Team hits the road to compete
A new local gravity bike racing team has emerged, thanks in large part to the support of the Crested Butte Academy and the efforts of Academy snowboard/bike coach Christian Robertson.
The idea to develop the team was born last spring as Robertson started coaching bike racing to students at the Academy, testing the waters of the race circuit.
Robertson spent time on the 2007 race circuit throughout the West competing, checking venues and talking with local professional downhill bike racer Kain Leonard about the idea of coaching the team.
This year, the idea came to fruition with Leonard coaching and wrenching and Robertson as the Gravity Race Team program director.
“We were able to bring Kain on this year and this is the first year we really got organized,” says Robertson.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” says Leonard. “It’s a sweet program.”
Leonard brings nine years of racing experience to the program, including six years as a pro. Leonard sees the program as unique in the nation, following in the tracks of what is happening on the international gravity racing circuit.
“It’s a lot like what they’re doing in Australia and France,” explains Leonard. “They’re coming out of the junior race classes and just destroying the pros. We want to create the premier gravity training program for junior riders.”
In addition, Pete Sedunov of Go Big Mountain Sports in Mt. Crested Butte jumped on board to help the team with equipment.
“He’s pretty excited to help out the downhill scene,” says Robertson. “He got us connected to Iron Horse bikes, Troy Lee Designs and Maxxis.”
The gravity events of mountain bike racing include four disciplines: Downhill, Super D, Mountain-cross and Dual Slalom.
The team started training in Gunnison at the pump track, a BMX-style course, and at the Hartman Rocks dirt jump park, complete with video analysis to help improve technique of the riders.
“We can correct their technique on the pump track and that’s going to apply when they’re going downhill at 40 miles per hour,” explains Robertson.
The team, while originating with the Academy, is open to riders of all ages and abilities and currently has 10 riders signed on, including two riders from the Academy, two Western State College students, and two riders from the Front Range.
“It’s a really nice mixture of kids and ages,” says Leonard.
The Gravity Race Team opened its 2008 racing season competing in a mountain-cross and dual slalom at the Chalk Creek Stampede, the first stop on the Mountain States Cup (MSC) for gravity events.
Robertson and Leonard took six riders from the team to compete along with them, posting some solid results for the first race.
“It was a good showing. We had a couple podiums,” says Robertson.
“They held their own and did great,” says Leonard.
The team is headed to the next stop on the MSC series at Angel Fire, N.M., May 23-26, where they will get their first taste of racing on a Downhill track and in a Super D, a mix of downhill with some uphill stretches thrown in the course.
“We’re looking forward to this event in a big way,” says Leonard. “I think a lot of the Academy kids who are big mountain skiers and snowboarders are going to rule in the Downhill.”
The program is open to riders of all ages and abilities and plans on hosting camps in the area.
“We’re definitely looking to reach outside the school,” says Robertson. “We want to open it up to anyone who’s interested. We’d like to do a lot of stuff for local riders, including some men- and women-specific camps, kids’ camps and teenage camps. We’re going to throw some different things out there and as we solidify the program, we’d like to offer it to people from around the country.”
Once the snow melts, Robertson and Leonard hope to join forces with Crested Butte Mountain Resort to continue work on trails and a downhill track on the mountain.
“That will literally change the face of this place,” says Leonard.