Cyclists descend for S’mass Nationals |

Cyclists descend for S’mass Nationals

A cross-country racer blazes through a section of singletrack during the 2004 Snowmass National mountain biking races. The 2005 event opens today and runs through Sunday. Aspen Times photo.

True feats of athleticism, as well as good entertaining carnage, should mark this weekend in Snowmass as nearly 1,000 competitors drop in for the second annual Snowmass National mountain bike races. Among the Olympians and world champions expected for the events, running this morning through Sunday, expect to see lots of familiar local faces. “If people are interested in seeing their friends and some of best riders in world compete, they can get that here in Snowmass,” said event organizer Eric Jean of Cycle Cyndicate. “There’s no better place in the world for a ‘bikie’ this weekend.”The sixth stop in a national series that will ultimately crown national champions in six different disciplines, the Snowmass National is also a qualifier for the U.S. Mountain Bike National Championships, slated for September at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

Bikers here will compete in burly events like mountain-cross – four riders racing head to head on a course full of jumps and berms – on a brand new course with bigger and faster jumps; downhill, a fast and furious 1,700 vertical-foot descent down rocky, rooty singletrack (reportedly the fastest in the national series); and super D, which combines the skills of downhill with some pedaling (think super G in alpine ski racing) as racers make their way from the upper mountain to the Snowmass Village Mall as fast as they can.Endurance events include the Big Burn Cross Country, short track cross country and, new this year, the marathon. The marathon event kicks off all the racing with a 9 a.m. start this morning.Due to Base Village construction, the cross-country course has been cut almost in half this year, down to 7.4 miles. The new route starts and finishes higher up Fanny Hill; it kicks off with a grueling, nearly 1,200-foot ascent of the mountain. Pros do three laps. Short track features several laps of head-to-head racing on a spectator-friendly course on Fanny Hill.

The 50-mile marathon event circumnavigates the village, and includes portions of the Rim, Highline, Blake, Powerline, Government and Cross Mountain trails.On Saturday, look out for Todd Wells of Durango, last year’s cross-country winner and a member of the U.S. men’s team who competed in the Athens Olympics. On the women’s side, last year’s second place finisher, Shonny Vanlandingham, also of Durango, is expected to return.Sunday’s downhill final will probably feature Australian Jared Graves, arguably the world’s best downhiller (fellow countryman and the 2004 champ Nathan Rennie won’t be there). In mountain-cross, watch for Denver’s Ross Milan, who is just coming off a broken collarbone.

Several Roaring Fork riders are expected to participate in the various disciplines – and many do well in their own backyard. In cross country, keep an eye on the eight members of the Ajax Factory/R.A. Nelson team, who have been racking up a handful of first-place finishes and podiums in the Mountain States Cup regional races, plus wins in the Aspen Cycling Club series.”The Snowmass course is a little different this year, but it’s one of the more fun races of the series,” said Ajax/R.A. Nelson rider Elliott Larson of Aspen, who boasts a third place finish at a Crested Butte regional race earlier this summer. “It’s a good combination of road and singletrack; there’s nothing too frustrating. It’s a nice hard climb at the beginning, which spreads things out, and some fast downhill sections.”Catherine Lutz’s e-mail address is

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