Kovarik Racing Interview

Aug 24, 2011
by Tyler Maine  
  The 2011 season has been a big change for the two of you since forming Kovarik Racing. You've chosen not to pursue the World Cup circuit, why is that?

This season has been different for both of us. We didn't really choose not to race World Cups, we just didn't have a budget to do so. So we've been doing the races we can get to (mainly Crankworx, National Champs and the local series here in Whistler) and got more involved with coaching.

Chris Kovarik keeping it as low as possible mid track. At this point even a pro racer is feeling the burn.

  Kokanee Crankworx is always a good pay day for the two of you. Did you both see the podium a few times this year in Whistler?

Kokanee Crankworx was good and bad for us. We had some shipping issues this year and we finally got our M9's built 2 days before Crankworx! We'd only been XCing and I was hungry to ride DH and race again and I did well. I was 2nd in the Canadian Open, took the win in the Garbanzo and finished 5th in the Air DH. Chris had some troubles, he slid out in the Canadian Open, was on an amazing time in Garbo when the screen and time went blank and never did find out what happened, some people said he was robbed but either way, he still did awesome and finished 4th on the results sheet. The Air DH, he finished 10th or so.....not his greatest performance but we were definitely worked after Garbo and not to mention thrown into the deep end after just getting our bikes built. Was a rad week though.

Women s Podium Top to bottom Claire Buchar 2 Rachel Atherton 1 Miranda Miller 3

  Since you are not on the road as much, what events have you been partaking in with your time?

We've partnered up with ZEP Techniques in Whistler to provide Kovarik Racing clinics and we've also contracted ourselves out to other camps and events like ZEP MTB Camps, Summer Gravity Camps, Fluidride and See Jane Jump Festival. We have also had more opportunities to work on media projects such as filming with Anthill Films for their next movie, Strength in Numbers, premiering Spring 2012 and some cool photo trips/adventures for some print coverage. It's been sad not to be racing the World Cups, but we've still managed to keep really busy within the bike world. I'm also working at the local bike shop and designing through my own business, www.clairebuchar.com. Gotta pay the bills!

  Oh wow you two may be even busier this year than in a typical World Cup race season! Tell us all about the transition from racer to coach? Has that came naturally for you two?

Chris and I did our Level 1 and 2 PMBI instructor training courses with ZEP Techniques this spring/summer. So that combined with our own experience and knowledge, we can ensure quality coaching and instruction to all of our clients. Riding is Chris' trade so it is only natural for him to be coaching and he's really good at it. I've done quite a bit of coaching before and I really enjoy it, it's rewarding for sure. We both love getting people stoked on riding and feeling how rad it is to rail a corner, get air etc. and I think it compliments our value as athletes to all of our supporters, not to mention (unlike racing) it is financially rewarding as well.

Chris Kovarik and Claire Buchar received their bikes from Intense last Thursday it was super good to see them out railing the track. Claire podiumed Chris was off the pace.

  You, Claire won Canadian Nationals this year at Panorama - now you are raising money in order to get to World Champs in Switzerland. Tell us about the importance of Worlds to you and Chris.

One of my goals this year was to be National Champ and I managed to reach it at Panorama last month. So stoked and glad as it was my only chance to make the worlds' team since I wasn't able to get to the World Cups. Chris and I still have goals in racing so it is important for me to go to the worlds and compete. Unfortunately, Chris won't be there as he was unable to meet the selection criteria for the Aussie National Team after crashing at his National Champs back in February and since we were just absent at the World Cups this year.

Canadian Champions Lauren Rosser Andrew Mitchell Claire Buchar and Kyle Sangers.

  Is this the first time that Chris has not represented Australia at Worlds during his career?

This is the 1st time Chris hasn't been on the Aussie worlds team since 2000, minus when he shattered his ankle and was out for the entire '04 season. It's weird and frustrating for him. Hopefully next year we can show our faces at some World Cups as well as continue with the coaching and media projects. It's been a super fun year so far and we've represented our sponsors well with the things we were able to do but we'd like to represent more on the racing side of things as we still have things to achieve.

  I heard that the local Whistler race scene (Phat Wednesdays) has pooled together in order to help Claire and a few other Canadians reach their goal of making it to Worlds. How much do you two love the riding scene and the people in Whistler?

It was decided at the beginning of 2011 that, due to 2010 international results, Stevie Smith and I were to be "top tier" athletes with the CCA. This is a first in downhill history! It just means that we have access to Pacific Sport Centers and a whole lot more resources to help us with our careers. Pretty awesome. It also means that we are fully funded at the World Championships, given that we have met the selection criteria. At first I thought it just meant accommodation, transportation and support at the World Champs, but they have also covered my flight!

So we put together a fundraiser, in conjunction with the WORCA Phat Wednesdays here in Whistler to help raise money for some local up and coming girls, Casey Brown and Miranda Miller. It was successful, we raised almost $1500 for them! The riding community here in Whistler is amazing, over 200 riders show up to the Phat Wednesdays, everyone is into it, such a good atmosphere and everyone was stoked to win some prizes and support a good cause.

Chris Kovarik won this race last year but couldn t pull off a repeat victory. Still fast enough for 4th place though.

  Congrats on getting the Golden Ticket from the CCA - great to see them stepping up like this! Also high fives to all the riders in Whistler that are behind our top tier athletes as well. Are your plans to return to the World Cup Circuit or transition into coaches/trainers in 2012?

However, like I mentioned before, Chris and I still have goals in racing and we are hoping to secure something that will allow us to race internationally more next year as well as during the off season in Australia. Ideally, if we had a decent budget, we could also get at least one other rider involved and offer them some support, but that requires some funding. Right now, we have to make sure we are going to be ok first. Plans for coaching during our "Australian Season" are in the works as well.

All in all, we are stoked with where our little Kovarik Racing program/team is going, It's well rounded. We'd like to build on it and secure some sort of a budget so we can race internationally more and just continue and grow as positive ambassadors of the sport.

Garbanzo is a long race Claire Buchar had the fastest time for the women with 16 06.68

  Thanks for taking a few minutes to catch up with us Claire. Before we go and you head to Worlds, who is supporting Kovarik Racing this season?

Thank you to all of our sponsors for supporting us:

Intense Cycles
Marzocchi Suspension
SRAM, Avid, Truvativ
Unit Clothing
Smith Optics
For The Riders
LD Designs
High Five
NS Dynamics
Strand Training

Chris's personal sponsor:

Claire's personal sponsor:

Posted In:


  • 21 0
 So lame that there's no funding for our DH athletes. Stupid olympics. Hopefully Steve Smith is helping to open some eyes and get some money coming their way. Claire, is there somewhere I could make a Paypal or Visa donation towards your worlds trip?
  • 4 0
 Totally agree. In Australia if the sport is not in the Olympics then funding is limited if any, might be the same in Canada. At least we still have synchronised swimming, tennis, basketball and soccer all receiving funding and the last three sports ridiculously over paid for what they do.
  • 1 0
 So pinkbike - are you able to find out from Claire about an existing fund, or would you accept something on her behalf?
  • 5 0
 I agree with you Goose, but it is all about TV.

DH has a problem in that in needs many many cameras and operators in order to show the whole track. You could use only one camera to film any of the sports you mention, and so they were televised decades ago and built up a following amongst viewers. And you can also cram heaps into a stadium where the entire competition unfolds before their eyes - in DH a spectator can only see a few turns at most. Or the big 'crowd pleaser' jump at the bottom.

Also, non-head to head racing is never as exciting for viewers. Viewers/punters need to know who is winning at any one time in order for there to be excitement. They also wouldn't appreciate technique involved. You can see someone do a massive gap in real life, and then you watch the footage and it looks average sized.

All some beer-bellied punter wants to see from DH is someone crash.

I think there is an inverse relationship between how much statistics a sport produces and how boring it is. Just listen to anyone talk about cricket or baseball.
  • 1 0
 That's nearly the same in Belgium, not exactly the same subject, but the same kind of problem... nobody's selected for the world champs, even Nico Vink who did 30th 35th 36th etc... at the world cups. They're paying for 10 cross country riders, but nothing for a dowhill rider... Nico proposed to pay the trip and everything he will have to pay, but it looks like they don't give a f*** about downhill... they want to keep the money for them. I can't understand because downhill is his job, his life, and those guys are acting like if downhill has never existed
  • 1 0
 Its the same as Downhill ski racing as far spectator visibility and course length go, and in Europe they have huge crowds for those. Its more about participation levels. The amount of people worldwide who ride DH is probably no more than say 100,000. While people do watch sports that they don't participate in, the percentage of people who would pay to see a DH race isn't nearly high enough to make it worthwhile to broadcast. Freecaster TV does things remarkably well considering this.
  • 3 0
 Its gotta be a dream for most riders to get your own team going and being able to choose your own schedules and sponsors, but its also gotta be a major pain in the a** pulling it all together. Props to Chris and Claire for getting their team off the ground, two awesome riders, lets hope we see the Kovarik Racing team name at many events in the future.
  • 1 0
 Just so you all know. I created a Bicycle TV show and got FOX to carry it a couple of years ago. My goal was to generate the exact coverage that you all talk about, so riders could make more money, sponsors could get better coverage etc..But in the end, only Santa Cruz (Rob Roskopp) had the balls and vision to step up to the plate to help out. I am still working on it so don't give up hope. If you know anyone who is professional at sponsorship sales hit me up. We can use the help in that arena...
  • 1 0
 Yeah I hate watching snowboarding and skiing. even though there fun to do. I feel like with xgames stuff and olympic stuff its almost a popularity contest. And DH racing is not about that. I find suppercross, motocross, and DH racing and even 4x extremely entertaining, cuz I guess cuz i have experince with those things. But hey DH in the olympics is possible, cuz if NASCAR is on TV then shit DH should be in hte olympics.
  • 1 0
 I can agree with alot of the above reasoning, perfectly soud eh, BUT why in the HELL is DH not recognized as an Olympic sport??? If it was a "spectator" issue then I seriously doubt that MOST winter games sports would be recognized... same could be said for the reasoning that it's not viable from a wide watcher-ship level... How is SKI racing any different. Also, while I agree that it takes alot of cameras to cover a DH race and you COULD cover a soccer/stadium event with one camera, they DON'T... they usualy have JUST as many cameras and operators at those games. This is pretty insulting when you consider that DH racing is one of the most physicaly challenging sports out there (this from a 22 year, college and National champion Soccer player...) Anywho, I don't think I'm saying anything that were not all thinking anyway, it just bugs me quite alot eh...

EDIT: OH, I see I failed to read ALL THE WAY DOWN as someone has already stated the same thins I did for the most part... sorry... {backs away slowly}
  • 1 0
 A friend of mine went on one of Claire's coaching clinics in Whistler and thought it was fantastic. She learned a great deal.
  • 1 0
 on the first picture has anyone else fallen into the creek on the left
  • 1 0
 rad race
  • 1 2
 yeah the olympics have XC. stupid.
  • 3 0
 in addition to what iamamodel said...

another sad truth is that spectators love to watched the new biggest flips or most spins. this is a main reason (in my opinion) thats sports like wake skating super technical or DH also technical and fast, will never be as popular as slopestyle snowboarding for example where spectators can watch and athlete throw a double cork 1440 which unfortunately the general population thinks is cooler than going fast over rocks. its the same reason street skating isnt a huge spectator sport

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