On January 8th, 2011 Taiwan had its first Urban DH Race. Specialized was one of the sponsors and brought Sam Hill in as the guest of honor.
The race scene in Taiwan is nothing like what it is in North America. Often the only way to find out about races is word of mouth, and nine times out of ten you find out after the race is over. After chasing a rumor about Sam Hill coming to Taiwan in January to race in an Urban Downhill, I decided to put a team together.
I talked to the other foreigners working out of Pacific Cycles and my team was ready to go. It turned out to be a pretty stacked team with Lance Canfield: Canfield Brother's Bikes, Red Bull Rampage competitor, Stijn Deferm: Stijn Cycles, three time Belgian National Champion, Astrix Team Rider, Ryan Carroll: Astrix Sports, Suspension Engineer and Bike Designer for a list that includes Saracen, Bergamont, Banshee, Orbea to name a few, Dirt Magazine Top 100, Jay MacNeil: Banshee Bikes and myself as a back up rider/tire changer/last minute bike builder ... due to the slow rehab after back surgery.
In the press release for the race it said that all bikes had to have over six inches of travel, which was the first problem we encountered. Taiwan is not known for its downhill trails and we only had one DH bike between the five of us ... and it was a show bike that had never been ridden. With only two weeks before the race we all started tracking down frames, suspension and parts. A week before the race we were calling in favors from friends in the industry trying to get our hands on the last pieces we needed. The night before the race Lance made a hand made chain guide for a frame he pieced together the day before, Ryan stole cranks and bottom bracket parts from two other bikes after I destroyed one of his bottom bracket cups and Stijn arrived at noon on Friday and did not even know if he had a bike to ride. In a two week span, more like two days we built up four downhill bikes that had never been ridden ... I think we did a pretty good job. They looked nice at least.
In January the weather in Taiwan is pretty miserable. It rains almost daily and the temperature hovers around 10 degrees Celsius, which might not sound cold, but after a year of 30 degree days, 10 degrees is cold. And with no indoor heaters it is pretty much unbearable. Saturday morning could only be described as miserable, I had to wake up at 5am to get on the road and it was raining in all directions. Oh and I found out the day before that Jay could not make it due to Chinese class, so that meant I had to ride. We got to the venue and Lance and Stijn had already arrived with the bikes. We unloaded the bikes and took shelter from the rain and geared up for a slip and slide.
We only had time for one practice run and the course was pretty cool, except for the man made obstacles. The builders of the course were not riders so the wood made stunts were sketchy to say the least and caused more than one rider to crash. Most of the riders, myself included decided that the wood stunts were both dangerous and slower than the easier lines. While waiting to drop in on my qualifying run, I saw at least three riders go down in the same section:
I dropped in on my qualifying run and was screaming like a Banshee until I flatted coming out of a pool/fountain thing. It was a good place to flat because all my friends were right there and there was a covered area and it gave me a chance to take pictures instead of riding in the final, ha ha ha.
After qualifying I grabbed my camera and tried to capture as much of the course as I could. I went to the finish and saw a good friend of mine sitting under a tent with Sam Hill. Sam was signing autographs on pretty much everything, helmets, shirts, number plates, body parts, I think he may have signed someone's baby, but I can not confirm that. He said he is getting over some injuries and would have raced if the weather was better, but did not want to risk in the wet conditions.
Just up from the finish area was by far the best man made feature on the course. It was a hip road gap with a right hand corner coming into it and a landing that was giving guys trouble even with out hitting the gap. I talked to the builder of the course (a non rider) and he just did not get how dangerous it was. He assured me that the top Taiwanese racers would be "putting on a show" over the gap. The current number one DH racer and eventual winner of the race asked Lance if he thought it was safe enough to hit. Lance told him he would not hit it in the rain and maybe not even if it was dry. No one ended up hitting the "road gap". This picture does not do it justice but it will give you an idea of the whole feel of the race.
The place the event was held was amazing, the weather was horrible, the man made features could have been left out or more thought could have been put into them. But even with the weather they managed to put on a decent event and I had a good time and got some average pictures.
Stijn on his way to a forth place finish
Little Iron charging down another set of stairs
A Taiwanese racer getting his splash on
Lance like a demon possessed on his way to a third place finish
Lance crossed the finish line and knocked Stijn out of the hot seat. Lance was not there long before a Taiwanese racer at least 20 years younger than him took his place.
In the end our team "Pacific Pride" finished with a respectable third and fourth. As a correction to the picture, Lance is from the USA and Stijn is from Belgium.
I would like to thank Eva at Pacific Cycles, Mike and Gavin at Spank Industries, Cosmic at Funn, the guys over at Race Face, Emma and Ceri for hanging out in the rain and taking pictures and everyone else that helped out. Oh and a special thanks to the guys at IXS for making a rain coat that kept me some what dry in all of that rain. Easily the best rain coat I have ever owned.
I will leave you with a bunch of links that you should check out and a shot of the podium.