Course takes toll on riders at Ranchstyle

The slopestyle course at the Ranchstyle mountain biking event near Glade Park demands speed.

Two table-top jumps — one tall and narrow, one with less elevation but a wider base — directly follow an uphill transfer from wooden half-vertical to a hard-packed dirt landing.

Come up short on the transfer, like many riders did Saturday, and all the pedaling in world won’t get you over the final jump.

Riders either crashed or had to end the run without crossing the finish line. One rider fell 20 feet attempting the transfer, landing nearly flat on his back, but walked off under his own power.

A different rider blew out his back tire while landing, resulting in a gunshot-like noise and his tire becoming completely removed from the frame.

The slopestyle event rewarded riders who could pull off tricks, from 360-degree spins to backflips, without falling face-first into the dirt.

So, when 20-year-old professional Carson Storch ended his second run after clearing the last transfer with a regular 360 spin, he had one opportunity to “go big.” The native of Bend, Ore., followed up his last transfer with a backflip tail whip that almost sent him into the side fence, and notched one of the guttiest finishes at the event.

Storch narrowly cleared the last jump, allowing roughly five feet between his head and the dirt. His handle bars landed slightly askew, but he was about to straighten his bike out while only clipping the fence.

“This course is downhill and a lot faster than some of the other courses,” Storch said. “It’s really easy to misjudge your speed in the moment and overshoot jumps. That’s why a lot of guys were blowing their runs on that. I did a 360 heading into the up-box, and got a little caught up on the last jump, but I was able to roll out of it.”

Ranchstyle is the first major slopestyle event for North American pros. It ranks “silver” on the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour schedule, and it is the first chance for North American and Australian pros to catch European riders in the professional rankings.

Europeans start their season earlier, so there is a gap in the professional rankings when the North American season begins.

Ranchstyle is a smaller course compared with some of the other slopestyle tracks, but it offers riders a chance to get back in the swing of competing if they haven’t traveled to Europe during the offseason.

“For us North Americans that don’t travel to Europe, this is really the start for us,” Storch said. “It really doesn’t get any better. It’s a fun one. Cool vibe and a cool town.”

Today, Ranchstyle hosts the downhill slalom race. It uses a similar course as slopestyle, but the focus is on speed rather than tricks.

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