 54 points. Danny Manning was third with 40 points.
Thomas makes it four straight
Defending three-time tour champion, Tasha Thomas, of South Lake Tahoe, came into the season after suffering a number of injuries in 2018, including a broken collarbone.
The 41-year-old physical education teacher at Tahoe Valley Elementary School overcame mental battles from past injuries, balancing the risk and reward of pushing to reach the bottom of the course faster than anyone else to win the pro women’s series title for a fourth straight year.
“Mentally it was a little tough at the beginning of the year just coming back from injuries and being so worried about getting injured again,” said Thomas. “I think it took me a couple of races to get my head back in the game and know what I wanted — just to push as hard as I could. It’s a fine line.”
After opening the season with a fourth-place finish, Thomas picked up a win in the next race before closing the season with runner-up finishes in two of the three final races to win the championship by two points. Ashli Lewis finished in second place with 75 points, and Sara Schneider was third with 67 points.
During her race career, Thomas has had a litany of injuries that she’s overcome, including a shattered foot, broken tibia, and compound fracture in her arm in which she broke her ulna and radius.
“I think injuries just make you stronger,” she said. “Every time I’m hurt, I just have this feeling like I gotta come back stronger. I gotta come back faster. I gotta come back better. I gotta not let where I broke myself stay in my head and torment me. I’ve got to get past that.”
When not flying down mountain trails or teaching, Thomas also coaches riders, helping to bring up the next generation of downhill racers.
“I do summer camps all summer long for Lake Tahoe Community College,” she said. “I teach intermediate and advanced camps, and girls’ beginner camps all the way to advanced.”
Thomas has also been nominated for one of Tahoe Daily Tribune’s inaugural Lake Tahoe’s Remarkable Women awards.
Other series winners crowned this past weekend include: Dan Krenicki, pro men 30+; Dylan Maples, boys’ 13-17; Tyler Maples, men 18-29; Eli Wolverton, men 30-39; Zachary Cowan, men 40-49; Mario Gallardo, men 50+; and Jayme Beratlis, women.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.