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Big Wheels roll into Northfield for Claymore Challenge

Ben Glassen of British Columbia finishes his final run with a fancy mid-air twist as he competes in the Claymore Challenge at Highland Mountain Bike Park in Northfield last Saturday. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
July 21, 2010
NORTHFIELD — Mountain bike athletes from around the country and beyond descended on the Highland Mountain Bike Park in Northfield last weekend to participate in a gold level event known as the Claymore Challenge, one leg of the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour.

Thousands of fans came up to spend Saturday afternoon mountainside along the course for a close-up view of the bikers as they demonstrated their skills on the trip down the trail. The event was featured in a live webcast for those who couldn't attend and a jumbotron gave those at the mountain, especially the athletes themselves, a chance to see a replay of each run.

Much like an Olympic ski event, the qualified riders took off one at a time from the starting gate and flipped, twisted and sailed their way down the course.

"This is a great mountain," Rider Ben Glassen of Vancover Island, British Columbia, said. "Because they don't ski it in the winter the snow just sits on it and holds the course up real well. It has features like the motocross jump at the end that you don't see at other mountains," Glassen said.

Part of Demon Dirt's mountain bike team, Glassen and five of his teammates rode 57 straight hours from the last stop on the tour in Canada to make it to New Hampshire in time for the Claymore Challenge. Glassen said they kept switching off drivers when one got tired and kept an eye on the GPS, which clocked off their miles on the journey.

"The GPS said we'd get here 2 o'clock on Wednesday, just in time, and we did it," he laughed.

Glassen said his path to competitive mountain biking was natural. His dad was also a cyclist and when he graduated high school a few years ago he announced he wanted to become a professional rider.

"I've been riding all my life and I ride every day now. It's just something I really want to do. Someday I hope to make a living doing this," he said.

For now he works, aptly, in a bike shop back home when he isn't off on the tour trying to make a name for himself.

Top winners take home cash prizes, some of them quite hefty, he said, and that is where Glassen would like to find himself one day - on the podium holding a big check.

He likened "slopestyle" mountain biking competition to figure skating, "but a lot more fun and exciting," he joked. Bikers make their way down the course, pedaling up dirt ramps, hurling themselves over "drops," climbing walls and leaping other obstacles along the way. Besides successfully completing the course each rider throws in their own tricks along the way, hoping to impress the veteran bike riders who sit in a tower to judge their performance.

"I was disappointed today when a new trick I've been working on didn't work out, but I made it down and now I'll just cheer for my teammate Casey (Grove)," he said after his final run.

Grove gave his teammates plenty to cheer for when he landed a fourth place spot in the final tally. It was defending champion Brandon Semenuk of Canada, however, who took home the Claymore Challenge once again, narrowly defeating Californian Cam McCaul. McCaul had held the lead until Semenuk's second run placed him out front. On McCaul's second run to regain the lead he failed to pull off a front flip at the end of his run and Semenuk beat him by a mere 0.25 points. Logan Peat of Ontario, Canada finished third, 17 points behind the leaders.

The next stop on the tour will by the Crankworx in Colorado where the race for the prize money will continue.

Highland Mountain Bike Park will soon be hosting the second session of a new weeklong overnight camp, Ayr Academy. The camp will begin Aug. 2 and is open to riders of all levels from age 12 to adults. World-class rider Dave Smutok, designer of the bike park, will direct the session and other professionals like Adam Hauk and Aaron Chase, who competed in the Claymore Challenge, will be among the coaches.

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