Mountain Bike Reviews Forum banner
1 - 18 of 18 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,737 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have an interest in what makes elite mountain bikers.

Over the years I have observed, in Canada at least, elite racers tend to come from a couple of small geographic regions. Probably one of the best examples is Courtney/Cumberland on Vancouver Island in BC. Right now the top two juniors in North America live there (Carter Woods, and Emilly Johnson). Both are ridiculously fast and both could be junior world champions this year and they go to high school together. And in their high school is two other racers who are in the top 20 in North America. Alumni of their high school, Kira Bisaro (a very good world cup racer from 2000 to 2008) and none other than Geoff Kabush. The population of area is less than 30,000.

All over Canada there are these MTB pockets. All of them relatively small in size and all of them consistently produce super fast riders.

So what is it? One thing they all have in common is absolutely wicked riding. But lots of places have wicked riding and don't have near the pedigree. I don't think is coaching either, these crazy fast kids literally appear out of the woods.

Is this just a Canadian thing? Or is it similar in other countries?
 

·
Up In Smoke
Dirt Roadë
Joined
·
3,281 Posts
The Swiss had their reign of terror, see it in downhill too with guys like Bruni and Vergier. I think it’s the the environment and competition of getting a group of competitive people who push each other to success.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,429 Posts
Colorado Springs, Boulder and Durango here in CO.

That encompasses half of the US MTB pros, I'd guess.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
I agree with this CO list and would add that fit fast parents make fit fast kids. You can't toss a stick in Boulder without hitting an ex-pro, CoSprings is home to the OTC, Durango has both the gene pool and infrastructure to maximize a kids talents. In Steamboat our little town has produced more Olympians than any other town on the US by providing a path to develop a kid from the earliest age with coaches that have been there and done it. The fast kids in my town come from parents that have natural athletics talent, no matter if they have results in competition. Some of the strongest athletes in town can ride me into the ground without trying, they don't "train" just ride. Most don't care to race, but just try to drop them on a fun ride and it's impossible.

I think of it as a natural selection process where strong athletes are attracted to strong athletes and produce strong kids that being brought up with strong parents get strong themselves just keeping up. A couple of grade school kids up here are getting into ski-mo racing by just chasing their parents up the ski hill, it's just family fun for them but they can kick my a$$ without trying. The parents were attracted to each other cause no one else could keep up with them back pre-kids.

How these "seeds" were initially planted into these towns is another question, but I think Darwinism is the answer the OP is looking for. In the mountains of CO it's just hard to ski every day and enjoy the lifestyle if you don't have above average athletic strengths. That's why some don't choose to stay, they just don't have fun because everything makes them too tired, or they just can't hang. So fit fast athletes naturally select themselves to stay, and grow above average kids.
 

·
Rides all the bikes!
Joined
·
4,489 Posts
I think income is going to play a huge part. I imagine the places that have a lot of good athletes also have high income. Sure, you don't need a good bike to be fast. But good equipment is motivating to keep going. In addition, entry fees and the ability to travel. Even traveling to areas with slower competition is motivating.

I would be curious how that compares to running. The cost of entry for running is nearly nothing. Do we have the same kinds of pockets for elite runners? Sure, they may migrate to specific popular areas, but do they tend to only come from those areas? You hear a lot about that with for example Kenyan runners. But some arguments have been made that in some of the villages, running is their only chance at wealth and success so they push hard!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,659 Posts
You would think here in Utah we'd have all the elements of Colorado but we definitely have some cultural differences. With the dominant religion here, a lot of kids go on missions at 18 which are probably most critical years for pro consideration/development. I see a lot of them come back and biking is last thing on their minds. They thinking more about finishing college and getting married. Some of these kids were tops in Utah HS league which is largest league in the nation (in participation numbers).

But the one town here that produces a few pros is Park City. Altitude, biking infrastructure, great trails, development facilities, XC skiing, etc. so they definitely have the elements, but seems those kids wind up doing something else that will lead to more $$$.

On a different vein, I'm always fascinated by Colombia. My dad lives there (I visit almost every year and did one race there) and the amount of top level road pros they produce is unbelievable. They got altitude and heat simultaneously (very unique condition), strong junior development, successful and active adult models, strong talent filtering mechanism (junior races on long steep hills), and young people that want to get out of poverty via cycling. So these kids are committed. Considering the small population there, this seems to be the most effective formula.

I got to meet Lucho Herrera, he lives in same neighborhood as my dad. He invited me to a group ride he runs on Sundays. I'm sure he'll drop my ass even though he out of shape.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luis_Herrera_(cyclist)).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
621 Posts
Agree with sbsbiker on the gene pool.

The pockets are where the sport is the most popular and where the competition would be the strongest, and they improve by "one upping" each other.

Definitely not always the case, John Tomac grew up in the same small town in Mid Michigan as i did and i suck.;). Back in those days all the pros moved to Durango.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,564 Posts
There are riding programs for kids here in the Comox Valley. The local elementary school has an after school mtb program and a group from the high school in Comox was out with their principal yesterday. Lot's of opportunity for young people to participate.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,122 Posts
Cycling infrastructure and culture play a large role. We have a lot of really fast guys, but you won't see any young juniors or pros develop here. We simply don't have the culture. Without the cycling culture you don't have NICA races, competition against someone their own age, coaching, and basically no way to mold or develop young riders. The culture in Asheville, Colorado, Park City, and Canada is crucial to supporting the sport.

As sidewalk said, higher income really helps too. You must have disposable income to even participate in this sport.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,375 Posts
Terrain is the primary factor, infrastructure the second, and culture third but ultimately the most important factor. In other words:

1) You gotta have rad terrain

2) You need to have an MTB-friendly community that invests in it (not all do, some are antagonistic)

3) Because of the welcoming bike culture, many of your "locals" will actually be coming to you from other areas of the country.

I can talk about a handful of young Colorado pro hopefuls that hail from the flatlands of South Texas and Louisiana...

I'd be proud of Bentonville, Arkansas if it was on that list of hotbed areas in the next 20 years thanks to the Walton boys.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,808 Posts
Terrain, Climate and competition.

Places with these 3 will develop better riders with less effort. All riders need to put in the effort, but you can only ride the trails around you when the climate allows. Of course more competition pushes riders harder. This why pockets develop.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,638 Posts
Colorado Springs, Boulder and Durango here in CO.

That encompasses half of the US MTB pros, I'd guess.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Yeah, but half of our fast Austin folks move there for development the moment they have 1 serious year of success.

Who knows how many people that moved there for development otherwise. That's more of a destination and the Sleeping high and training at 5k feet sure helps those lungs!

I'll borrow and steal form others:
- Trails
- Ability to ride or crosstrain most of the year is important
- Access to competition (a bike racing scene to push development)
- Household money to go to races

This question gets discussed all the time with Texas Football. "are there schools that turn out College stars and pros." "is there something in the water?"

Good coaches form programs. Good programs and legacyy of winning attract parents who will literally move their kids to that school system to give them their shot. This happens at a very young age here. Some parents will literally do it mid season to put their child on the playoff team.

So many athletes out there that never pick up the sport. I met a collegiate swimmer the other day who now has started racing mountain bikes. His 20 min power is 391... :madman:
 

·
Rides all the bikes!
Joined
·
4,489 Posts
Yeah, but half of our fast Austin folks move there for development the moment they have 1 serious year of success.

Who knows how many people that moved there for development otherwise. That's more of a destination and the Sleeping high and training at 5k feet sure helps those lungs!
Yep, few teenagers I know from SoCal have done the same thing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
477 Posts
Culture is huge in my mind.
There are several regular training rides in my area each week. Sometimes I have feelings of inadequacy on these rides because I don't have World, National or State champion bands on my sleeves. We have former pros and Olympians too.
The bar gets set quite high on these training rides... obviously, there is a culture of speed, but there's also a culture of proper technique, skill and training.
Riders who live in areas where they are not exposed to this level of ability and knowledge are at a disadvantage.

Many of these characters are now Masters racers... with young kids that are getting into the sport. These kids have the full advantage of receiving quality coaching from their elders.

Great roads, trails and year 'round riding doesn't suck either. Many of those accomplished Canadians train in my area in February and March.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,249 Posts
I'm in agreement that it's the convergence of awesome places to ride, culture/infrastructure to get people riding (NOT necessarily racing) early, culture, and a dash of disposable income.

An extreme would be a country that is more or less a hotspot. This is really evident in road racing (and cyclocross). Belgium is the size of a handful of counties here in the US and they don't really have a huge population. But WOW, can they crank out some athletes. The Netherlands are similar and of course the Swiss for XCO.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
629 Posts
2) You need to have an MTB-friendly community that invests in it (not all do, some are antagonistic)

3) Because of the welcoming bike culture, many of your "locals" will actually be coming to you from other areas of the country.
Ha! Definitely not the case for Boulder. It may be true that people come here because they think it's an outdoor mecca, but Boulder only caters to pedestrians. If you are on an mtb, you're pretty much the worst person. I forget the number, but it's something like <10% of trails around here are open to mtbs. So, I think people here are fast in spite of the culture, although we probably get a ton of crossover athletes from skimo, nordic, running, and road cycling.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
889 Posts
I don't think it's terrain, gene pool or anything similar but more or less social stuff. Sure I can't say for US/Canada, as being in Europe and especially living in country with less people then single small city in US has, things are probably different. But over here, also in Europe in general, I would say reasons are not related to terrain, gene pool or similar things. And it actually goes for pretty much all sports.
In my experience it's more of social thing, if you can call that social thing. You have little city/village in middle of nowhere, and you can't expect you will have whole range of sports to pick from. So pretty much all kids there do same sport. And especially for endurance sports, spoiled kids from bigger cities just don't make cut, as it's too much work. So on the end you end up with some village kids ready to work super hard. And as certain sport is more popular/available in one place, and other sport in other valley, you have then these "pockets"
As I said, I can't say for US, but for Europe it's pretty much this.
 
1 - 18 of 18 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top