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My wife and I are visiting her family in New Brunswick right now. For those of you from the US, New Brunswick is like Maine, but with 1/2 the population. Her local trail system is small, maybe 12km of trail and a grand total of elevation change of 50m. Nothing special about the trails, quite fun but they could be anywhere.

But there is something special about these trails. Over the years five WC XC racers, and three WC DHers, and even one Tour De France rider came out of these trails. And the locals are still fast, I am quick enough that usually when I roll into a small network and ride tempo I am in the top 10 on the leader boards but not even close on these trails.

So what hell, how can a small trail network with a short summer and long winter do this?

I know this phenomena to be true elsewhere, racers come out of these small clusters.
 

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Central VA is one of those places. So many fast riders MTB and road. Bishop, King, Dumbrowski, Wadsworth, Anderson, and now Werner lives here. Plus a good amount of regional guys that can ride a bike in the woods pretty fast.

Plenty of talent.


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Central VA is one of those places. So many fast riders MTB and road. Bishop, King, Dumbrowski, Wadsworth, Anderson, and now Werner lives here. Plus a good amount of regional guys that can ride a bike in the woods pretty fast.

Plenty of talent.

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Luke V lives there too now. Just finished on the lead lap at Worlds in both XCC and XCO.

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Not really sure either, probably random luck, but having lived in NB/Fredericton for a few years and raced (and organized or helped with a couple races), there was a really good grass roots scene, very welcoming and lots of social/group activities. Not to mention, lots of people prepared to make this happen, not just 1 or 2 people.

So I'll go with community, probably the strongest I've seen, certainly for the population.

I know a number of those people really cut their teeth after leaving, so maybe it's just the water.
 

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So I'll go with community, probably the strongest I've seen, certainly for the population.
I think community/culture is a really big component. I have been coaching youth mtn biking where I live (Flagstaff), and to see the program I am involved with grow from a dozen to several hundred kids and a middle school race team in just a few years is probably one of the coolest things I have seen and been a part of.
Watching models like Durango devo grow the sport in a small town like Durango and make biking such an exciting thing to be a part of, you start getting those kids who normally would have been in soccer, track, something else, and keep mountain biking and developing and going further in the sport to where you have a town loaded with rippers. I feel that the local community is a really big part of that. Having cool trails is one thing, but having the support to develop the kids is really important.

Also, fun side note. My most proudest KOM in town was just taken by a 16 year old who started in the local program four years ago. I think that is awesome.
 

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Yeah, it's almost like places that engage in healthy outdoor stuff make good athletes and probably have lower obesity rates. Having ample public outdoor opportunities for this is a big part of it.
 
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I agree with others. You are a product of your environment.
If you are endowed with a glorious trail network that helps. But the key I think is a very active club or clubs running regular events. That really builds the skillset of riders.

I did my time on the local mtb club committee for about 10 years between 1995 and 2005. Man we ran some races, built track, organized away rides and interclub events. There was always something going on. We didn't have epic trails. The available land to build a bike park on is small. Max vert about 70 meters. Its probably 5km long and 1km wide. But we punched above our weight and produced some fast riders. Probably the most well known dudes to come out of that was Wynn and Eddie Masters. They were little groms back in the day drinking up all the silly events we came up with.

Then a few key guys left the mtb club committee, myself included, and the club died down for a number of years. The events slowed down to a trickle and guess what, so did the number of new rippers coming through. Now the club is humming again and guess what? The area is producing fast rippers again...........
 

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Seems like this has been asked before but my memory sucks so maybe not. I grew up in the same small Michigan town that John Tomac did. My brothers buddy was his neighbor and took John to his 1st BMX race. There was a one small track in town behind the motorcycle shop and a couple more that were built by the local kids. Also a bike shop that did a good job of supporting the local youth at the BMX races, Johns 1st sponsor I believe. Really nothing special about the town, no big hills, really no trails as this was at the very beginning of the existence of Mountain Bikes. I think the success relates more to the people around you, and their support much more than geographic location. At least in this case.
 

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...Watching models like Durango devo grow the sport in a small town like Durango and make biking such an exciting thing to be a part of...
When I saw the thread title, I immediately thought: Durango. For such a small town that isn't easily accessible and without any significant population nearby, they sure seem to put out a TON of good/great riders.
 

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Luke V lives there too now. Just finished on the lead lap at Worlds in both XCC and XCO.

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Also missing the beginning pros, Chris Eatough, Paul Buschi. Back then at the start lines you would have the 2 pro riders form Trek and then Bishop on the start line. If you wanted to win a race you had to beat them. That led to a ton of fast riders in VA. That is how I was able to earn my pro license against them. I also was a mechanic for the Van Dessel team that Ben and Jake King raced on for a year. Their parents were pro road racers. And don't forget Chris Scott who was a pro for Gary Fisher and now runs the Shenandoah 100. I have my share of wins here against this field and they were crazy races with everyone finishing within seconds after hours of racing. There used to be pros from out west that would come to races here and would not even crack top 20 and be shocked they didn't know the names that beat them. I spent time in CA for Specialized, had to do their group rides and I was shocked at how slow all but maybe 1 rider was. I think it all comes down to training environment. When you are on the line and have the drive to win, you better bring it here.
 

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After reading the responses my conclusion is that no one thing breeds fast riders.
It seems to be a combination of culture, terrain and environment. Also as stated above having quality races like the Shenandoah Mountain 100 locally is also a big contributor.

But with all these factors I still wonder how many people who are born with perfect cycling genetics never find cycling because it’s still a very obscure sport in the US


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But with all these factors I still wonder how many people who are born with perfect cycling genetics never find cycling because it's still a very obscure sport in the US
This is the case for every sport, everywhere. Imagine if every 2nd or 3rd-string running back, tight-end, and wide-receiver from the NFL discovered track cycling...
 

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I think a good community leader is a big factor. When the Fredericton area was producing racers it had that. Now it doesn't have that same leader and racers aren't coming from there.

Looking at other areas it does seem that often the top racers shared the same junior coach. Haley Battten, Kate Courtney, and Chris Blevins had the same coach as a junior.
 

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I think a good community leader is a big factor. When the Fredericton area was producing racers it had that. Now it doesn't have that same leader and racers aren't coming from there.

Looking at other areas it does seem that often the top racers shared the same junior coach. Haley Battten, Kate Courtney, and Chris Blevins had the same coach as a junior.
Oh yeah! It's all about coaching.

Talent is pretty universally distributed but talented coaching isn't. Almost every region/province has athletes capable of winning world cups.

A junior coach that is able to: 1) Attract talent 2) Keep talent motivated and 3) follow basic training principles will eventually produce top athletes. The best junior coaches I've ever seen, no matter the sport, are able to create a positive atmosphere of supportive success. Somehow, they are able to create a group of kids willing to work together and push themselves to be better. For example, one of the best junior coaches I've ever seen managed to create a culture where athletes get together on saturday to workout without the coach. The kids just did it for fun, and lo and behold, he's produced some of the best junior athletes my region has ever seen.

IMO: The least important part of being a junior coach is having the "best" workouts. For juniors, basically any stimuli will breed success (as long as you stop the kids from racing every day).

There is so much junior talent out there that is just wasted because of bad or insufficient coaching.
 
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