The Underworld Cup Recap
The Underworld Cup is the unofficial name for the North West Cup race held one week directly after The Sea Otter Classic. The race is at Dry Hill, in Port Angeles Washington, and attracts 1/3 of the racers who flew in for Sea Otter, who want to get some real Downhill racing in before the UCI World Cup kicks off.
|During Friday practice Photo Credit: Paris Gore|
As one would expect, NWCup/Underworld cup is held in the middle of Washington logging country, so everything about the race has a distinct uniqueness. The registration booth is an abandoned school bus, the lift to the top is 20-30ft U-haul box trucks packed with riders which are then use the logging roads to reach the summit. It’s astonishing as to how well run this event is.
This was one of the smaller U-haul trucks, which fit 14-20 riders depending on how cozy it was packed.
Practice started on Wednesday, it was my first time riding Evil – Undead on a real downhill course, so I was pretty antsy to get out there and try it out. The course flowed really well, and had a good combination of high speed, braking bumps, technical sections, and tight turns. The upper part of the course, dubbed white knuckle, was the fastest part section and required very little braking, though I will admit sometimes I really wanted to. It was much faster than any of the race courses out on the East Coast, but in contrast wasn’t quite as technical. Overall I was feeling good about the race, and my bike felt great. Seeding and race days at Dry hill are a bit different from any other race. The Underworld Cup is part race, part gauntlet. The bottom half the course is lined with fans which isn’t odd, but the fans are increadibly talented hecklers. The loudest person, and/or person with a megaphone, will lead what type of cheering each rider gets. By that I mean some riders will get happy birthday sung to them, other will get the silent cheer, distracting to say the least. Here’s a video example from 2011. It gets better, direct in the riders field of vision will be two grizzly bearded loggers doing the wheelbarrow in only boxers, blow up dolls arranged in various provocative positions, or a horse masks blowing the vuvuzela. If you can’t tunnel vision very well, you’re going to have a bad time.
My seeding run went well, or so I thought. I gave it a decent effort and had a few minor mistakes, but hit most lines and was pretty content with it. I was certain that I’d have a top 30 time. Well, the clock told a different story. I seeded in 46th place, way off from where I wanted to be which demoralized me quite bit.
On Sunday, the course received a bit of precipitation, which brought the Pacific North West conditions back to life. Unfortunately due to the number of competitors each rider is only allotted a single practice run. My only practice was okay, but was far from desirable. I went into finals with low expectations, but in my mind, I still wanted to get a top 20. My actual race run went better than I had imagined, Early on in my run I was bumped out of a line and stalled a bit in a turn which cost me 1-2 valuable seconds. Other than that, I can’t complain. I took off over 7 seconds and finished 26th overall, 4 spots behind Jared Graves and 6 behind Cedric Gracia.
Final thoughts are that I still have a little work to do to compete in the big league, though I’m on the right track it seems. This course highlighted a few areas of weakness for me, notably staying calm/composed at high speeds.