The most fun you can have with your clothes on.
I have no idea why so many people seem so intimidated by it. One of the expert women rode it (darn fast, I might add) on a fully rigid 29er. So my advice to the rest of the Front Range cross-country riders who didn't compete: I'll hold your purse while you sign up next time.
So anyhow, four of us woke up at the Blue Sky Condo Compound and got our downhill faces on: Michael Baraga, Mike Bernhardt, Rob and myself, with our illustrious sponsor Andrew Maloney opting for a day in the camp chair hollering from a spot in the shade. After crashing in the cross-country, he wisely opted to save his needle-wielding hands for next week's patients.
Rob and I squirmed into our padded downhill shorts, donned various elbow and shin guards (just for show, you know) and got on the lift. It really is a great thing to get to the top under someone else's power after you're totally blown from 19 miles the previous day.
After collecting our bikes at the top, we rode to the start and stared at it, dumbfounded. During our test run the previous day, tour guide John Bevans had waved his hand vaguely at the dirt road below the lift and said casually, "The start is just down there. You don't really need to ride it right now, it's just a little piece of road."
Uh, yeah. I wouldn't call it "just down there." It was a sizeable distance down the road, creating a start that was virtually identical to those damn cross-country race starts. No awesome sprint for the hole shot (the only thing I'm vaguely good at), no duking it out for your place in line. Instead, it was a painfully slow drag race up a ski road hill for interminable minutes. Gee, yet another race set up to reward the climbers. Keystone, where are you now?
Rob and I felt decent, but there was no denying the toll on the legs after the previous day's XC race. That hill was going to smoke us both and toss our butts into the gutter.
I watched Rob start and could tell that his legs were again forwarding calls to voicemail. I feared the same, but was temporarily distracted by the lack of women at the start line. There was myself, the only woman in the old chicks category; one lone pro woman; and three other experts in younger categories. I joked with them, "You may already be a winner!" but Winter Park Start Guy ("three, two, one....GOOOOOO-oooooo!") reminded me that you do have to actually finish the race. And even if we were racing alone in our category, we would be setting an historic time for Winter Park's first-ever Super D.
Feeling appropriately motivated, I got on the start line, eyeing my Maverick lying on its side like a dead horse just up the road. LeMans starts always crack me up - for about two seconds until I actually start running, then it's not funny at all. I almost got dropped on the run, in fact, before my floppy legs could finally start turning. Then I pulled ahead, brought the dead horse to life and leaped on. Three pedal strokes, and I was even ahead of Bobbi Kae Watt, the pro. Then, like a movie run backwards, all four women cruised past me like semi trucks. Sigh.
I flailed away on that hill like a dying swimmer, then finally made it to the singletrack, where I actually managed to get my groove on. Ahhhh. Pump that dip, carve that berm, pedal pedal pedal, there's wind in my teeth from grinning so hard. Launch off that tree root, slide through the turn, it feels just like downhill skiing. Wheee! I rode the ass of the woman in front of me, trying to find the energy to pass, but she dropped me handily on every uphill or pedally section, so it was hopeless. She wasn't even in my category anyway, although I would have liked to have passed her on principle.
Every time I had to pedal, my legs turned to cement, but I survived those sections with thoughts of the little bridge-jumps down below. My tires made satisfying "whoosh" noises as I launched off each one, catching a little bit of blissful air before landing with a crunch back in the dirt. There's the finish line -- pump those rollers and turns, keep hauling ass, watch out for the harsh divot full of mud, pedal pedal pedal -- and roll into the chute gasping for breath.
Anyone who thinks downhillers have no fitness have obviously never tried this. I was easily as anaerobic as any cyclocross race. With just as big a grin on my face at the end.
At the bottom, Blue Sky had made an impressive showing. Mike Bernhardt not only took 2nd place on his 29er hardtail, he let the world admire his rippling chest by wearing my XS jersey on the podium.
Cindy bagged a nice third place on her new Maverick, even after crashing and damaging her shifter pod the day before. Who needs gears, anyway?
Rob finally got some face time with his out-of-office legs and scored a solid 4th place in a category full of aggro dudes and trees trying to take him down.
Michael Baraga pulled down a sweet 3rd place on his hardtail, scorning all the full-suspension weenies behind him.
I, naturally, won AND lost my category simultaneously, making for a rather dubious trip to the podium. It's just me and my imaginary friends.
It was a great weekend, putting Blue Sky Velo Team A in first place for the series. And I have to say that if you haven't tried Super D, you should really add it to your list. It's D-lovely and D-licious.