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Sunday is payday for Dusty Beer.

On the final day of last year’s Great American Hillclimb, defending champion Beer earned $4,850 of the $30,000 guaranteed purse.

The Columbus native will be back to defend his championship class title at the 83rd annual event, which is today and Sunday in Billings’ South Hills. The 37-year-old Beer has captured the championship four times, with his first title coming in 1987. Racing against Canadian, Frenchmen and other Americans, Beer also won the World Cup held in Billings last year in a time of 9.724 seconds. He is currently leading the North American Hillclimbers Association Standings with 46,781 points. Travis Whitlock of Elizabeth, Colo., is second with 46,038 points.

Despite being the defending champion, Beer said competitors like Whitlock, who is a six-time champion at Billings, are aiming to beat the hill, not him.

“We’re all pretty good friends,” said Beer, who is competing in his 19th Great American Hillclimb. “It’s not like it’s a rivalry between riders, it’s more of a rivalry between riders and the hill. People don’t shoot for the pre-vious champion. They shoot to beat the hill.”

Event promoter Darrell Devitt said Beer will be the man to beat.

“He’s the man to beat. He’s the favorite,” said Devitt. “He’s the defending Great American champion and the defending World Cup Challenge champion.”

Beer said the reason himself and others keep coming back to Billings is because of its class.

“It’s the best organized, best run and biggest and richest event we go to,” said Beer. “We travel all over the western United States and Billings is still the king.”

Beer said one challenging aspect of the storied 390-foot hill is its “wall”.

“The hill is unique compared to all the other ones,” said Beer, who when not riding dirt bikes is a miner for the Stillwater Mine. “It’s got a sheer wall at the top. It approaches close to being vertical, it’s about 30 feet tall.”

Devitt says that if everything goes right with the weather he expects a crowd approaching 15,000 to 20,000 for the two days. Devitt said last year the event attracted nearly 20,000 spectators. Beer said he appreciates the crowd, but puts it all aside when he’s attacking the wall.

“It’s not so much of a deal when you’re riding. Some people notice the crowd, but I don’t,” said Beer. “I basically notice the hill and it’s me and the hill.”

Beer said some of his main challengers for the championship will be Whitlock, the Kimball brothers of Utah, Kevin Downs of Molt and Shannon Chamberlain of Billings. Chamberlain won in 1993.

Devitt said others who may contend are Harold Waddell of Nebraska, Jon Smith of Utah and Robie Peterson of California.

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