March 20th, 2017 10:49am
The world of mountain biking is unique. By most pro-sport standards it isn’t exactly what one would call lucrative. But the lack of money doesn’t detract from those chasing their dream of being a World Cup downhiller and standing up on the podium in front of fellow racers, fans and the ocassional TV cameras. The satisfaction of ripping a run or tough section creates a life long memory. The thrill is almost unrivaled and that’s what fuels the non-factory racer to criss-cross the country chasing the dream of competing on the world cup stage.
Bicycle World recently met up with Dante and Jackie Harmony - pro downhill racers - as they traverse the country chasing the biggest and best mountain bike events in North America and asked them to document their experiences racing, traveling, and making ends meet on the road in the good ol USA.
We promise this won’t be one of those made for TV reality show where someone cuts their brake lines just to make good viewing. What you will get is a real feel for what it’s like for serious athletes to live on the road, chasing their dreams, living the life and doing it on a shoe string budget. Be sure to book mark this little segment and visit it on a weekly basis.
TUCSON TO THE US OPEN AND BACK TO ALBEQUERQUE
This year, the powers that be, finally got it right and scheduled the 2010 U.S. Open in New Jersey and the annual Angel Fire Chile Challenge in New Mexico on separate weekends. Jackie and I have really wanted to do the U.S. Open for years now, but due to the fact that Angel Fire is 1850 miles closer to home, we usually choose the cheap and easy route and stick with keeping it on this side of the Mississippi.
We were planning on just biting the bullet and driving to Jersey by ourselves unless we could find someone to split gas and driving duties. We happened to meet up with Jon Card, a Cat 1 DH and 4X ripper at the Nathrop Mountain States Cup race the week prior to leaving for the U.S Open. We had only known Jon for about 10 minutes before we decided to join forces and haul ass back east to show them Jersey boys and girls how it’s done.
The plan was to meet up near Albuquerque at our friend Matson Hunter’s place to drop off my trailer and Jon’s truck. On the way from Tucson To Albuquerque, our White Whale, a 1996 Ford E-350 Power Stroke, turned 300,000 miles old! We all showed up late, which kind of seems to be a thing for mountain bikers in general, and loaded up with 3 bikes in the van and 6 bikes on my “Pickle Fork” hitch rack. The drive out to Jersey was completely uneventful, unless eating at Subway and stopping for our dog Carter to piss is considered eventful.
We had a blast at the U.S. Open. The trails were awesome, the lifts were sweet, and registration was painless (you didn’t have to buy $90 worth of lift passes to practice and race like in Angel Fire). I was getting more and more confident in my line choices, but managed to botch almost every single one of them in my qualifier run and just missed the cut-off. Jackie qualified 3rd, her best qualifier ever against the likes of Melissa Buhl, Tracy Moseley, Fionn Griffiths and Jill Kintner. She was also one of 4 or 5 girls out of the 16 girls present to air out the massive “Pro Jump” near the finish.
Race day was exceptionally relaxed for me since I failed to qualify. I got a few morning runs in on some of the mountains less racy and flowier fun runs. Then I devoted the rest of my time to making sure that Jackie’s bike was dialed in and that she had enough food and water. The short racecourse made for some really fast and pretty close times. Jackie ended up finishing strong with a 4th place behind Moseley 1st, Kintner 2nd, and Buhl 3rd. She said she had a few bobbles up top, but managed to clean it up on the bottom of the course. Jon Card had a freak mechanical at the top of his race run which eliminated him from competition. He did, however, manage a 4th place finish in the Giant Slalom so his weekend wasn’t a total bust.
The awards ceremony at the U.S. Open turned out to be a joke. It took forever for them to get the stage set up and they placed the podium directly underneath a big steel lighting truss which meant that first, second, and third place finishers had to duck while on the podium. In addition to that, they called out, announced names and sponsors, and brought up to podium 5 riders deep in every category, except Pro Women’s DH and SG. WTF? It doesn’t matter that the event organizers upped the Pro Men’s payout while dropping the Pro Women’s payout, which didn’t leave enough money to pay the 4th and 5th place women. What does matter is the fact that there should have been some consistency to the awards program and at this point it just seems mean and sexist to deny the women a chance to stand on the podium, or even next to the podium to make their fans and sponsors proud. So, after a quick chat with race officials and learning that there was nothing we could do but complain, we said screw it and left for dinner.
That night we partied it up a little bit to celebrate making it through the weekend and Jackie and Jon’s impressive finishes. The next morning we met up with Chris Heath (KHS) to pack all his 3 bikes and gear along with our stuff for the drive back to Albuquerque. Other than having the A/C cut out just after we crossed the Mississippi into Arkansas, the dive was again, uneventful. We all got a chance to work on our driving tans with the windows down and the stereo all the way up. It also made for some good sleeping now that we had 4 drivers to split duties.
We made one important stop on the drive back at our good buddy Dave Lee’s house in Amarillo, TX. He insisted that we go to “The Big Texan” for dinner and we all readily agreed. I was thinking about trying the 72 oz. Steak Special, where if you devour the whole thing along with a ridiculous amount of sides, you would get your meal for free. Upon seeing the massive chunk of beef, I quickly changed my mind. That thing was about the size of a full on loaf of bread, only solid meat! We stayed the night in Amarillo and headed out bright and early to drop Chris and Jon off at their vehicles and get ready to head up to the first chairlift accessed downhill race in the west, Angel Fire’s Chile Challenge.
I’m not sure exactly what we did to deserve all this, but we managed to make a few new friends, drive a few thousand miles, eat a few too many roadside meals, and brought back a few badass results. We were able to help out Jackie’s sponsor, Cove Bikes, by delivering 4 bikes back east at the local bike shop Ridetopia. We were fortunate enough to stay at the LBS owner, Jason Rinker’s house and hang out with Dean Henthorn from Clutch Photography and Bicycleworld.tv. Every now and again, Jackie and I will reminisce about how fortunate we are to have fallen in love, then to have fallen in love with riding, and how many great times we’ve had, how many great people we’ve met and how glad we are to be a part of such an amazing sport with so many amazing people.
Next stop: Mountain States Cup Chile Challenge in beautiful Angel Fire, New Mexico.