The day belonged to the riders and fans, but the mountain is again firmly in the grip of the Kimballs.
Over 600 tries were made during the Widowmaker Hillclimb on Sunday, the 25th anniversary of this event, but only one rider made the top - Mel Kimball Jr.It was the seventh time Kimball topped Widowmaker since 1985, and the second time he's won the event. He won it in 1986, then gave up the title to his brother, Kenny, last year, then regained it.
Going back a few more years, Mel Kimball Sr., won the climb in 1968, ending up just four feet short of the top, finally topping the mountain in 1983, and, as it turns out, playing a key part in young Kimball's win Sunday.
The event drew over 300 riders from around the country, and 40 times that many fans to the dirt plateau and 1,500-foot hill on the extreme most southern tip of the Salt Lake Valley.
The winning run came late in the day, with just 16 riders to go.
"I told him," the senior Kimball remarked as he watched, "to take it slow. Don't be in a hurry. Pick your way through."
The track went straight up the mountain for 700 feet, then angled to the right to a four-foot ledge that had taken out several riders. It then swung back to the left, through some rough bumps, holes and gullies and right again to two off-camber ledges about three feet high. From there on it was a straight, but rough run to the top.
Kimball started out, like the others, with a sprint to the first turn and over the ledge. Going through the rough and up to the two ledges he held his speed, something other riders had been unable to do. Over the ledges, with a rooster-tail of dirt coming from the rear tire, he opened the throttle to the finish.
The run took Kimball only 45.392 seconds and earned him a guaranteed $1,100.
Back at the bottom and looking up at the hill, the Bountiful rider said he felt comfortable at the start.
"Then I just took my time up to the ledge and through the choppy part. I knew I could go anywhere. I think the other drivers were trying to take it too fast. "Going for the finish, though, I started worrying about the chain. I'd bent a sprocket on the first run. I knew the only thing that would stop me from going over at that point was a broken chain.
"Of all the runs I've gone over, though, I'd say this one was by far the hardest."
It was supposed to be that way. Course designers wanted to make Widowmaker special, to make riding skills count more than big engines and knobby tires.
And it was. Kerry Peterson, who'd won the event three times before the Kimballs, made the twin ledges on the first run, and about half that far on the second. He said he'd hit it so hard, "my whole body hurt. I had to shut down. It's a real tough course this year."
Dan Chase, of Lakewood, Colo., who topped the hill in '85, agreed about the toughness of the course, but liked it. "It makes you ride. You just don't come up with a big bike and run."
Travis Whitlock of Provo was third with a climb of 1,105 feet. Seven of the top 10 finishers in the open class were Utahns.
On the morning runs, it appeared that Robert Horban of Grants Pass, Ore., had the perfect run. He topped the hill, but a check with officials showed he ran out of bounds about 250 feet from the top. After the event was over, the top 10 riders were invited back for a one-run winner-take-all shootout for $1,000. This time Horban topped the mountain legally, in 48.962 seconds. The next rider up, however, was Whitlock. He took the money away from Horban when he topped the mountain in 38.217 seconds.
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