Marquette Bike Jam: Riders go head-to-head in Gravity Jam’s dual slalom

MARQUETTE – Shortly after 4 p.m. Saturday at Marquette Mountain, things started going downhill – exactly as planned.

The Bike Jam Gravity Jam dual slalom race attracted more than 100 spectators, eager to see the 36 riders go head-to-head on the short, but challenging course.

“(We) tried to make it challenging for everyone, and fast and fun,” said Philip Ott, 27, of Marquette.

Ott, the owner of Quick Stop Bike Shop and a sponsor of the 2013 Bike Jam, helped build the downhill and slalom courses at Marquette Mountain, and also competed in the Dual Slalom.

Riders started side-by-side and quickly gained speed as they maneuvered through a series of berms and rollers before hitting a final pair of rollers as they crossed the finish line and braked in the soft mud at the bottom of the course.

“The course is fast, flowy. (There is) a tight turn at the bottom,” said rider Adam Raphael, 26, of downstate Boyne Falls. “It’s (more) technical (than last year) in the sense of speed … It’s all about how fast you can ride it. It’s about who can handle that turn at the bottom going so fast.”

After a qualifying run, riders were separated based on their times into three divisions that included a separate bracket for female riders, who were joined by 7-year-old Xander Gilbert of Fenton – by far the youngest rider on the mountain.

Once separated into brackets, the slalom riders went head-to-head, and the rider who won the best-of-three races advanced.

While the course itself was a challenge for riders, building the course offered its own set of challenges.

“The slalom is radically different (this year),” said Ott. “We had a lot of issues with mud with our wet spring.

“The slalom we had to rebuild three times, because it was so muddy, and it’s still not where we want it.”

With the weather clearing up Saturday, Gravity Jam riders were left with enough mud to have fun and spectators got to enjoy the sunshine as they watched riders take on the course as well as one another. For Ott, that’s what the Gravity Jam is all about.

“Riding is everything,” said Ott. “You can’t ride it if you can’t build it. You can’t ride it if you don’t dig it. It’s good to help out.”