The wall of rain began dumping at the exact instant that South Africa's Greg Minnaar crossed the finish, with Eric Carter close behind. It was like someone was pouring a massive bucket of water over the mountain. Good that it waited until the final dual, there was no way another round could have been held on the course after that downpour.
Carter built the tight, technical course at The Canyons resort in Utah, but Minnaar ended up owning it, though not by much. Petr Hanak took third on a day of on-and-off sprinkles and one brief rain hold.
Melissa Buhl won the women's field by such a big margin, she had time to look over her shoulder and see how far back her competition was in the dual slalom. For the first time in the event's history, a racer won each of her heats, thus securing the title before the finals. Britain's Fionn Griffith took second, relegating the current reigning U. S. champion Kathy Pruitt to third place in the consolation round.
The former Jeep King Of the Mountain, now the 48Straight, came to The Canyons resort almost unnoticed on its last stop before the finals in San Luis Obispo Oct. 24-25. There was no advertising and very little press, despite a world class field of international riders. One of the surprise competitors was pro snowboarder and mountain biker Shaun Palmer, who didn't make it to the final rounds.
PARK CITY, Ut.--It was a horse gate start with $5,000 on the line. Cody
Warren, right, went on to the consolation round, knocking out Jared
Rando, left. Warren ended up fourth. cr: Wina Sturgeon
One of the innovations just for this stop was a cyclocross race with two divisions; one for experienced racers and another for novices, held before the dual slalom of 48Straight. Scott Bicycles marketing director Adrian Montgomery said of the obstacle-course event, "The course actually used a lot of the natural features of the resort; rocks, slopes, rocky areas. We wanted to get people interested in participating."
The Tour has big plans for itself, and does not want to be looked at as the junior DEW Tour. "48Straight is basically an entire environmental, sports and music platform. It's not just about sports. We're trying to be more than about sports," said organizer Al Sommers.
If so, the event, however enjoyable, has a long way to go. While an average of 26,000 fans turned out each day for the DEW, only about 4,000 spectators came for the 48Straight.
Still, CBS is televising the event. The CBS anchor, Kevin Delaney, says that people can expect to see a lot more action sports on the tube. "The networks are seeing the next generation of viewers. The growth of action sports and the youth market has totally transformed sports in general. They want different things, and aren't as interested in say, ice skating as much as their parents are. You'll be seeing a lot more action sports on TV in years to come," Delaney said.
PARK CITY, Ut.--The dual slalom course at 48Straight was much more
gnarly than this picture shows. Chris Van Dine, left, and Logan Binggeli
duke it out. cr: Wina Sturgeon
Despite the music and base area booths giving away everything from chocolate to shampoo, al la the DEW Tour's "Village,", the dual slalom was the event that drew the crowds. Few knew that winner Minnaar had just returned from Austria, and was suffering a massive case of jet lag.
There was also another surprise for fans: the very knowledgeable and professional female announcer was Tara Llanes, who had competed here last year, just a few weeks before crashing in the finals and becoming paralyzed from the waist down. The beloved BMX/mountain bike racer looked terrific, and still looks like an athlete. The chair that substitutes for her legs is so minimal that those who don't know about her injury are actually surprised to realize she is sitting in a wheelchair.
PARK CITY, Ut.--Tara Llanes was a terrific announcer. Here, she
interviews Britain's Fionn Griffith, who took second place. Melissa Buhl
was the winner. cr: Wina Sturgeon
After the race, riders and guests ran through the downpour to the VIP tent, where a gourmet feast awaited. The Canyons isn't known for its food, but after everyone saw the sumptuous buffet with baby green salad, chicken, inventive vegetable preparations and decadent desserts, they all agreed that it should be.