Right as rain
Showers make for epic racing at Ranchstyle
Mountain bike rider Greg Stoneburner is a red and black blur, weaving between trees.
The Grand Junction native disappeared moments after leaving the starting gate, and reappeared only a few yards from the finish line.
Spectators watched with craned necks, trying to catch glimpses of Stoneburner burning down the hill.
But it was what the viewers behind the guard fence couldn’t see, Stoneburner said, that made this Ranchstyle super slalom the best of the past three years.
The Glade Park track received rain in the three days leading up to the Freeride Mountain Biking World Tour silver event, and the precipitation packed down the track and limited skids and washouts during the race.
“It’s definitely better to be riding on solid stuff rather than powder,” Stoneburner said. “It’s a longer course than you normally see at bigger events, and it’s tough to avoid (overshooting banked corners). If you overshoot, you’ll go right over the (corner). If you skid, your back wheel will go up and your handlebars will take you down.”
While a few riders did slide over curves, including one rider who needed stitches to repair a missing chunk from his hand after colliding with a tree, most riders struggled to find flow.
The course featured small jumps and tight curves that demand a steady rhythm.
“(The course) forces flow, basically,” Stoneburner said. “If you don’t have any flow, you’re not going to have any fun on this course. There’s a lot of tight-spaced rollers and tight-spaced doubles and some super-tight turns. But it’s all cornering well and feels super nice.”
Stoneburner got his start on Team Grassroots Cycles after interning at the bike shop of the same name. Matthew Bollig, who owns Grassroots and the property where Ranchstyle takes place, hired Stoneburner to work on bikes, plus sweep floors and do “intern stuff.”
Stoneburner, now 17 years old, said the family atmosphere drew him to Grassroots three years ago.
“I walked in, and it just had a cool vibe,” Stoneburner said. “Everyone was chill, and they treat each other like family.”
Bollig echoed Stoneburner’s family sentiment and said that, while the program isn’t as big as he’d like, it’s one of the keys to helping it grow.
“We want to get more Grand Junction locals interested in this,” Bollig said. “It’s really the only slalom racing in town, and now with Mountain Series Cup getting discontinued this year, there’s really only one place, and that’s in Denver, to race slalom. This day’s always unique because of that.”
Bollig said the transition to a professional event in 2011 allowed numbers to remain fairly steady, and the 2013 Ranchstyle has been the best year yet.
“For me personally, this has been my favorite Ranchstyle to date,” Bollig said. “Just a very good atmosphere, and the athletes were really, really happy because the course is fantastic. All the rain has made this my favorite Ranchstyle.”