Who says winter is the off season? Here at Bootleg Canyon MTB Park, in winter-friendly Boulder City, located in Southern Nevada, the “off season” is the BEST time for mountain biking. While summer, and even spring and fall temperatures can be unbearable, winter is the time to come shred the canyon, and compete at the Bootleg Canyon Winter Gravity Series and Bonzai Enduro. Each year, Downhill Mike and Evil Elias travel out from Whiteface Bike Park in now frigid and frozen upstate New York, to produce a series of gravity races that draw competitors from as far as Canada (Bonzai Enduro is presented by Gear Works Productions). These races have a history of drawing the most talented professional racers and the opportunity for some big-time freeride fun. Read on for a little Bootleg Canyon Racing HERstory, a day by day re-cap of the weekend from the eyes of LBC, a mini womens photo gallery, links to official results and more media. AND most importantly, Don’t forget to check out Sam’s re-cap of her experience hitting the Bender Sender for the first time. This young lady is already making MTB HERstory!
A little Bootleg Canyon Racing HERstory
Shine considers Bootleg Canyon Racing an integral part of the evolution of womens gravity mountain biking. Women have been racing at Bootleg Canyon since 2000, although you will have a tough time finding evidence via Google (for now).
Professionals such as Marla Streb, Melissa Buhl, and Jacqueline Harmony competed in the original Bootleg Canyon Racing events, and Marla utilized the raw mountain to find lines to film Kranked 3. Nope I wont tell you were Marla’s section is, you will just have to enjoy the whole movie.
Raw meaning they free-rode, with no existing trail, navigating their bikes down the mountain any way they pleased. Marla’s line from Cranked 3 is now known as Diva. Shine is working hard on compiling old media and race results from the past archive’s stored at original race director Dan Haskin’s house. The following map is current:
Although I narrowly missed the opportunity to hang out with the late Brent Thompson, this legendary man is both responsible for the existence of trails in Bootleg Canyon, and also the development of Bootleg Canyon Racing. Brent also is known for his incredible art, and was the designer of many race posters and t-shirts. We could go on and on about the history or Bootleg Canyon Racing, but that will have to wait for another post!
Bootleg Canyon Racing Today
Less than a decade later, Bootleg Canyon has drawn newer Pro Women like Christine Dern, Amanda Batty, and Kirby McLean. Up and comer junior females from as far as Canada have kicked off their dream seasons right here in the canyon. The terrain is challenging and the conditions can be hard for riders unaccustomed to the desert, BUT, the experience and resulting photos are always worth the trouble. For several seasons we have seen the return of AFD Racing, this year bringing 3 young women to compete in downhill.
In 2015, the Nevada State DH Champs saw a growth of many new riders, including many more women, surprisingly not in the Pro or Expert categories. Cat 2 & 3 SuperD saw the most entrants, with womens Pro Downhill not far behind. Cat 1 had the most limited attendees for all age categories, and the dual slalom only had 4 women. We are really stoked that more local women and riders with less racing experience are tackling the terrain of Bootleg Canyon and participating in the fun race scene. We are extra super stoked to have watched Shine Skills School Alumni Kristi & Mary race so smoothly and stylishly and receive amazing results. There were a few crashes but no injuries that we heard of for any of the ladies. We very much hope this growth in females racing and riding at Bootleg continues into the future. This is why we NEED you ladies to come out and join us in February for Mob in Mojave!
Shine Booth & Tea Bar
This year, Shine had a booth set-up to serve both hot and cold Guayaki Yerba Mate and provide a place to rest, work on bikes and practice a little yoga. Yerba Mate is a tea from South America, revered as the “drink of the Gods.” Traditionally the tea is drunk from a gourd with a straw called a bombilla and sharing the tea symbolizes community and friendship. Many riders were shouting Yerba Yes! and Yerba Power! and had already tried and loved Guayaki from previous encounters with Shine or just finding it in the markets. Many agree that the tea is positively energizing, increased mental clarity and focus, AND restored their bodies after intense training and/or injuries. I personally drink it all day every day and swear it keeps my immune system strong, my mind elevated, and my body protected from the mishaps that can sometimes happen with mountain biking (like falling down the Poop Chute).
Friday Open Practice
Friday was an open practice day, with shuttles running to the top of the SuperD course. The race shuttles are pretty scary for those who have not ridden it several times. Crammed into the back of a big flatbed truck, front wheels hooked over the railing, riders are jostled around as the truck heads up the bumpy access road. The closer you are to the back of the truck, the bumpier it may be. You will want to watch your fingers, and wear your helmet so you have no loose items to lose off the side or back. Keep a wide stance, smile, and get close with your neighbors, you’ll be laughing about the ride later. If that truck is really not your thing, All Mountain Cyclery has a more plush shuttle that runs regularly in season, with riders inside and bikes in a trailer.
After unloading the shuttle at the top parking area, to reach the downhill course, riders must push their bikes up a rocky trail riddled with switchbacks and amazing views with the possibility of spotting Big Horn Sheep. Rumor has it Marla used to pedal all the way up this trail that we often struggle just to walk up over and over again to practice and race. At the very top of the mountain is a VORTAC, a giant navigational tool for all the planes in the Southwestern US. The first deck for the Flightlinez Zipline also begins from the tippity top and provides great views for the DH trails below. You can see all the way to the Vegas Skyline and even witness the big nasty smog cloud develop throughout the day. In the other direction is Lake Mead, shimmering amongst the red mountains. Ignoring the small city view, you might think you are in the middle of nowhere!
Saturday’s Super D & Dual Slalom
Saturday’s Super D Race was held on the familiar and fun trails Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. While there are some rocky sections, tight turns, and the bottom of Boy Scouts is a little pedally, this course is relatively easy compared to other trail options from the shuttle drop off point (*cough* Skyline *cough*). Cat 1 through 3 women had the opportunity to race first, leaving time to cheer on the Open and Pro women, Elli & Sarah as they came flying through the finish line.
Dual Slalom racing began as soon as the timers could move their equipment down the mountain. This portion of racing is the easiest and possibly most fun to spectate. Racers push their bikes back up the course each lap and spectators are slapping high fives, shouting words of encouragement, and even heckling a little. The course was the most buffed (super groomed) that we’ve ever seen, however some corners are a little loose, adding to the challenge. After a good amount of open practice, riders took qualifying laps and brackets were set up. There were only 4 women. For Cat 1 women, it was just myself and Sam. Sam easily beat me, which actually just makes me more stoked for the future. Amanda Propst and Chelsea Reynolds raced each other for a combined category of 2 and 3. Amanda took 1st and both looked smooth and beautiful on the course. All riders agreed that they wished there were more women involved in this fun competition.
Sunday is always the big day with all categories of Downhill racing and a final Chainless race at the end of the day. The race was held on Snake Back, a trail with a few challenges up top, but lots of fast and flowy sections near the bottom. With the Pro’s and Cat 1 racers headed down the notoriously tricky Poop Chute section, many racers were cramming in practice in the morning to find the smoothest lines. AFD Racer Georgia Astle had one of the best quality videos we’ve seen so far for sharing the Poop Chute joy:
There were a few crashes, but no major injuries. I personally lost a shoe in the Poop Chute, and ARD Racing Georgia Astle flatted somewhere on course, both resulting in the addition of time to our results. Mrs. Harmony even slid out in the finish arena, spraying spectators with dust, but was completely un-unscathed. No, she was not holding the baby!
After normal Downhill racing, many competitors headed back up the mountain for a Chainless run before the timer finished up his timing. As I boarded the shuttle to go take my last lap for the day, I saw Sam up on the hill with our friend Lorin Whitaker from Utah. I knew what she was about to do so I started yelling for the shuttle driver to wait. Next thing I know it, Sam is following Lorin into the Bender Sender, an enormous step-down road gap, never before attempted by a female. Click the photo for the video and Sam’s re-cap of the amazing feat.
After a long day up on the steepest side of the mountain, spectators meandered back down to the pits for the final awards, prizes, and wrap-up a great weekend. I was lonely on the podium for SuperD & Downhill so I had Sarah Dog and Brooklyn Haskin keep me company. Keep your eye out for Brook, I hear she will be racing Dual Slalom before you know it!
There were many photographers on course and lots of incredible photos as a result. PHOTO 13 Media was kind enough to donate web-size images for use in our blog. Ian Cook was also out shootin and many others. Contact us if you have photos to add please!