Riders fly high at second annual Whip Off competition (with video) | SteamboatToday.com

Riders fly high at second annual Whip Off competition (with video)

Bucky Stardust, 30, tied for second at the Whip Off at Steamboat Bike Park on Friday, Aug. 9.
Shelby Reardon

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — At the second annual Whip Off at Steamboat Bike Park, judges Brooke Packard and Grace Trolinger graded each competitor on a few criteria: amplitude, style, degree of whip past 90 degrees and the return of the bike to a straight position. Each category is scored 0 to 5 and then combined for a total. 

Packard, 43, and Trolinger, 29, met through Gravity Girls, a local downhill clinic, three years ago. Neither had ever judged a competition before, but tried to do so fairly amongst friends and strangers on Friday, Aug. 9. 

About 20 riders showed up, with just the judges representing female bikers.

“It was the hardest thing because we know most of them, which is hard,” Packard said.

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“Judging consistently is what we tried to do,” Trolinger added. “There’s a lot of people we know and a lot of people we didn’t know.”

Trolinger admitted that keeping track of which rider was which was also a challenge, but the announcer described bike, helmet and shirt colors to keep names straight.

Nick Kornegay, Forrest Christian, Ryan Saladin, Bucky Stardust and Zach Dunn were the five riders who earned the top scores, making up the top five.

The group traveled up the hill twice more, looking to turn out their best whip yet. With a small crowd of onlookers gathered at the jump, they took off down Buckin’ Bronc one by one, gathering as much speed as possible before whipping their back wheel sideways in front of the judges.

“Just being confident,” Kornegay said of his tactic. “If you’re scared you’re gonna mess up pretty good. You just got to be confident and practice.”

Kornegay, 24, finished third in the 2018 Whip Off, but walked away with a first-place prize package on Friday.

Stardust, 30, and Saladin, 26, tied for second. Meanwhile, Christian, 17, topped the junior class, which featured riders ages 14 to 17. Dunn, 23, walked away with the best wipeout. 

During his last run in the jam session ahead of the finals, Dunn couldn’t quite get his bike back under him, drawing gasps from spectators as he slammed into the dirt track. The gasps morphed into cheers when he quickly stood up, hands raised high in the air.

“The jump is pretty big,” Bike Park Manager Trevyn Newpher said. “Going from the takeoff all the way down that landing, you’re going close to 40 feet. To really do that jump and do it well and take it to its full potential, it takes a lot of skill. To throw a whip and maneuver in the air while you’re traveling that fast and flying that far, it takes a lot of skill as well.”

Dunn’s crash was the only one of the evening, but Saladin sported a bit of a limp on his way up to the podium.

Newpher began managing the Bike Park about five years ago and created the Whip Off last year.

“The Whip Off is something you do see in the industry now,” Newpher said. “It’s a style and maneuver in riding that’s highly praised in some ways. The ability to do a good whip is very stylish and a lot of riders try to throw that one in the bag.”

To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.

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