Mountain Sports Gravity Team takes on Snowmass

Ramp up for Nationals this weekend

Battling rain, hail and the desert heat, not to mention a notoriously tough course, the Crested Butte Mountain Sports Gravity Team (CBMST) posted top ten results across the board, with some breaking top five and one rider reaching the podium at the Blast the Mass in Snowmass July 10-11.
Blast the Mass is the fifth stop of the Mountain States Cup and is home to one of the toughest downhill tracks of the race series.
This year, the event hosted two downhill races on two different downhill tracks, opening with a mellower course on Saturday.
“Saturday’s course was more like a trail than a race track,” says CBMST gravity coach and pro rider Kain Leonard. “Lots of fun turns and not very technical.”
While some riders chose to ride their smaller bikes with 5.75 inches of travel, Leonard stayed with his downhill bike pushing his way onto the podium with a third-place finish.
“Third on my regular downhill bike—I was pretty stoked on that,” says Leonard.
Team rider Stephanie Leonard took fifth place in the women’s pro class and Colin Pickett took fifth place in the CAT I ages 19-29 in his first race since breaking his collarbone earlier this season.
“He had a really good mental game this weekend,” says Leonard.
Sam Degenhard was right behind Pickett in sixth place and Josh Palmer cracked top ten, placing eighth among the juniors ages 12-14.
Team rider Teo Bradbury is knocking on the door of the CAT I class but struggled on the first day in his CAT II race, taking 12th place.
But that was just one race of two and the team had to readjust for what lay ahead of them on Sunday as the venue moved to the notorious Blast the Mass downhill track that includes a section dubbed Hell’s Kitchen.
It’s one of the toughest and longest courses in the entire Mountain States Cup series. What it may lack in overall technically challenging terrain, it more than makes up for in speed, steepness and physical challenge, with the top riders dropping close to 2,000 vertical feet in four minutes.
“It’s a real race track,” says Leonard. “It’s wide open fast at the top and you hit speeds between 35 and 55 miles per hour. It’s not very technical but really rough and physically demanding. It makes your bike feel like it’s just falling apart underneath you.”
This year, organizers threw in a snow section option as well for athletes to blast through, over or around.
“It was crazy,” says Leonard.
Leonard had a rough start to his pro race on Sunday. Due to the format over the weekend, organizers abandoned the preliminary seeding races that are usually held and sent riders into their final runs immediately.
“That kind of messed up my routine a little bit,” admits Leonard. “I couldn’t get my momentum going and ended up playing it a bit more conservative.”
Three of the top five riders in the men’s pro class all posted times in the four minute and nine second range, with hundredths of a second separating them. Leonard finished the day in fifth place, just missing a second trip to the podium.
“That track really suits my style and I was hoping to step back on the box again,” says Leonard. “I’m definitely happy with a fifth-place finish.”
Stephanie admitted being nervous about the course a week ago but charged to a fourth-place finish among pro women—her fourth top-five finish in as many races.
Since the beginning of the season, Leonard preached to his riders to finish each race and remain healthy. Faced with the Snowmass course, Leonard reiterated his goals for the team riders.
“I was definitely preaching to be conservative on this track,” says Leonard. “You can get in over your head pretty quick.”
The athletes heeded Leonard’s advice, led by Bradbury, who returned from his disappointing run on Saturday to take fourth place on the tougher course Sunday.
“To keep it reined in and still crack the top five is awesome,” says Leonard.
Pickett posted a seventh-place finish, Degenhard took 15th and juniors Palmer and Tom Underwood finished in eighth and 11th place, respectively, in their class.
“It was really fun to see these kids ride smart on a track where you can make dumb mistakes,” says Leonard.
The team regroups this week before heading off to Sol Vista Bike Park in Granby, Colo. July 15-18 for the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” says Leonard. “This is going to be their first national race, but I think we’re ready for it.”

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