Dual slalom bike race features fast riders, epic wipeouts in Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — At award shows, everyone asks, “What are you wearing?” At the Johnsie Memorial Dual Slalom Bike Race, everyone asks, “What are you riding?”
For winner Petr Hanak, the answer is a 26-inch hardtail with studs in the tires. Some rode fat bikes, others mountain bikes, some with studs, some without. One noncompetitor was atop a rig with a small ski where the front tire should be. The crowd watched in awe as he floated down the face of Howelsen Hill.
Hanak, a Winter Park native, brings his family to the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival every year, and has won the dual slalom bike race five times. He added the 2020 trophy, handmade from bike gears, to his collection on Friday, Feb. 7.
“When I was little, I used to ride my bike back to school in the snow, back in the Czech Republic,” he said. “We got a lot of snow back then. Not now, but before we had a lot of snow.”
Hanak was far and away the fastest rider in the race that put cyclists side by side on courses that mimicked a slalom skiing race. He barreled down the powder-covered course with ease. As he approached a gate, he stuck his inside leg out for balance as he turned his bike. Hanak said he doesn’t pedal much, aside from five or six strokes at the very bottom.
“Just try to stay in the ruts,” he said of his tactic. “That’s it.”
Harrison Britt was Hanak’s closest competition. He blazed down the mountain, beating Matthew Resignolo to make it to the final against Hanak. However, before hitting the first gate, Britt’s bike hit a soft spot, sending him flying out of the seat and into the snow.
“I knew if I wanted to win, I was gonna have to lay it all out on the line. So that’s what I did,” said Britt with a shrug. “A little too much sauce.”
Britt grew up in flat and balmy Florida, the geographic opposite of Colorado, but he’s been biking all his life and has lived in Steamboat for three years. He competed in the dual slalom race last year, but was knocked out in the first round. He definitely improved on that result.
“I’ve just bumped up my excellence factor,” he said.
Britt said the key was to keep his weight over the back wheel of his Yeti SB6c mountain bike.
“Then definitely (put) a leg out on each corner, with a little bit of drift action on the back wheel,” he said.
The race requires resilience and persistence. Even if a competitor crashes early on, they can make up time, especially if their opponent crashes farther down the course. So, no matter how rough their attempt was, every rider finished their course.
For Molly Clynes, that required a lot of standing up, brushing off, grabbing her bike and going again. She fell at nearly every gate.
Racing against Rose Epstein, Ryley Seibel had a tough time as well. Epstein finished so far ahead that she was able to run back to the finish, pull out her phone and record Seibel wipeout one last time before finally finishing.
The race winner always waited for their opponent, acknowledging their effort with a fist bump, high five, or in Epstein’s case, a hug.
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