As the athletes rolled in for an early morning roll call, the fog was stagnant on the course, looking up from the bottom you could barely see the features halfway up the hillside never mind the top features. The rain from the day before left the top unrideable this early in the day and concern was expressed from both some riders and the organizers. Fortunately, we had the positive vibes of Gud Life entrepreneur, Johny Salido to keep the stoke high with the understanding that as soon as the sun burns the fog away, we're going to be left with a beautiful smokeless day of jaw-dropping riding and high-fives - he was right.
Around mid-day the riders started to pad up, the fans were rolling in and checking out the vendor village before making their way up to the course to find the best spot to see the madness go down. Members of the Black Sage Dirt Works and the riders were on course with shovels and rakes aiding mother nature in drying out the features so the riding could commence as soon as possible. Once everyone was happy with the condition of the dirt, the ridiculousness started.
In the women's field, all the athletes, sans Ming Goetz who hurt herself in practice, were padded up and ready to drop. Although this is technically a competition, there is no denying that the athletes are there to support one another, if Cami hit a feature multiple times and she was confident on it, she'd tow Hannah in so that Hannah knew that as long as she kept the distance between her front wheel and Cami's back wheel, then everything was going to be just fine. As finals got closer, it became apparent that there, due to a variety of reasons, would only be two women dropping to see who would take home the First Place check and a sick trophy. Hannah Bergemann & Camila Noguiera made it to the start gate. Both athletes had been sessioning the same features and line down the hillside, so it was just down to which rider would do something to make themselves stand out from the other. No one is ever jealous of being a judge, and especially when you have two riders such as Noguiera and Bergemann who both slayed the features they hit, however, after two runs apiece it was Cami's day. And the support for her fellow competitor wasn't left on the course - she pulled Hannah up to the top of the First Place podium log to share the moment while the flashes popped, right before the champagne shower commenced.
Again, no one is jealous of being an event judge, especially when there were so many lines and so many possibilities for the athletes to hit - and with a little better weather in the days before the event, there would have been a crazy amount of sniper lines to link features from one side of the hillside to the other making their job damn near impossible. The guys were all over the course, putting together lines that would make them stand out from their fellow competitors, the stupid big Shark Fin was a feature that had a lot of riders scratching their heads but it was 2nd and 3rd place finishers Reed Boggs and Dylan Stark, respectively, who combined this monstrosity into their run. Another noteworthy moment of jaw-dropping insanity was when Paul Genovese said, "Well, I showed up on a single crown - I can't be a poser." so he proceeded to throw a Barspin off the first drop, followed by a Tail Whip off the Pucker Pad, then, because that wasn't enough, he Suicided the Penthouse Drop, again, Paul was the only rider on a single crown. It was Carson Storch who took the lead during the first round of runs and that's where he stayed all day. 2019 First Place finisher, Reed Boggs came nipping at his heels during his second run, but just fell short, however, Boggs was still stoked to lay down such a solid run. Dylan, well, he's just something else, his style, his positivity, and his sheer determination was evident throughout the entire time at the event - even after falling further up the course in his second run, losing any chance of catching Storch to take the win, he didn't see this as a reason to safely get to the bottom, he figured, hell, this is a reason to show the crowd a good time - unfortunately, he came up short when he tried front flipping the bottom feature and pitched himself over the bars, he managed to get up and shake it off before medical professionals and Josh Bender checked him out his smile on the podium showed that he was just fine.
Proving Grounds 2021 was nothing short of a great success, the course was insane, thanks to Kyle Jameson and Black Sage Dirt Works, Todd Barber held everything together and made sure, with the help of his incredible staff, that all that was in his control ran as well as it could, and the comradery between all of the athletes was all-time. We cannot wait for Proving Ground 2022!