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Top pro mountain bikers to compete at Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa

IF YOU GO

When: Saturday, April 9

Where: Chris Beck Arena, Sonoma County Fairgrounds

Address: 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa

Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 at the gate

Schedule:

2 p.m. - gates open

3 p.m. - qualifying

4 p.m. - live music, expo

5 p.m. - finals

More information: www.atsshowdown.com

Top pro mountain bike riders from around the nation will twist, turn and flip 30 feet in the air Saturday at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds as Santa Rosa native Andrew Taylor brings his AT’s Showdown home.

About 40 of the best-known freeride mountain bikers will compete in a head-to-head competition in the main event, winnowing down the bikers until a top aerialist is crowned.

Taylor brought his Showdown, which for four years was held in San Francisco’s Cow Palace, to Santa Rosa after a three-year break.

He’s excited to share his unusual passion with Sonoma County bike enthusiasts of all kinds: kids, families, leisure bicyclists, trail riders and those who prefer a little air under their wheels – while doing a backflip 360.

“I’ve been riding bikes for a living for about the last 10 years,” said the 28-year-old, who moved to the bicyclist haven Santa Cruz about seven years ago. “Since I grew up here I’ve always wanted to do something here.”

Saturday’s event will begin at 2 p.m. and qualifying runs will start an hour later.

Riders will be able to leave their bikes with a free valet parking attendant and browse food booths and vendors and listen to live music as qualifying continues.

The finals begin at 5 p.m., pitting 32 of the most creative bikers in a March Madness-style bracket.

Typically, one rider competes at a time. His competitor can then adjust his strategy knowing what he has to beat.

“But this contest is kind of unique,” Taylor said. “We’ll have two identical courses side-by-side. So riders will actually go against each other at the same time. Makes for an interesting thing to watch. … Each rider will do his own tricks to hopefully try to beat guy next to him.”

The so-called pump track, built by the Redwood Mountain Bike Alliance, will have drops, berms and curves for riders to perform flips, whips and other stunts.

Pro rider Greg Watts, who helped Taylor design and build the tracks, said fans will be treated to some fun maneuvers.

“We know what the riders like and what we want to create in a course so the riders have fun,” he said. “When you’re having a good time riding, you know the show will turn out well.”

He called it a low-stress course “so you’re not scared to death to hit it,” but one that will have 16-foot structures and 10-foot drops.

Mountain bikes, larger than the more typical stunt BMX bike, can perform bigger jumps and are more stable in the air, Watts said.

Judges will base their votes on the tricks riders do, but also on height, level of difficulty and the number of tricks strung together.

Watts said there are “four trickable jumps in a row” at one point in the course.

The riders are coming from the U.S., Canada and Europe, Taylor said.

“These are some of the top guys in the sport,” he added.

Taylor’s mountain bike alliance will begin work on a pump track at Southwest Community Park beginning next month.

A replica version of that will be at Saturday’s event for bikers to try out.

“We see kids from 2 and 3 years old, just starting out, all the way to grown adults,” Taylor said. “It should be super fun. Tracks like these are popping up in a lot of cities. It’s a safe sport and a good family event.”

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

IF YOU GO

When: Saturday, April 9

Where: Chris Beck Arena, Sonoma County Fairgrounds

Address: 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa

Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 at the gate

Schedule:

2 p.m. - gates open

3 p.m. - qualifying

4 p.m. - live music, expo

5 p.m. - finals

More information: www.atsshowdown.com

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