Fat-tire fest enjoys record turnout
The large crowds that turned out to see the biggest and most diverse Tahoe Fat-Tire Festival ever in its 10-year history were rewarded with warm weather and a number of close races in several events over the weekend at Squaw Valley.
“It was amazing, by far the most people we’ve ever had,” said Aaron Martin, the event’s director. “We had about 15,000 people over the final three days.”
In two of the six-day mountain bike festival’s most popular events – the Gravity Downhill Series and first stage of the BikeTrial World Championships – the titles were decided by a few points or fractions of a second, depending on the contest.
In the men’s downhill final Sunday afternoon, Myles Rockwell overcame a slow start and sickness to nip Phillip Tintsmen for the win and vault to the overall Gravity God title by a single point.
“I was last out of the gate, I timed it a little too early,” Rockwell said. “But after the first two turns I had the lead and after that I was aggressive and felt good.”
Rockwell, whe rides for Cannondale, said he was just getting over bronchitis, but that it didn’t affect him very much on the way to his first victory of the year after he beat out Tintsmen by only a few feet at the bottom of Red Dog.
“He took us after the first few corners, drafted a little bit and took it,” said Tintsmen of Rockwell. “He rode really well and he deserved it.”
Tintsmen said the course was extremely tricky and that it was nearly impossible to make any sudden moves in attempted passes at speeds up to 55 mph.
“The course was slippery-fast, almost scary-fast,” Tintsmen said. “But it was good for the crowd.”
Jurgen Beneke came in just a few feet behind Tintsmen and fourth-place Nick Feid, the defending overall champion, was well off the pace after having problems with his chain.
Rockwell’s victory in the final race of the day put him one point up on Feid, 56-55, for the Gravity God title, a combined score in downhill, dual slalom and dirt criterium – BMX-style racing. Rockwell, however, didn’t place in the top three in the other two events, with Feid taking the criterium ahead of Joe Lawill and Jeremy Purdy. In dual slalom, Shaun Palmer beat out Kirt Voreis and Colin Baily.
“I’m excited but a little disappointed,” Feid said of the Gravity God race. “I had chain failure on the third race and finished second, but that’s racing.”
For the women, the overall Gravity Goddess title was decided by an equally slim margin. Despite not qualifying for the downhill final, Marla Streb held on by a point over Lisa Sher (72-71) on the strength of her dirt criterium win and second-place finish in the dual slalom.
Nicole Grant, who finished third overall, edged Katrina Miller by about a bike length in the downhill, followed by Sher in third.
“That was awesom,” Grant said after her downhill win. “I felt the heat from Katrina on the last berm and I didn’t even expect to see her there. Katrina really pushed me.”
Gale Dahleger was second in the criterium ahead of Paige Lambert, Jen Klish and Sher, who won the dual slalom ahead of Streb and Miller.
The first of five BikeTrial World Championships stages on Sunday was a two-man race in the top Elite division.
Sunday marked the first time a BikeTrial stage had been held in this country, and the sport that draws crowds of 15,000 or more in Europe had people wondering how the riders could navigate logs, boulders, creeks, ramps and a car without touching anying but their bikes.
Ten sections, or courses, were around the base of Squaw and each had a differnt theme, with all but two consisting of natural terrain.
Two-time defending Elite class world champion Cesar Canas and 11-time world champion Ot Pi battled throughout Sunday, with both being assessed a minimum of points for touching the ground or any object other than their bikes.
After covering each section once, Canas – who, like Pi, is from Barcelona, Spain, and rides for Monty – held a 18-21 edge. But Pi, who is credited with basically inventing the sport and is a star in Europe, went on an immaculate run early in the second round. Pi, 26, recorded five perfect scores (0) in the first six stages.
And by the time the two riders reached the 10th section in the second round, Pi had a narrow 30-31 lead. Canas, 22, though, aced the section featuring two quarter-pipes, taking just one touch, while Pi strugged badly on the first obstacle – a steep wooden ladder – and had five points before he was on the first quarter-pipe.
“I had the win until the last section,” an angry Pi said after seeing he placed second behind Canas 35-32.
The first World Championship course ever in this country was a good one overall, said Jordi Rubio of Spain, who was third with 36 points after a sizzling 13 in the second go-around, the best split of the competition.
“The course was at a high level,” Rubio said through an interpreter. “There was a lot of variety. A World Championship course must be very difficult and this one was.”
Rubio added, however, that he didn’t like the two man-made sections, Nos. 10 and 2, which featured three large wooden spools and a Ford Tempo on top of a pile of dirt.
In other action, Kirk Molday won the Pro division of the cross-country competition, finishing about three minutes ahead of David Bly. Lel Tone won the women’s Pro race, beating out Cathy Taylor and Monica Erdosh.
Troy McMurry took the King of the Wings freestyle jumping contest, outdueling X-Games champion T.J. Lavin. Josh Hieno and Chris Dunkan tied for third.
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