Gone are the of 12 million gallons of water, rafts, kayaks, and water babies. What’s left? A mixture of coarse granular material with a matrix of cement, a.k.a., A Concrete Jungle…… It's Time to Rumble! After a month of social media skepticism and hearing everything from “They wanna do what?”, “Urban DH? At the USNWC? Really?”, “What the heck can they really do?”, “No way”…… I think we can speak for all those that might have had the same thought, but came to lay down some laps. The U.S. National Whitewater Center
hit it out of the park. It was a friggin blast!
MTB racing is not the first thing that comes to mind when you see this sign, but you would be wrong. The USNWC is a non-profit and actually has more than 20 events on their annual schedule, that’s pretty much something going on every two weeks. Everything from XC racing, whitewater slalom and time trials, 5Ks, 10Ks, and now, expanding their portfolio further, “Urban Concrete DH.”
There’s lots to keep you occupied….. a total of 400 acres with everything from a climbing center, adventure course, canopy tours, 20 miles of XC trails, an outfitter store for those things you don’t already have or can’t live without, some eats and beverages, you name it, they've got it covered.
Burn that moisture right out of that wood. Originally on the docket for Saturday, the staff had to change the plans and push the event one day out to Sunday. Mother Nature decided to bring more than 2.5 inches of rain to the area on Saturday, which resulted in scramble mode with lots of extra unplanned manpower and ton of pre-race prep work. It also forced the staff to make the decision to cut the course in half. Unfortunately it just wasn’t possible to service the course to get rid of the standing water and algae residue in time for a full day of racing.
Practice was initially planned for 10:30, and leading up to the witching hour there were not less than a dozen crew members doing everything they could get rid of the last remaining transposed algae remains and trying to dry out the waterlogged wood features as best as they could. Conditions would remain slick for a few hours until the sun put the track into over-dry. Big thank you for those that worked running the pumps 24-7 while Mother Nature worked against them trying to fill 'em right back up.
As the crew put the final touches on getting the course rideable, riders were looking to other parts of the facility to get the blood flowing in those legs and loosen up the rest of the body up. Concrete over here, concrete over there, plenty surface area to choose from. This one happens to be this photog's fav shot from the weekend.
One of the two walkover bridges was good spot to see pretty much everything and a spectator viewing favorite spot all day.
Local Charlottean Zach Slaybaugh rides under the walkover bridge. The Men’s DH was an open class and with all the talent that made it out, it was hard to stay competitive. Zach finished 36 out of 66.
Round the final corner and the finish line was right in sight, just under the second walkover bridge into what on any other given day, is the retention pool for the whitewater folks.
Laying down the practice laps, you got to see who was pinned. All bets were on a battle between TWR's Neko Mulally, Chris Herndon (Nekos’ coach), former NatChamp Geritt Beytagh, Pro Jeff Lenosky (Giant), with a few local wild cards giving it everything they had. Geritt’s pinned riding the channel wall……. Run one = broken chain. I swear that boy likes to break sh&t, seems to happen more often than not. Run two = he couldn’t find it in the gasser and had to settle for the second spot.
Giant’s Jeff Lenosky, another big name in the industry, made it out to the Rumble. I think we were all stoked to see so many big names make a showing at a Grassroots event. He finished just off the podium in P4. Jeff is a heck of a nice guy. Nice to finally meet you dude!
Matthew Browne over one of the small drops on course. He finished 14th overall.
Frankie Rodriguez, dirt jumper by day, one of the surrogate Dirt Passion crew, and trail crew for UNCC’s Fruit Trails, probably should have been spending time in the library writing a paper or study for a upcoming test…… “Screw that, I am playin' on my bi-cycle!” Good choice, he finished 2nd in Men’s Beginners.
Jacob Randolph finished 64th out of 66.
Neko = Pinned. What else is there to say?
Ian Barrone with one out. This was probably the slickest spot on course, sure seemed to be early on as riders figured out exactly how to attack the course. Seems the algae was grown right into the concrete and no matter what you did, it seemed to boil out of the pours of the concrete. Ian did take the top spot in Men’s Beginners with a 0:52.4. Not too shabby mate!
If you had the speed and dared, you could gap the first feature on course. But make a mistake, land off balance or too close to the edge of that slick/soaked wood, you’d end up in the drink. Though that drink was only about 6 inches of water, but had a nasty algae base layer waiting to claim it's victims.
The 39th spot in Men’s open? Local Alex Daskalow.
Matt Casto tucking and pumping for as much speed as he can muster. Green Yeti shirt….. see I remembered. He took 32nd in Men’s Open.
Shawn Kane rounded out the top ten in Men’s Open.
Just a handful of the ladies showed up. Lauren McDonald has the face of focus. She’d take the bronze out of the five women racers that give 'er a go.
Bruce Lockhart, Chainsmoke Racing, made the 4.5 hour trip to get out of the cold and snow in Virginia. Bruce is a regular on the podium in the “OId Man” class at each of the Snowshoe and Beech DHseries. He was hard pressed to pull that off this weekend, with the class being open, damn youngins are just too fast.
Spending the winter months getting in some warmer weather training in WNC, great to see Neko Mulally and a couple of other World Class riders out for a sunny Charlotte afternoon. I couldn’t count the “Damn he’s flying” comments as I Iistened to the spectators that weren’t familiar with the TWR's racers level of skill. At the end of the day, Neko took the top spot (0:45.5) over another former #NatChamp
Geritt Beytagh (0:45.9), and in third, his coach Chris Herndon (0:47.2).
Round 2 for the day was a Short Track race….. hey, you can’t have a race day without a little lycra. Around the channel, then single file into the channel to complete a lap. As many laps as you can put down in 45 minutes.
The first lap in the channel was an interesting one. Most of the obstacles would only allow a single file attack and you know how competitive people can get. The boys that lead lap one are pictured above. Roughly 40 minutes later, it would be James Haycraft with 14 laps 39:12.4 in the top spot, Jimmy Awad (known to shred some real DH racing in his own right) with 14 laps 39:12.7, and Rusty Bryson with 14 laps 39:29.3. Close finish between one and two, James and Jimmy.
More single file with the boys in the back. Take it easy folks or otherwise you’d be introduced to Mr. Road Rash.
The final corner was the place to be. 90% of the crowd parked it right here for the duration of the day….. Oh, then there’s the heckle crew! (next photos).
For whatever reason, the spectators turned up the “Heckle Fest” several notches for the short track race after the "quiet" (in comparison) urban DH runs. The more you did, the louder and louder they got. This crew definitely took the award for the loudest bunch of the day……. makes everything so much more fun. Props guys!Final Short Track ResultsFinal DH Results
To simply sum it up.........for the first annual, Well Played USNWC!, Well Played!GoJaMMedia