Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009 | 3:01 p.m.
Local downhill mountain bikers went up against some of the top competitors in their sport Feb. 14 and 15 in the Mob in Mojave at Boulder City's Bootleg Canyon.
More than 300 cyclists from 15 states took part in the downhill cycling event, making it one of the largest competitions at the popular mountain biking locale, tournament directors said.
For the first time in its four-year history, the event was sanctioned by USA Cycling, which attracted professional bikers looking to earn points for the International Cycling Union series.
Boulder City High senior and downhill cyclist Jake Sorensen said it was an exciting weekend, watching some of the best mountain bikers in action.
"A lot of serious bikers were here today," Sorensen said. "I thought it was well organized and it was probably the biggest competition we have ever had out here."
Sorensen took first in the Super D expert division and ninth in the junior expert downhill division.
"I'm getting better," said Sorensen, who competes in several competitions a year. "It's all about building confidence and going for it."
Downhill biking involves cyclists speeding down steep slopes at speeds that reach 40mph. Bikers race against the clock, not against each other, on courses that run about two miles and include several sharp turns and jagged hills.
East Las Vegas biker Kyle Diaz, who practices regularly at Bootleg Canyon, said the sport can be very challenging. Several padded cyclists took spills over the weekend.
The course was more challenging than usual, Diaz said, as the wear and tear from multiple riders made the track slicker.
"When you're at the top you get this adrenalin rush, because it's steep and there are a lot of rocks," he said. "After a while though, you just get used to it."
The competition gave out $2,000 in winnings for the top five men and top three women in their respective professional downhill division on Feb. 15.
British cyclist Dan Atherton took home $500 for winning the men's professional division.
Atherton narrowly beat out his younger brother, defending Downhill World Championship winner Gee Atherton, with a time of 3 minutes, 9 seconds.
The Athertons, who are training for the International Cycling Union series in California, were the most lauded cyclists at the competition.
"This is definitely a pretty unique place to race," said Dan Atherton. "There isn't really any other place in the world that is rocky and dry like this course."
Henderson biker Francine Johnson, who won the women's open downhill division, said the high turnout throughout the weekend was a pleasant surprise.
"I think the sport is starting to catch on with more people," Johnson said. "The more the merrier."
Sean Ammerman can be reached at 990-2661 or [email protected].