Shake, rattle and roll down the staircases and through the streets of Mexico's Taxco Urban DH race.
It's not every day you get a lift to the top of a downhill track with 20 friends from eight different countries -- all in one truck! The shuttle vehicle would scrape its chassis on every speed bump, so on more than a few occasions a few riders would have to hop out and help push.
Taxco is an old silver mining town that spills up and over a very steep mountainside. This is the view from the start. Following the tight and twisty alleyways and down countless sets of stairs, there is a downhill track. The "non-traditional" terrain is what makes these urban races so unique.
I couldn't tell you the last time I saw Kelly McGarry put a number plate on his bike and race the clock. He was fresh off a second place finish at Red Bull Rampage a few weeks earlier and the local crowds were thrilled to see him launching the big jumps, literally right in front of their doorsteps.
This is not the typical place for a bike race. Standing trackside, it's clear nothing on the course was ever designed with two-wheeled travel in mind. The only complement to the city atmosphere is the amplified noise of bikes thundering down each extended staircase.
Wil White was another rider in attendance who is more known for big mountain events like Rampage. With all of the big jumps and big crowds along the track, Wil was focused less on the clock and more on entertaining the crowd, going big with a variety of tricks each time his wheels left the ground.
Moments after this image was taken -- during Friday's practice session -- Greg Williamson had a massive crash. Secondhand descriptions of the incident sounded scary and the images of his mangled helmet that appeared on Facebook left many concerned...
It was a relief to see Williamson up and about on race day. After a night in the hospital, he had been released to cheer on his fellow racers. The racing community is very tight-knit and no one likes to see another rider go down. Thumbs up, Greg.
Geoff Gulevich was another freerider and crowd favorite in Taxco. Admittedly, Gully came to ride the course -- not race it. His off axis flips that floated along the second story balconies during the best trick contest got some of the loudest cheers of the day from the mass of screaming fans.
After a few big backflips over the final jump, Bizet switched his rotation forward. This was probably the first time for most in the crowd to see a frontflip performed up close and personal. When Bizet landed, the place went mental and confirmed first place for Antoine.
Nothing compares to the enthusiasm and sheer volume of the crowds at these Latin American events. Mitch Ropelato may not have had the best day of racing, but all was forgotten when he began tossing his gear out to the thousands of fans below. The energy of the Mexican fans is unmatched.
Marcelo Gutierrez is darn-near a household name in many Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America. The top World Cup racer is always a threat for the win in any urban descent event. He's also one of the friendliest and most approachable guys out there.
While this was an international event, it did not overshadow the local talent. Fastest native on the day and a respectable 11th overall against a stacked international field was Mexico's own Luis Guillermo Cervantes.
After finishing his best World Cup season in 2013, Neko was considered a top contender -- on only his second Taxco visit. He admitted worrying about crashing and the consequences of such a treacherous course. To come away with fourth place and health intact should feel like a win.
Taxco is contested via a best-of-two format. When Bernardo Cruz crossed the line on run two with the fastest time of the day -- barely faster than the first-run times of Filip Polc and Marcelo Gutierrez -- he set a new bar and set the stage for the blistering final runs that followed.
By winning the majority of these recent urban races, Marcelo Gutierrez has turned into an urban legend. He'd won a street race in Barcelona just the week prior. He was the man to beat all weekend, and came close, but his winning streak came to an end -- finishing second.
For years, Filip Polc stood as the undisputed king of street racing. In 2012, Marcelo Gutierrez challenged the claim with several major wins in a row. The playful rivalry of the past year often found Marcelo just ahead, but at Taxco 2013 it was Filip who returned victorious again.
It was an international podium at Taxco, which bodes well for any event only in its second year. The top five riders -- Filip Polc, Marcelo Gutierrez, Bernardo Cruz, Neko Mulally and Remy Metallier -- represent five countries: Slovakia, Brazil, Colombia, USA and France. Urban DH racing is alive.
The hospitality of the Taxco Urban DH organizers was second to none. They capped off the event by loading up a donkey with tequila and cerveza and parading all of the riders through town before arriving at a private nightclub. This would be yet another first-time experience for most of the riders.