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College bikers at ski area

Angel Fire will host several events over three days

About 250 of the country’s best collegiate mountain bikers are converging at Angel Fire this weekend for three days of jarring jumps and rugged racing.

The 2011 USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships will bring students from across the country to the Northern New Mexico bike park to compete in downhill, dual-slalom, cross country and short-track cross country.

Competition begins at 9 a.m. Friday. Action runs through Sunday.

If you go
WHAT: USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships
WHEN: Friday through Sunday
WHERE: Angel Fire Bike Park
HOW MUCH: Spectating is free at the base area and $22 for an all-day lift ticket, $12 for a single-trip ticket.

The University of New Mexico’s Lobo Cycling Team will serve as the weekend’s host school and will have 10 athletes entered in various events.

Brent Gillespie, president of the UNM club team, said the Colorado schools tend to dominate at national events but that Lobos Michael Robinson and Nick Heine could finish high in the cross country field.

“They are strong riders, and they will definitely do well,” Gillespie said.

If there’s any advantage to being the “host” school, it’s not necessarily a familiarity with the site. Gillespie said the Lobos haven’t done any group outings to Angel Fire, although some members have ridden the mountain on their own.

That may or may not prove helpful, as Angel Fire Bike Park Director Hogan Koesis said the park will feature some new courses designed specifically for this weekend’s event.

Competitors will get a smooth-but-occasionally-steep cross country course, a downhill race with a little bit of everything – fast and flat sections; steep and rooty areas; jumps – and what Koesis describes as “the biggest dual slalom course in America.”

Dual slalom is comparable to BMX. Bikers go head-to-head on a short course, navigating jumps and berms. Whereas berms on most courses are a foot high, Koesis said Angel Fire’s are up to six or seven feet.

“We’re going big,” he said.

Angel Fire hosted the same event back in 2006. But the bike park underwent a recent expansion that featured 29 miles of new and improved trails.

Koesis said the competition is spectator-friendly.

“If you bought a chair ticket for the day, you could hang out and watch some of the racing,” he said.

Lift tickets are $12 for one ride or $22 for the full day. There’s no charge to be at the resort’s base area and walk to the dual-slalom course.