Red Bull held their first mountain bike event post-peak coronavirus madness, and Raw Slalom held in Killington, Vermont mixed in a heavy dose of ruggedness that the energy drink’s MTB events are known for into a more typically groomed format.
Riders descended onto the Red Bull Raw Slalom course on July 17, with some rain and mud and made the flat-cornered and choppy slalom course even trickier than it was expected, but that seemed to align with the mission.
Typically, dual slalom courses feature two riders carving down hard-packed berms, rollers, and pumps. Cornering speed and form are key ingredients. Aaron Chase had a different take on the format.
“I’ve been kind of rippin’ and sessioning the woods with my friends and racing each other and having fun and this sort of started from that,” says the long-time pro. In 2018, Chase and friends carved out a slalom-like course and raced it unofficially. His representative at Red Bull liked the idea, and the brand wanted to do something to kickstart mountain bike events again as the pandemic subsided in the US.
Chase is from New England, grew up racing at Killington, raced pro, and still works with Red Bull, “so this is kind of deeply rooted with me,” he says. In 2020, Chase says they ran a small event to prove the concept, but since events have been returning to normal this summer, Raw Slalom seemed like the perfect race and party to kick things off.
“I really wanted to do a slalom race where, you know, it’s more about the community getting together and experiencing it all like the day together than it is about you know, winning a race chasing the points and having a big prize purse or anything like that. So this is more of a feel good, let’s all get back together and have a good time together.”
The Raw Slalom course features two tracks for rivaling riders, but instead of them running parallel, the track runs mirrored. Once a race concluded with a rider on the left and right track, they went back to the top, swapped, and raced again. Instead of peppering the course with jumps and rollers, there were flat turns, loose dirt, and more obstacles and “showboat features.”
“It’s a course for show-offs like me,” says Chase. Near the bottom, the track gets steep and there are woodchips littered everywhere. Balance, handling skills, and suspension setup were crucial.
“It comes down to who can hold it as wide as they can, you know, consistently run after run, because it is a race of splitting hairs and that usually means that the person who makes the least amount of mistakes wins.” The winning riders had to make about ten runs that day as they moved up the brackets, Chase said.
David Lieb of Ida, Michigan and Mazie Hayden of North Claredon, Vermont took the top spots in the open category. Participants were able to choose whichever category they felt comfortable racing in whether it was open or amateur, and a kids race followed Sunday.
“I’m just looking forward to having a good turnout, racing some people and seeing how far I can get in the brackets because I haven’t raced dual slalom in a few years,” said Chase ahead of the event.