Slippery When Wet isn’t just the name of a 1986 Bon Jovi album, it’s a fact of life for mountain bikers.
Sodden trails added another dimension of derring-do to the downhill races at Sima Slamfest at Mount Sima resort on Sunday.
“When the trail is so wet you can’t hold fast lines,” said Whitehorse’s Massey Baker. “You’re more on the edge racing in the wet. You’re more on the edge of crashing.
“Everyone was crashing. When I got to the bottom everyone I could find crashed.”
A rain shower a couple hours before Slamfest’s main downhill race — on the trail “Lefty Loosey” — left few riders unscathed in their runs.
Many riders, including the top five finishers, took spills riding the roughly two-kilometre run with 335 metres of vertical drop.
About a third of the way down Baker hit a root and his bike washed out from under him, sending him into a patch of trees.
Undeterred, the 23-year-old jumped back on, finished the course and placed first in the open men’s race. It was the first Slamfest win for Baker, who missed the event the last two years.
“It feels good. It always feels good to win,” said Baker. “It rained a lot so everything was kind of slippery.
“Everyone is in the same boat, so everyone drops into a greasy, slippery run. From my knowledge, everyone in the top three crashed. I crashed off the trail into a bunch of trees and took a fair hit to my head. But I came out in the lead, so it couldn’t have been that bad.”
Baker wasn’t supposed to be at Slamfest in the first place. He’s been competing in B.C. and national enduro series races down south all summer and returned home a couple of weeks early after breaking his bike. Baker, who borrowed a bike for Slamfest, competed in 10 enduro races, topping out with a sixth place in Williams Lake and taking 18th out of 43 at nationals.
He mostly had “middle of the pack results, which I’m pretty proud of,” said Baker. “I’m racing pro men for Canada, so the best of the best. I had some mechanical failures, broken bikes — par for the course.”
On Sunday Baker finished the course in four minutes and 14.59 seconds for first.
Mount Lorne’s Ben Kinvig, who last year won his second downhill title at Slamfest, took second with a time of 4:18.44.
Just .04 seconds behind Kinvig was third place’s Brody Ryckman, a youth division winner the previous three years.
Julien Revel, the 2010 and 2014 winner, took fourth at 4:27.21 and event organizer Josh de la Salle placed fifth with a time of 4:29.90.
“It’s hard for me to keep this going, but I’m trying to make it a little better each year,” said de la Salle. “It seems to be growing a little bit every year. I try to add better prizes and add more sponsorships.”
Though Baker claimed the big prize on Sunday, he was outdone in the “Drop the Clutch” open men’s race on the beginner/intermediate trail. Aidan Uiterwaal took first, finishing two seconds ahead of Baker in second.
This past weekend was the seventh edition of the more-or-less annual event since 2008. The mountain bike festival wasn’t held in 2011 because of the construction of a chairlift. In 2012 the AFD Gravity Cup Downhill Mountain Bike Race held instead of Slamfest.
“It’s great to see lots of people out here and to come support Sima,” said Baker. “They are growing exponentially every time they host (an event). A lot of people come out and gives them an opportunity for more trails. It’s just great to see Whitehorse pulling in a strong biking community.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com