PARK CITY Many of the best mountain bikers in the world will hit the slopes at The Canyons this weekend in an effort to prove who can grab hold of the title "King of the Mountain."
The made-for-TV event has several of the world's top mountain bikers lining up for a piece of the $100,000 prize purse. With three races, competitors battle it out for points. Saturday's race is the second stop on the tour, with the series finale going down next month in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
"There's a lot of talent coming for this," Park City's Chris Van Dine said. "This is the best thing going as far as U.S. mountain bike racing."
Van Dine placed fifth in the series-opener last month in New Jersey and is hoping a little home-turf advantage will play to his favor this weekend.
After last year's series, the format was tweaked a little bit. Gone is the controversial "Y-Cross" format that led to a lot of early-race crashes and some anti-climactic finishes.
This year, the race will be a dual slalom competition with cyclists descending the mountain course on nearly-identical routes, side-by-side, in an effort to eliminate one another much like you'd see on a ski course.
"It's purely mountain biking," Van Dine said. "It's a better format. Last year, it seemed like it was just a big race to the first corner."
With $5,000 going to the men's and women's winners, series stars such as Brian Lopes, Melissa Buhl and Jared Graves will chase a spot on the winner's podium.
"It's all bike-handling skills," Van Dine said. "You fly out of the gates, get your speed, and then it's all about how you can handle the corners."
The race is not limited to the big-time pros, though. On Friday, the series will open up qualifying rounds to locals who want a shot at the prize purse.
Locals can battle it out for a spot in Saturday's final rounds. Visit Jeep48straight.com for registration details.
Also on tap for Saturday is the Scott Bicycles USA cyclocross race.
Cyclocross is a relatively new but fast-growing sport. A mixture of mountain bike, road bike and steeplechase, cyclocross takes participants around a series of laps that include steep uphill sections, steps, barriers and flat sprints.
When: Friday and Saturday
Where: The Canyons, Park City
Friday: Dual slalom qualifying runs 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Saturday: Scott USA Bicycles Cyclocross Race at noon; dual slalom at 3 p.m.
E-mail: [email protected]