Winter Park’s Petr Hanák takes downhill mountain biking world championship
For Sky-Hi News
Petr Hanák returned home to Winter Park last week a Union Cycliste Internationale Masters downhill biking World Champion.
Hanák claimed the coveted rainbow jersey after duking it out with 53 other riders on a slick, technical course at the Cerro Bayo Bike Park in Argentina on April 22.
“I felt excited, the world champs are a special race for all of us” Hanák explained. “You’re racing for the rainbow jersey, which is what every racer wants to have on the wall, so it was a lot of thinking, a lot of preparation and big focus.”
The course Hanák and his fellow masters had to ride was puckering, to say the least.
Nestled in Argentina’s Andes mountains, Cerro Boya Bike Park is littered with steep, technical singletracks. The UCI course wound through a boreal forest ablaze with southern-hemisphere fall foliage. It was steep, fast and fraught with slick tree roots, big drops, hairpin turns and slippery mud — Hanák and his competition rode the course at break-neck speeds, vying for the elusive first-place finish.
“The top was a fast upper section, the middle section was very slippery with switchbacks and the bottom section was pretty techy and kind of fast with some jumps,” said Hanák.
To win, he said he had to close his eyes and ride fast over the “crazy-gnarly roots.”
Hanák, who grew up racing BMX bikes in the Czech Republic, moved to Winter Park in 2001, and started racing mountain bikes soon thereafter. After a long tenure of professionally racing enduro, downhill and slalom, the 46-year-old moved on to compete in the masters category, which is open to competitors aged 45 through 49.
“I have two kids and a wife, and I’m 46, so it’s kind of not easy to train and compete against those young kids,” said Hanák.
But even though he competes in the masters category, he says that he still likes to ride with younger racers, because they push him past his comfort zone.
“I like to get beat by the young kids, because I always learn from them,” he said. “They push me — they go faster and I get nervous — and I want to beat them, so I have to stay with them.”
Hanák said he likes to race against both riders who are younger than him and his fellow masters, because he can learn from all of them, which helps him race in — and win — competitions.
“I always learn new stuff. There were people from Scotland or Holland, and they have different riding styles there, so you need to watch and you need to learn from people from all over the world,” he said.
For a man who has been competing at such a high level for decades, this approach to racing is crucial. But his advice to new riders and veteran racers is more simple.
“You need to have it in your heart,” he says.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
The Sky-Hi News strives to deliver powerful stories that spark emotion and focus on the place we live.
Over the past year, contributions from readers like you helped to fund some of our most important reporting, including coverage of the East Troublesome Fire.
If you value local journalism, consider making a contribution to our newsroom in support of the work we do.