PARK CITY Top professional mountain bike racers from around the world descended on The Canyons Resort in Park City for the Jeep48Straight Mountain Bike Series on Saturday. Similar to skiing, the dual slalom format features two racers descending side-by-side on nearly identical courses.
The course, enhanced with features such as jumps, bumps and berms, tests the riders' technical skills. The made-for-TV event was ideal for spectators as they were able to view the entire course. Greg Minaar of South Africa took the men's title and American Melissa Buhl won the women's event.
The riders were challenged by ever-changing conditions that saw the course go from dry and dusty to wet and wild. This necessitated vigilance with regard to equipment choice; notably tires. Many of the riders arrived with tires suitable for dry conditions, which were ideal in the qualifiers held earlier in the week.
The racers were forced to make this change, as well as adapting their riding style to the changing conditions as heavy rains drenched the course.
This was notable in the men's final where Minaar took the win in front of Eric Carter.
In the final corner, Carter's bike slid sideways in the heavy rain, but using the skills that have made him a legend in the sport, Carter kept his bike upright behind the celebrating Minaar.
The women's final was also affected by the weather as Buhl slipped a pedal shortly after leaving the starting gate. However, Buhl managed to recover and make it to the finish in front of Fionn Griffith of Great Britain.
Minaar and Buhl each took home $5,000 from the Park City event and also enhanced their standings in the series, which will wrap up in San Luis Obispo, Calif., in October. The series has the greatest payout in the sport of mountain biking at $100,000.
In addition to the mountain bike race, there was a cyclocross event. Hugely popular in northern Europe, cyclocross is a timed event mixing road racing, mountain biking and steeplechase on a short and undulating course that features barriers, short and steep hills, and a mixture of dirt, grass and pavement. Magna's own Eric Rasmussen took the cyclocross win. The event also featured a sponsor expo, product test area, environmental eco-alley, and a free concert featuring the band Rogue Wave.