Speed racer: GJ cyclist ready for downhill

Fast, dangerous, crazy — a few words that come to mind when describing a unique downhill bicycle race Saturday in Georgetown.

When Eric Landis of Grand Junction heard about the Red Bull Road Rage Race, and the words that describe it, he had one thought.

“That’s right up my alley,” he said.

As a downhill mountain bike and BMX racer, Landis enjoys going fast and getting crazy on the pedals. He races gated courses on his mountain bike where two or four riders blaze down the mountain, weaving through gates like slalom ski racing.

The Red Bull Road Rage Race has a similar concept. Racers are expected to hit speeds of more than 60 mph as they fly down Guanella Pass toward Georgetown. The race will have heats with four riders basically racing elbow-to-elbow with one another as they take on long straight stretches, then come to hairpin corners.

“It looks like such a unique experience,” Landis said. “Very few people get to do what we’re going to get to do.

“I’ve heard that in practice they’ve been hitting speeds in the mid-60s, which is really scary to me,” he said.

As a mountain biker, he goes fast, but he has bumps, rocks and dirt to worry about, not 60 mph speeds.

The high speed creates a frightening thought, and Landis gets specific about his greatest fear: “Going over the edge and dying.”

Adding another layer of fear to the event is the race will happen regardless of the weather. Right now the forecast calls for cold, rain and possibly snow. That’s not exactly what downhill bicycle racers want to hear when preparing for a race.

Landis, 34, isn’t cutting corners when it comes to preparing for this unique and potentially dangerous race.

“I will be wearing full body armor that I already own from racing downhill mountain bikes,” he said.

But he also wear a new aerodynamic body suit over the body armor, plus a custom-made full-face helmet.

All total, Landis estimates he will have more than $1,000 in protection and aerodynamic gear.

He also spent more than $800 in bike modifications specific to the high-speed race. The modifications include special tires, a shorter crank set, gearing and upgraded brakes.

He will race a cyclocross bike, which is sturdier than a road bike. He will use tires that have more tread and are a little thicker than regular skinny road-bike tires.

Even though Landis has not ridden the course yet, he said the sharp corners will be a huge challenge. His shorter pedal cranks will allow him to pedal better through the corners, and obviously the upgraded brakes are necessary because he will go from extremely high speeds to extremely low speeds quickly to navigate the corners. The course is 1.6 miles long.

With his downhill mountain bike-racing background, his bike modifications and his aerodynamic body suit, Landis likes his chances.

The field has 64 riders, who will be pared down in heats until the final four race for the prize money, which is $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second and $500 for third.


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