Paul Andrews

Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

Kokanee Crankworx Slopestyle 2009: Wuz Semenuk robbed?

In Mountain Biking on August 15, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Brandon Semenuk must wonder what it’s going to take for him to win in his home town of Whistler.

In a surprise Kokanee Crankworx 2009 Slopestyle outcome Saturday, Greg Watts, a tricks specialist from the Santa Cruz-Aptos cabal in California, upset Semenuk, who was fresh off his second straight Crankworx Colorado victory and obviously hoping to kill before his B.C. homeys. Watts, who was runnerup to Semenuk at Colorado, flashed some monster moves, including a double flip whip performed by twirling the bike above you while upside down and backwards to the terrain below.

Taking nothing away from Watts, who clearly rode out of his mind, Semenuk wuz robbed. You can argue whether Semenuk’s tail whips and flips were better than Watts’ — Semenuk also did an upside-downer — or whether his run was as daring and innovative as Watts. But assuming these are arguable points, Semenuk ruled on style points.

The man — well, kid, really, at 18 — gets air like no one else. He soars so high that you almost feel the G-out in your gut. He’s like an angel floating in the clouds, only on wheels instead of wings.

By contrast (again, nothing diminished), Watts’ victorious flip whip seemed a bit rushed and incomplete. Yes he pulled it off. But did he really nail it?

Finally, Semenuk’s high-wire act had more diversity than Greg’s. It was one different move after another — back flip, tail whip, upside down whip, front flip, no-hands, reverse 360 — that left the crowd gasping and roaring at the same time.

Points are all judgment calls by the panel of experts, of course. And they took their time, presumably mulling over some of the above considerations. But in the end, they came down on the wrong side. (Some observers said Watts wuz robbed at Colorado, so this may be poetic justice.)

It might be reasoned that at his tender age, Semenuk has years to get the top Slopestyle win in the world. But slopestyle isn’t golf or tennis or even the NBA. You’re only one cracked disc or broken foot from the shelf, as the quickly forgotten stars of yesteryear (some of whom were drifting around Whistler Village the past week) can readily attest. By your mid-20s, the normal peak years for athletic prowess, you’re pretty much out of this type of competition.

Let’s hope there wasn’t a “prophet without honor” psychology going on in the voting, a subtext that says you can’t favor the hometown hero and anyway, how could someone from down the street really beat all these big names from around the world?

In any case, there’s always (or at least a good chance for) next year for Semenuk. At some point it’s going to be clear he’s the class of the competition, local boy or not.

In another surprise, first-timer Martin Soederstroem of Sweden, who must be the new Tailwhip King of the slopestyle circuit, pulled down the bronze, beating out Paul Basagoitia, the only competitor to ever win Crankworx in his first try (as a qualifier, no less). Bas is having a great year nonetheless, as a video floating around of him doing a rocket-shot flip whip proves.

All in all, another monster Monster Energy Slopestyle is in the books. Each year seems to get better, and although I hear some cavils about too many flips and whips so why bother? Crankworx never fails to amaze, delight and inspire. The magic of Crankworx is that I’ll go ride tomorrow with dreams of doing my first 360, and although at my age it will never happen, that can’t stop me from riding like it might.

Change is afoot, er, apedal, at Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, Obama Bikes, Trail Access on August 15, 2009 at 4:30 pm

The Puget Sound region’s leading mountain bike club, the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, is undergoing some Obama-like “change you can believe in” as a result of membership turmoil we reported on last month.

The latest shocker: Executive director John Lang is resigning as of Sept. 1. Lang’s arrival in the spring of 2008 marked a sharp change of direction for the organization then known as the Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club. Lang put a stamp of professionalism on the club, liaisoning it with other user groups and forest administrative agencies while also shepherding mtb projects like Colonnade (a huge publicity win for the club), Paradise Valley and Duthie Hill.

Announcing Lang’s departure with “great regret,” Evergreen president Jennifer Lesher noted that during his tenure “We have attained a seat on the Washington DNR’s Sustainability Work Group and an appointment to the Snoqualmie Unit Advisory Committee. We have worked with the Mountains to Sound Greenway, State Parks, and Snohomish County, Kent, and Redmond. John’s leadership and hard work were key in establishing these positions.”

But Lang is not a mountain biker, a factor that led him to become a lightning rod for discontent over club policies starting with the surprise name change (which was under way before he took office). He also failed to communicate with the membership, which saw him as detached and aloof, even as his political acumen made measurable progress with previously antagonistic or uncooperative sectors.

We at BikeIntelligencer believe Lang was making the right moves, but without buy-ins from the membership. A better communicator would have explained what he was up to and done the political spade work to create ownership at the member level.

Since July’s board meeting, Lesher and Jon Kennedy, program director, have been actively seeking input on the club’s future direction, meeting and speaking with a number of longtime members. Jen’s take in an e-mail posted on Evergreen’s Yahoo! list:

“The Board of Directors is working to devise a plan for the immediate and
long term future of the organization. We have some critical decisions to
make about how we’re going to allocate our resources and prioritize our
obligations, but please rest assured that we plan to honor our commitments,
goals and mission.”

The turmoil within Evergreen comes at a strategic juncture for the sport of mountain biking. Even as the sport explodes among youth, especially teenagers, agencies and other trail user groups are expressing concern over the growth in unauthorized (again, we avoid the term “illegal” as inapplicable in trail administration) construction and riding. In Canada there is no problem, so the kids (groms) watch the DVDs and go to Whistler and NorthShore and see what’s possible and want it in their back yards. They don’t know how to work the system and in any case do not want to wait for bureaucracy to act. In the meantime, veteran mtbers take the heat from their trail peers for things they have nothing to do with (but may wholeheartedly support!); like what adult ever stopped kids from building things — treehouses, forts, skateparks and so on down the line.

Thus “advocacy” becomes the stepchild of “recreation,” creating a dualistic mission for a group like Evergreen.

It all sets the stage for a lively “Town Hall” summit meeting on Tuesday, September 1 at Duthie Hill near Issaquah. It looks like there will be riding before and/or after, as well as a barbecue and festive atmosphere to keep the mood upbeat and positive. See you there!

A two-fer at Crankworx for Jill Kintner

In Bicycle Racing, Mountain Biking on August 15, 2009 at 12:36 am

Wow, can Seattle homey Jill Kintner get any higher? Following up on her stunning win in the dual slalom last weekend at Whistler, Jill completely crushed her competition in the Giant Slalom yesterday (Friday) above Whistler Village.

When we say “crushed,” we mean smoked. Pummeled. Bashed. Destroyed. Her final margin: A whopping 3.91 seconds over Emmeline Ragot of France.

Kintner had put in some serious practice runs on the scary-fast course earlier in the week, and it showed. At a critical tabletop right before the “tunnel of love” she cleared both sides where other competitors chose to stay grounded. Jill also put time on her foes with fierce pedal wheelies over stutter bumps in the mid-section.

Finally, the girl is just plain smooth. It’s a joy to watch her meld grace and precision with such power into a ballet on wheels that looks as good as it clocks. By the time the final switchbacks came into play, Kintner was so far ahead on all her heats that she pretty much coasted home.

The only caveat on Kintner’s performance was a surprisingly thin field. Long-retired Leigh Donovan showed up for a bronze but was not a factor head-to-head against Jill. Kintner’s arch rival Melissa Buhl might have given her a run for her money had she competed, but having watched Kintner progress this season and compared the two on courses like Whistler’s, we doubt it would have changed the outcome. (Buhl competed in last Sunday’s Garbanzo Downhill but finished last and may have injured herself. Buhly finished 4th in last Saturday’s dual slalom, which Jill also won.)

On her blog Jill tends to dwell more on the misses than the hits, and she’s too modest to crow after victory, so it’s up to us fans to give her a pat on the back for a “Double” to remember.

So completely did Kintner dominate the competition that we at BikeIntelligencer are left to wonder if she’s angling toward the downhill racing scene. Coming from a BMX background, Jill has never been one for the rad of downhill racing. But her skillz keep amping up, especially over the past couple of months, and she showed in yesterday’s competition that she’s not shy about pinning it on the big jumps and “pipeline” berms.

Whistler’s course is less a “big slalom” than a “mini-downhill.” We’ll be watching with interest to see if Jill decides to try her luck with the Big Dance. (Note: Jill tweeted she also got a 2nd in the Air DH competition at Crankworx — another indication?)

On the men’s side, Brian Lopes redeemed last year’s crash-out (he still bronzed) with a decisive win over top qualifier Jared Rando. Lopes “grew” with each advance — he actually lost one of his early runs — and by the end of the day was just hammering the berms while seeming to get stronger in the pedal sections. He complained afterward about being gassed, but this guy is ageless, which is just one reason I wear his shin guards and ride his bike (an Ibis Mojo, although mine’s set up stupid light for XC).

The one disappointment for the GS was a light turnout. Crankworx has set up huge video screens at mid-course and down below, but there were no spectators lining the tapes whatsoever, and the crowd in the village was just a couple or three hundred folks. And pretty quiet ones at that. It was chilly all day even though the sun broke out, and while the parking lots filled to capacity, this isn’t yet the crush of Crankworx past. Lift lines are modest at best, and a lot of prospective race watchers were still on the mountain, riding to the end of light. The word at Crankworx is that the best time to hit the lifts is when there’s racing below. Apparently word has gotten too far out, though, which is a shame. You can ride any time at Whistler. You can see racing like this only once. Let’s hope folks put away the bikes for this afternoon’s Monster Energy Slopestyle event. With the sun out, the jumps have dried out and are perfectly groomed for a “monster” competition. Full report tomorrow.

More on the Crankworx site as well, including results.

In Whistler for Crankworx 2009

In Bicycle Racing, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking on August 14, 2009 at 11:00 am

…but wishing I could be in two places at once, as long as the other one was Leadville Colo.

Some quick links, then I gotta go RIDE!

PinkBike has the rundown on the big Slopestyle course tomorrow. It may be tamer than last year, but that’s probably good. Too many crashes last year. Looking it over, and having seen every Crankworx Slopestyle at Whistler, my view is that this one has more diversity (read opportunity) than any previous. And it’s really set up for viewing.

Let’s hope the crowds come. Whistler is soaked, bros! There are puddles in the parking lot and the trails are not just damp but sloppy in some spots. Plus it’s cold at night.

That said, the sun is out today (Friday) and skies definitely appear to be clearing! So hopefully everyone will come on up tonight and tomorrow for the world’s signature Slopestyle event, Kokanee Crankworx.

As for tomorrow’s Leadville 100, now the “signature” enduro MTB event because of Lance’s omnipresence:

BikeRumor has pics and descrip of Lance’s proto Trek Fuel 9.9 XX whatever. Why doesn’t Trek just call it the Lance Armstrong? If I was at Leadville and Lance whizzed by I’d have a hard time choosing between looking at him or his bike! It should be a great race.

There’re some other familiar names in the lineup, including Travis Brown riding his own customized Trek, caught by Mountain Bike Action. Early on Floyd Landis was supposed to have registered, but he’s not on the official roster. Neither is once-rumored Tinker Juarez. Nor is Chris Eatough, history’s greatest 24-hour racer, who’s apparently racing the FoolsGold 100 instead.

But Dave Wiens, despite modestly downplaying his own chances at a 7th straight title, is still in the mix. BikeRumor has great Wiens interview on the whole enchilada.

Check out the UltraRob blog for inside coverage.

AP setup story in Seattle Times on the race.

BIkePortland is tracking a disturbing cycling-auto encounter.

If you’re in Seattle Sunday and want to pay respects to Jose Hernando and the other fallen of our sport, Michael Snyder at SeattleLikesBikes has a suggestion.

Pivot Firebird: The Gold Standard

In Uncategorized on August 12, 2009 at 8:08 pm
Race Face Deus granny makes a nice addition to gold Firebird pivots

Race Face Deus granny makes a nice addition to gold Firebird pivots

Toss in a gold Chris King bottom bracket and you've got a veritable Fort Knox down there!

Toss in a gold Chris King bottom bracket and you've got a veritable Fort Knox down there!

Tiger Mountain update: Leave Iverson A-L-O-N-E!!

In Tiger Mountain on August 10, 2009 at 11:22 am

The trails got a light dusting of rain Saturday night/Sunday morning but barely showed a trace by afternoon.

Hey, who’s doing trail work up there? They weenied out one of my favorite step-ups, the lower bridge at Iverson, and are in the process of smoothing out the jumpy final section on Iverson.

I’m sure these are all good Samaritans (WTA? REI?) trying to do the best, but please, LEAVE THE GNARLY STUFF ALONE! Trails this time of year don’t need attention, it’s late spring when we need the crews out. Save your energy for then. Just my $.02.

Lance’s Chances: Shoulder status?

In Bicycle Racing, Mountain Biking on August 10, 2009 at 7:30 am

You have to credit Lance Armstrong on one point: He doesn’t make excuses. Since declaring his shoulder a non-factor just a couple of weeks after “Home Depot” hardware surgery drilled and screwed and plated it together again, the subject has not even come back up.

Watching videos of interviews and the Tour, however, I thought his shoulder was quite a bit less than 100 percent. In conversation, he used his left arm and hand more in gesticulating, etc., and never raised his right arm above his shoulder.

On the Tour’s wrenching climbs, Lance stayed more in the saddle than the Lance of old. And he never attacked, either. Maybe his riding style has changed. But a reluctance to sprint or attack would also indicate not wanting to stress the shoulder, since out of the saddle requires more pulling on the bars.

It may well be that the shoulder is virtually healed by now (it’s been more than 3 months). But if there’s any test to tell for sure, it would be this Saturday’s Leadville 100. Nearly seven hours of up and down riding on uneven surfaces takes a toll on perfectly healthy shoulders. If anything’s askew, Lance should start feeling it about hour 4 or 5.

The subject of his shoulder hasn’t come up anywhere in news coverage lately, and I imagine that if asked, Lance would brush it aside. And let’s hope the shoulder isn’t a factor, because we all want a level playing field (so to speak!). But it remains an X-factor at Leadville, because this race is a different beast from what he’s been doing.

Don’t forget you’ll be able to see a live Webcast of the race and get full updates from the Leadville 100 site. As for news coverage, still no rundown on Lance’s prototype Trek Fuel full-suspension bike, and nobody’s apparently talking to Dave Wiens about all this. One problem: Crankworx’s signature event, the Slopestyle competition, is the same day, sucking a lot of mountain bike journalists to Whistler. Let’s hope The New York Times gets on Leadville…Juliet Macur are you there?

Crankworx: Another title for Jill! But rain…?

In Bicycle Racing, Mountain Biking on August 10, 2009 at 7:00 am
Good if it holds; tacky trails, cooler temps

Good if it holds; tacky trails, cooler temps

It’s the biggest mountain-biking week of the year in Whistler, building to the prime Slopestyle competition in the bike universe, and August being August, we have to keep our fingers crossed on the weather. They keep moving the dates of Crankworx around, sometimes early in the summer, sometimes late. I’ve never liked August as a must-be-nice choice, it’s too unpredictable.

Meanwhile Seattle’s Jill Kintner continued what must rank as one of any sport’s miracle comeback seasons by smoking the field at Kokanee Crankworx in the dual slalom competition.

A post from Jill on her blog notes: “I set the fastest time in the ladies, followed by fionn then buhly. That was close to the order we finished up too, except ol gatto snuck in for a third in the final over buhly. The gate felt like it was dropping slower and slower as the night went on, and it messed up a few people’s timing.” Like Jill I’m surprised at Melissa Buhl’s 4th, but this Crankworx may not have been Buhly’s cup of tea. She doesn’t show up in the Garbanzo Downhill results at all, not sure if she even competed. Garbanzo is the hammeringest downhill around.

On the men’s side, someone actually beat Brian Lopes on the dual slalom. And to make it an even bigger surprise, it was a Slopestyle artist, Kyle Strait, who did it. On the Garbanzo, three lads from Down Under swept: Justin Leov, Chris Kovarik and Sam Hill. Something’s going on down there; see this year’s best racing DVD, “The Tipping Point,” for clues as to why.

PinkBike has the full rundown. Also BikeRadar. Both sites have video posted as well.

BikeIntelligencer will be in Whistler most of this week, so posting will probably be light. Once in a while even the most dedicated bike blogger must GIT OUT ‘N RIDE!

Lance’s Chances: Leadville looking better all the time

In Bicycle Racing, Lance's Chances, Mountain Biking on August 9, 2009 at 7:48 am

Lance Armstrong is now King of Colorado, sending a message to Dave Wiens re Saturday’s Leadville 100 joust.

Lance is looking real strong, dusting the field at the Colorado state mountain bike championships in Snowmass. Wiens did not compete.

There’s some simmering resentment that Lance, who has a house in Aspen but is from Austin of course, was allowed to compete. But the rules said yes, and why not? He brings a lot of attention and commercial weight to anything he does, and both are what cycling really needs.

Our 3-to-2 odds for Wiens are looking shakier all the time. No matter who wins, it should be a great race.

BikeWorldNews has results.

Sunday roundup: Win for Susan day, MTB Hall of Famers, Oregon Cycling demise?

In Bicycle Racing, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking on August 9, 2009 at 7:42 am

Great idea from David Schloss at BikeHugger: International “Win for Susan” day, in memory of Susan Nelson, Fatcyclist.com’s wife, who died recently from cancer:

“This happens to be the day of the Philly Livestrong Challenge. Wear your Fat Cyclist gear, LiveStrong bracelet or clothing, homemade signs, or other item to signify your personal fight against cancer and take a picture of yourself. Next, upload the picture via twitter and post it on the 23rd with the tag #win4susan
While you’re at it, go to the Livestrong foundation and make a donation in Susan’s name.

Hate to see Oregon Cycling magazine shut down. It did some good in-depth reporting, particularly on legal issues involving cycling. We’re with BikePortland in hoping it will revive under new owners, and maintain the high standard of quality.

Bicycle Retailer: Four new Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductees, including Anne Caroline Chaussen, the best female racer in the sport’s history.

A popular Leavenworth mountain-biking route, Freund Canyon, has been closed while they try to find a cougar that encountered a mountain biker. From The Seattle Times: “Wenatchee River Ranger District wildlife biologist Don Youkey says the biker did the right thing by stopping, putting his bike between himself and the cougar and then yelling.”

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