Widowmaker Returns after 15-year Absence

Widowmaker Returns after 15-year Absence

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CROYDON, Utah (AP) -- The Widowmaker is back. After a 15-year absence, the motorcycle climb up the steepest of hills resumed this weekend on what organizers call the perfect setting.

Thousands of spectators showed up Saturday in the heart of Weber Canyon to watch hundreds of off-road motorists attempt to conquer the hill.

"(Croydon) has a mountain that will live up to the Widowmaker tradition," said Jordy Smith, one of the main promoters of the hill climb.

The hill climb features two 300-foot sagebrush-covered hills and one 1,000-foot hill. Instead of being at the Point of the Mountain east of Interstate 15 where the original hill climb began in 1964, organizers found "the perfect hill."

"I think that this hill is almost impossible," said Scott Ehlers from Sacramento, Calif., as he looked up on the domineering terrain.

Ehlers has been riding for about five years and competed on one of the 300-foot hills, called Mo Hill, Saturday. Many pro riders attempted to reach the top of that hill, but several barriers got in the way.

"It's not so much that it's steep, it's the dirt. It's hard to get traction. If you can't keep your momentum, then you"ll just dig a hole in the dirt with your back tire," Ehlers said.

Riders get 20 feet or less of flat running at the base of the hill. In addition, turns, holes and sometimes artificial obstacles may be placed on the hills to increase the difficulty of the climb.

The other 300-foot hill, known as Trophy Hill, was the easiest hill at the event, made for youth riders.

Spectator Ren Baker of Bountiful, who has been riding for about 35 years, said in trying to reach the top, the bike doesn't make as big a difference as the rider.

"It's 98 percent preparing for it and 2 percent doing it," Baker said. "I would love to try it."

The original Widowmaker ended in 1988 after developmental pressures, alcohol-related issues and contempt from some environmentalists.

In order to maintain the natural habitat of the hills, immediately following the event, people will begin raking in ruts and spreading native grass seed. They will also utilize straw-filled tubes called "waddles" to help ensure water does not flow in an uncontrolled manner down the hill and cause erosion.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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