A United State of Downhill

Jan 8, 2015
by Brice Shirbach  
 
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Downhill racing in America isn't what it used to be. The courses, the bikes and the riders are all light years ahead of where they were fifteen years ago, when downhill racing was at its peak in terms of participation. But, the numbers we're seeing now are a small fraction of the heydays experienced during the late 90's and early 2000's. When you look at the top 25 riders on the World Cup circuit in 2014, the nationality breakdown is as follows: 32 percent Great Britain; 12 percent, Australia and New Zealand, eight percent, and with Austria, France, South Africa, United States, Colombia, Switzerland, and Germany rounding it out with four-percent each. The thing is, the population of the United States is less than ten percent of the combined population of the nine other countries represented in the top 25. America has the mountains, the riders and the bikes. There is no shortage of passion, but somewhere along the way it experienced a disconnect between the athletes and the developmental system. In this article, we take an in-depth look into the sport of downhill racing in the United States in an effort to discover how it got to this point, and we interview a number of key players to assess the direction where DH racing in this country is most likely headed.




A Look back

For many, the issue first manifested itself in the form of the NORBA National series. When USA Cycling took control of NORBA, and later introduced the Pro Gravity Racing Tour, the organization quickly seemed to lose interest in furthering its progress. For a lot of riders, USAC was more a detriment to the sport and less an asset. Up until recently, USAC didn't appear to be all that interested in an image overhaul, but with one single press release many eyebrows were raised and the Pro GRT suddenly appeared to be making strides in the right direction for the first time in quite possibly in its existence. With new staffers at the helm, along with the assistance of American gravity heroes like Chris Herndon, Jill Kintner and husband Bryn Atkinson, there appears to be a renewed sense of urgency with bringing prestige back to American downhill racing and putting more Americans on the podium in international competition.


Behind the Scenes

Not all of the new decisions are being met with open arms by longtime DH fans and especially riders attached to the East Coast staple at Plattekill Bike Park in Roxbury, New York. Its removal from the Pro GRT calendar has some folks questioning the intentions of the decision makers and the direction the series might be heading in. Over the past several weeks, we spent time discussing at length, the current state of American downhill affairs with a number of the people involved behind the scenes, including USAC's VP of National Events, Micah Rice; former National Champion and current World Championships coach Chris Herndon; Olympic gold medalist and World Champion Jill Kintner; Port Angeles, Washington, race director Scott Tucker; and Plattekill Bike Park's general manager Laszlo Vajtay. The conversations were candid, honest and eye opening. Most agreed that, while the road to this point has certainly been tough to travel, it is quite possible that the downhill community may be surprised and hopeful about what lies just around the corner for American downhill racing.

A United State of Downhill




Micah Rice - USAC VP of National Events

What is your role with USAC?

I’m the Vice President of national events. The Events Department oversees all of our national championships, of which we have 15 next year over all of the five cycling disciplines; mountain, road, track, BMX and cyclocross. That includes the race direction and the operations of those national championships. It also includes the ‘Officials Program'. That is the ongoing education for officials and the rule book. It’s also the Race Director’s Certification (which is an ongoing education for race directors) and it oversees the race director’s summit. We also oversee all of the top-tier calendars in all five disciplines, which for mountain biking is the XCT and the Pro GRT.

MadKats Racing Images


Are there an equal amount of resources being paid to all of the cycling disciplines by USAC?

There’s no real hierarchy that we’ve listed out in any way. We look at a lot of things when you think about the importance of these disciplines. I think that gravity is one of the disciplines that we anticipate a big push in terms of time and resources on our part, in particular with looking at the Pro GRT and all of the pieces that are involved in it. We listen to our 65,000 members. If you want to look at the resources available, we currently have hundreds of thousands of racer days per year (one athlete racing one race on the day). If we really looked at the percentage of what our members are actually doing, gravity would hardly get any attention. Sixty two percent of our racer days are road racer days. Mountain biking is sitting at 17 percent, which includes XC and DH combined.

If we wanted to allocate resources to the percentage of racer days from the gravity side of things, I don’t even think we’d have a Pro GRT. In all reality, we’re actually putting a lot more money and time into the Pro GRT than money we’re getting back from the membership. But that's OK. We don’t mind doing that. It’s an important, World Championship discipline and it’s important to our vision of where USAC has to spend some resources going into the next few years here. People ask us: “What money are you generating from gravity racing and what money are you putting back into the sport?” The answer is, we’re actually putting a lot more money into the sport than we’re getting from it because we see it as an important direction that we have to go.

In recent years, countries with much smaller population pools than our own, including Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, have been seeing quite a bit more success on the world stage compared to the United States. Does USAC see the Pro GRT as a viable tool with which the US can become more competitive at World Cup races and World Championships?

Absolutely. I think we have to build that infrastructure. I think with the Pro GRT, we’re focused on creating more quality events where we can get more people coming up through the ranks so we can see the next Aaron Gwin, Neko Mulally or Jill Kintner. You know, I think that there’s a lot of downhill racing that is not sanctioned by USAC and that’s great.

You look at a situation like Southridge and all of these races at Fontana. I have tons of respect for Donny and all that he’s done for the gravity world. He’s bringing people up from that SoCal area and preparing them for bigger and better things. I think there are a number of situations like that. Of course we don’t have any ability to track that because it's completely cut off from our grid. He goes out and buys his own insurance, which costs more than our own. But he has a system over there and that’s fine. He’s bringing people up through the ranks and we don’t make any money off of that, so we don’t have any money to spend on gravity.

There are a lot of groups like that throughout the country. We want to do is bring a lot of those people back so that we’re all kind of pulling in the same direction and we have more money to spend on gravity and making it better. That’s going to be one of our goals over the next few years; bringing unsanctioned races back into the fold so that we’re all pulling in the same direction.

Kevin Aiello was hoping for a repeat win today but was just short. Kevin would take home the silver with a 4 09.89.


So USAC is looking to generate money from races to put back into the development of the sport?

Yeah, big picture that’s what we’re here to do. You start talking about Great Britain and Australia - two really strong federations that are doing a lot for the sport in their countries. A huge majority of their money comes from the government. We get zero from our government. We get some help from the USOC. They watch what we’re doing with that money because what they want are Olympic medals. So a lot of the money that they give, we have to put in Olympic disciplines. That doesn’t include downhill. It doesn’t include a number of things, criterium or cyclocross, which are both really popular here in the states. We try and even out those things that aren’t garnering Olympic medals and we fund those through what we’re doing, which is sanctioning and permits for races, and our insurance product that we make a little bit off of here and there. We sanction 3,000 races a year, so it all adds to the pot and we put it right back into the sport.

Our online registration system makes a little bit of money. So, when people are off the grid and using products from whomever, those few extra dollars aren’t being put back into the sport. Those insurers are usually for profit, which is fine; they’re obviously allowed to make money. But that’s just money that we can’t pump back into the sport. As a non-profit, all of the money [we make] goes back into the sport. Big picture? USAC is the non-profit, governing body of the sport of cycling. That includes five total disciplines, including mountain biking, which has its own disciplines within itself. We’re not a for-profit company. We don’t have shareholders. We know that we don’t sanction a ton of gravity events, but there are some and when we do, we make a few dollars, but then we pay off the overhead and related expenses and whatever is left goes back in. With the Pro GRT, we upgraded all five events to UCI international events. They have costs for chief officials, additional officials for each event - we’re giving money to each of these events to offset the costs.

The upper rock garden was tough. Not everyone was lucky through it.


We don’t gain any money by upgrading to a UCI status. Our goal is to raise the visibility of these events so that we can shine a better spotlight on the Pro GRT. We also want to put some value into each of these individually owned events in the United States. Whether it’s the Northwest Cup or the race at Snowshoe, all of these people will hopefully have more attention paid to their events as far as having a top-tier series to follow.

Riders will also benefit with the UCI points available. Now they don’t have to travel outside of the United States to have a shot at racing at Windham or Mont Saint Anne. I was talking to BMX olympian Mike Day and he’s kind of moved into downhill mountain biking. He’s asking me how many points are available at these events? His sponsors want to see him at a World Cup and World Championships. He’s an olympian and Red Bull athlete and he’s super excited about having these points available. We want to be able to put cash into a top-tier series like this, which we hope will generate more interest in other venues wanting to register their events with USAC, which in turns makes this whole operation much more sustainable.

If I had one message that I can push through, it’s that it seems as though it’s cool to be unsanctioned. Maybe it's a, “screw the man!” thing. We get beat up by folks because they don’t think we’re investing enough in the sport. Well, we need to make some money before we’re able to invest any of it. Currently, we’re probably stealing from the road guys to invest money into the downhill side of things. But that’s OK. We’re actually totally fine with that. The road guys can deal with it. But if people want to keep doing unsanctioned races, well it just won’t be sustainable and we won’t have anything left to invest with. I don’t want to sound standoff-ish and sound negative. We just have to find a way to work together and do this. We always kind of feel like we’re battling with the people who we want to work with. I think that we’ve taken a step forward and we’re investing cash into a top-tier series in America before we even have a sustainable model to work with.

Just a Bit of Rotation Maybe - The younger Mulally shifting his weight as he gaps the second rock drop on Upper Hair Ball. He finished 16th in the field of 27 Pro Men.


When looking at the race calendar, there are people who are going to be critical of the criss-crossing schedule requirements. The travel is going to be tough on people without significant resources. Is that a concern for you guys?

If you plug the Pro GRT calendar into the international calendar, whether it’s Crankworx, or Sea Otter or some of the World Cups on the East Coast, you can get a better idea of what we were looking to do. We wanted to get a few events on the West Coast and some on the East Coast and one somewhat in the middle, which ended up being Angel Fire. We are trying to even the series out too; last year it was very East Coast centric. So we wanted to spread things out.

Remember, the Pro GRT is built first and foremost for the top pros. The top pros include those that are travelling to the World Cup. Do we think that the next tier down will be able to attend every single one? Sure, that’s a process and we get that. Our funds are limited, so we need to know where we can best put the money. With UCI points being available, you can help people get the opportunity to get some World Cup or World Championship starts. If you talk to someone to someone like Gwin, well he doesn’t really care about that because he races the World Cup already and gets way more points than you could ever get racing domestically. But, if you talk to someone who races the Pro GRT and is getting somewhere between 5th and 10th regularly - well, they’re going to be pretty excited about those points because that’s going to get them to the World Cup and allow for them to start in their factory kit, as opposed to the USA kit that’s required by the UCI.

Maybe some money is best spent trying to take these events that we have and raising them up to the international level that you find at UCI races. There’s been some discussion about having us send officials to the events. Does that help offset costs for the organizers? There’s also been some discussion about helping out with the overall prize purse. That puts money into the riders’ pocket so that they can get to these events. Or does that just make the rich richer? So you look around at all of the pros and cons of these decisions and that’s something that we need to continue to discuss.

Plattekill has been a part of the Pro GRT from the beginning and there are a number of riders who think that the track there is the closest thing you’ll find in the states to the stuff you’ll see at the World Cup. What ended up being the primary reason for its removal from the Pro GRT series?

There are a few reasons and this is probably a better question for Chris Herndon, but what I will say is that we are looking very seriously to raise the bar of the Pro GRT. I have a lot of respect for Laszlo and what he’s done for the world of downhill. The guy is super passionate, he has been around for a long time and he definitely has one hell of a course. Some would say that his pro track is almost too difficult for a Pro GRT. I think that putting the pros on a track like that is great prep for a World Cup actually. But, there aren’t very many facilities, its tough to get to and the production value is not great there. It’s also just not that conducive to the amateur side of the sport. We need to support them and make sure they’re well taken care of. If you look at Mammoth Mountain, they have a completely separate course for the Kamikaze games. That makes a lot of sense. We look at a lot of things and as much as he’s been a part of it for a long time, we want to raise the bar and its been decided for a number of reasons that he didn’t make that bar.

Style for days


From a USAC standpoint, what do you think fans of downhill here in the States and from around the world have to be excited about when it comes to the Pro GRT?

It's about taking steps. We can’t just make gravity racing here kick ass overnight. We saw the rise of it in the 90’s and early 2000’s, but that was fairly unsustainable. It’s dropped down to a low point but it’s on it’s way back up. It’s important that it’s at a sustainable level. We need to start with doing everything we can to create value here with the Pro GRT. We need to develop a nationally recognized series for the pros that really has some benefits for the amateurs as well. It starts growing these larger events that drop into the Pro GRT. I think that the pros need a place to hone their skills and the media needs something to follow event and rider-wise. It’s going to be really hard to grow the sport if you have this group over here wanting to do their thing, and this group over there wanting to do another. Our job is to try and grow the sport but its also to field a team for the World Championships. USAC is going to be around long after most of these events come and go. We’re in for the long haul and we want to find other people who want to be involved long-term as well.

ESC Mountain Creek Pro GRT




Laszlo Vajtay - GM of Plattekill Mountain

You’ve been involved with downhill racing and riding for a number of decades now. From your perspective, what is the current state of downhill looking like?

You know, I believe that the numbers speak for themselves. George Ulmer runs a great race series here on the East Coast here and I don’t know what the deal is with other parts of the country. I just don’t have time to monitor it, I can only focus on my own business and trying to bring racers here. But, what I have experience with is the Eastern States Cup and what I have seen over the past 20 plus year is having races early on with 700-800 people on a race weekend when we were doing XC and DH races; to a low where we could only scrape up 60-70 racers. I think we’re beginning to experience a bit of a resurgence over the past few years where we’re seeing anywhere from 100-150 racers show up for a downhill event. I just haven’t seen a single event, unless it was a Pro GRT, bring in over 150 racers. That sends a strong message that the athletes aren’t there and they’re not bringing new athletes into the sport the way we used to in the 90’s and early 2000’s.

I always look at what the barriers to entry are. The resounding standout there is the freaking cost of equipment. It’s just really, really expensive. We have found that our rentals are doing really well because people want to buy these things, but they just can’t afford to buy them. I’m not speaking to the upper one percent of the industry, but to the rest of the industry where its full of people who just love two wheels. There’s a big portion of the industry as far as competitors are concerned that come from another background, such as BMX and motocross. What baffles me is that in the moto world there appears to be a ton of money. I’m not just talking about sponsorships and prizing either. What I am seeing is that there are a lot of people that are going out and spending $5000 on a racing moto bike. There’s this inherent block in the minds of a lot of people who see their mountain bikes costing the same as these dirt bikes. So those people who come from the moto scene have less of an issue coming over to mountain biking if that’s what they’re choosing to do.

I know that bike prices are coming down, especially now with the all-mountain bikes becoming more and more capable. From an equipment perspective to an affordability perspective, I think that we have a little bit of a fight ahead of us. That was one of the reasons I was really upset about being muscled out of this Pro GRT series. It was the only event where I would see over 200 racers show up all year. Granted, we had to spend a little bit of money to be a part of it, but it was always the event in which I would regularly see over 200 racers. I’ve been doing this the longest out of everyone in the series. I’ve seen the rise and fall and weathered the storms of economic downturns. That’s kind of my take on the scene right now, I haven’t seen great numbers; at least not in this area. I do know that the numbers at both of the Snowshoe and Beech GRT’s was dismal last year. But I also think I know why. I think it had a lot to do with USAC and the date selections. It screwed up the travel schedules of the pro teams.

MadKats Racing Images


How was the removal of Plattekill from the Pro GRT schedule presented to you?

I’ve been promised multiple calls back from USAC and I haven’t gotten any. I personally think that Micah was gunning for me. I don’t know why, as I’ve never met the guy. But, I will say that I was the only guy who spoke in black and white terms during our phone calls and I think that he took that too personally. I think he was gunning for me and just wanted to get Plattekill out of the schedule. I think that the reduction from six events to five was just an excuse for bouncing me off of the schedule. I’ve been on the Pro GRT schedule longer than any other venue on that schedule. I’ve been continuous for six years. Never missed a beat. Not a single other venue can say that.

I was there when Kelly Lusk was at the helm and was trying to give the national series a resurgence and she practically begged us to put in a bid for the Pro GRT. She also asked us, if we could afford it, to put in a bid for UCI inscription. Which we also did. They just never gave me a valid reason. They just said “You will not be hosting a Pro GRT event this year.” Thanks for spending your $150 on a bid, but no dice. Black and white; that’s all I heard. Micah did write to me once and told me he wants to speak with me about how I can improve my events and that he valued my opinions on how racing can be improved in the country. I was promised a follow up call from there and never got one.

We were the only venue that stuck around since the NORBA days. But, all of that is out of the window. I also believe, and no one has ever said this to me, but its been suggested by others, that because I don’t have the fancy facilities and restaurants and places to stay; that my venue was always frowned upon by USAC. But I can’t confirm that. Nothing has been explained to me so I have to assume it has something to do with a personality conflict. Maybe my mouth got me in trouble. It’s a shame that I can’t speak freely. I thought I was allowed to do that among my peers. I was just trying to suggest certain things that might improve racing and improve our numbers.

Pro GRT NW Cup Round 1 2014


If you were to take a critical look at your operations and venue, what would you say about your facilities and course design?

We definitely depend on our surrounding communities for restaurants and lodging and what not. But as far as the on-mountain facilities, keeping it raw and the same as what we grew up riding on is important to me. I’m 52 and I’ve been racing and riding since I was in my 20’s. When I took over the mountain I was 30 and still an avid rider. Back then there was no such thing as suspension and disc brakes. You had your XC bike and you rode everything on it. All of our original trails were built around riding our XC bikes downhill. You were king of the mountain if you had 100 millimeters of travel on your bike. I find that bringing back a lot of those trails make for the best downhill trails. It separates the men from the boys. It definitely makes for better riders.

What about the beginners? A lot of people love your mountain for how tough it is, but that it’s maybe not a great place to take someone who’s just getting into the sport. Do you agree with that?

I think it depends on what kind of beginner you’re talking about. If you’re talking about a Cat' Three racer, or someone who has been riding for a long time but is just now getting into racing, I’d disagree. If it’s someone who is just getting into downhill for the races, maybe they’re not really looking to race just yet. The fact of the matter is, if you look at my summer camps, they’re enormously successful and full of kids who are learning to ride downhill for the first time. We have great instructors and the kids have great times.

Mountain Creek Spring Classic PRO GRT 2014


As far as beginner racers are concerned, I actually think that is a great question to ask George Ulmer. I think that the beginner category is the biggest at most races now. But I don’t get a lot of complaints from beginners. My youngest racer this year, who raced every single one of them, was 11 years old. Another area to focus on is bringing more women into the sport. Everyone is really frustrated with the cost it takes to put on the women’s category and there’s just no return on it. I know George is really upset about that. Women are demanding identical pay outs and we’ve been matching prizes purses for years. But we had to finally had to say enough is enough. If two women show up to race, we can’t pay out $5,000 to two women. I know Kathy Krauss is working on a women’s developmental program. But even that is seeing limited success. But I don’t think we’re having any issues with beginners. If you’re looking for a “bike park” race course, you’re not racing gravity. We’ve made a name for ourselves with the downhill tracks and I think that is working in our favor, not against us.

2014 Kamikaze DH Pro Women s podium. 1st Becky Gardner 2nd Alison Zimmer 3rd Rae Gandolf 4th Kim Godfrey 5th Katy Hanlon.


Do you want to be a part of the Pro GRT going forward?

I’m ready to go forward. I was ready to go forward this year. I was having a number of conversations with Micah and some others and then one day, boom. I’m not going to be a part of it. I’m no longer on the schedule. Why? Tell me why? What is the reasoning to cut it down to five? We were back to back with Mountain Creek. All of the pro teams were here and we had all kinds of great programs set up. Why? There was no specific reason given and I am being brutally clear about that.

George runs the Eastern States Cup better than USAC. He should be the head of the gravity scene for USAC and the Pro GRT. I think what he has developed - and I stand behind my words - has been the best thing that will happen for any type of gravity racing. Certainly on the east coast and I dare say nationally. He has a good national presence at his races and he’s even getting an international participation now. I think he represents the future. He needs to be supported. They should be throwing money at him.

Port Angeles and Plattekill are the two places without all of the fancy amenities. They use a bunch of shuttle buses. But I was the one left off of the schedule. Why weren’t they? What have I done differently? I spoke from my gut. I am not one of these guys who hide behind my computer and make all of these statements. I speak my mind. But I would very much be interested in getting back into it. The Pro GRT was a big part of the business model. This is going to hurt my bottom line.

A United State of Downhill




Chris Herndon - Gravity Advisor for USAC, World Champs Coach

How did you end up in an advisory role with USAC?

I’m not really sure how that came to be. They reached out to me earlier in the year looking for some help. They asked if I’d be willing to consult with them on a few things, mainly national champs. I think that they knew I had a role in the Beech Mountain National Champs and I’ve also been coaching the national team at World Champs for a few years now. So they reached out in the spring and I made it clear that I was kind of hesitant initially, but that I’d be willing to work with them to try and make it better.

What has stood out to you over the past few years that you thought needed to be changed in order to really drive the series in an upward direction?

I think when the series first started it was a great idea. Jeremiah Dylan Dean did a great job with it and we started to see some start up North American teams. It started well, but I think he just got burnt out. Over the past few years it's dwindled and has become diluted. In my opinion, the quality of the events was too low. So one of the big goals was better tracks. Consistency across the board with scheduling too. I think limiting the number of races was big, that makes it easier for athletes to follow the series. Honestly, a lot of thought went into trying to make the flow of the schedule better.

I know that this year, a lot of people are upset with how often you have to travel across the country, but a lot of thought went into how things fell and that’s just something we felt worked best for this season. The World Cups affect it. We want top notch racers to be able to follow the series. The Pro GRT is also used for junior World Championships selection and there has been a big East Coast bias over the past few years. Early in 2014, you had Plattekill and Mountain Creek on back to back weekends, which was tough to do during the school year for kids on the West Coast. World Champs is just so important to top level juniors. I wanted to eliminate that bias.

Some venues aren’t being returned to this year and I think that there’s some entitlement from some owners because they’ve been a part of this the whole time and think they are going to essentially be grandfathered in because of that. We want to change that and really develop a top-level event. It’s not just something organizers can sign up for anymore.

Mountain Creek Spring Classic PRO GRT 2014


My number one goal was getting UCI status this year. I was asked by USAC what my top tden goals were with the Pro GRT and number one was UCI. Our top guys don’t care because they already race World Cups, but its hard for the up-and-coming riders who are quick and dedicated to get any points and a chance at a World Cup. It always comes down to putting in a discretionary nomination to USAC and being selected to participate in those events. If you’re talking about an event oversees, it’s not a huge deal because not a lot of Americans are going to travel to race those. But if you’re talking about Mont St. Anne or Windham, we had a lot of people petition us this past season and a lot of people didn’t get to go to those races.

That selection gets really fuzzy because a lot of those guys don’t get to race against each other. You have East Coast guys and West Coast guys and the people making the final decision on that don’t often know who all of the riders are. So, that’s one of the reasons I was brought in this year, to help with those decisions. It’s really tough to stare at a sheet with 18 names on it and determine who out of that group deserves a shot at World Champs. There were two or three options where it was clear that they should have gone, but there were another eight to ten who were kind of all the same speed and you might not have seen them all at the same event, so it’s hard to see how they stack head-to-head against each other.

With UCI status, now they can get points without having to petition. I also think that UCI points will help bring some prestige back to the series. I am already hearing, since the press release came out, that there are some Canadians who are looking to come down here to chase some points. That’s huge. That’s how it used to be back in the day with the Australians. Now you never see that here. Bryn Atkinson had some valuable input at the summit with respect to the UCI points. He sees it as a good starting point for the Pro GRT.

A United State of Downhill


Will you have a role in establishing the standards with which course design is going to be held to?

I wouldn’t say that I’m officially involved, but it’s certainly something we talked a lot about at the race director’s summit. We’ve had several emails since then as well. The one thing we did agree upon is having a separate Cat' Two and Cat' Three track, from the Cat' One and Elite track. We obviously don’t want to hurt our Cat' One riders, but we want to see our top-level riders progress with this series. It’s supposed to be the premier series for the United States and number two on my list was course design.

They have to be harder. When Aaron Gwin is racing on the same track as a Cat' Three rider, there’s obviously something wrong there. It’s not good for the top-level riders or the beginners. You’re discouraging on both ends of the spectrum. Obviously, mountains are limited with what they can do, but all five mountains [on the 2015 schedule] were really receptive to this. We’re also separating pro and amateur practices next year. We had some dangerous situations last year with combined practice times. That discourages people from even wanting to be out on the track. I wouldn’t want to be out on a moto track with James Stewart, so why would amateurs want to be on the track when Neko and Aaron are blasting through?

Becky Gardner was quick through the last section and came out with a 2nd place finish.


Have you seen a concerted effort from USAC up to this point to cultivate a higher level of competitiveness on the world stage with downhill?

I wouldn’t say that fully, but I think I have seen a lot of changes at the World Championship level since I’ve been a coach there. I think that the change is slow but productive. I think that there has been a lack of gravity input at USAC to a large degree. I never would have signed on, but USAC admitted that they didn’t really know a lot about gravity racing and that they weren’t doing as good a job as they could have been doing. I think that was a sentiment shared by racers across the board as well. So, it was nice to see that acknowledgement from them this year.

They also stepped up big by providing a lot of funding to get the UCI status this year. I think they are wanting to see the numbers increase. There are a lot of unsanctioned races and gravity memberships are a lot lower than XC. I think once that they see more value [in DH], they will start putting more time and effort back into this. A lot of people stopped buying licenses, six, seven, eight years ago because they weren’t seeing much of a point to it. In turn, USAC didn’t see the support from the gravity community and it became this vicious cycle. Now we’re at a turning point. We’ve got a lot of really good promoters who have banded together to help make a really good series. They didn’t have to do that. But USAC put up their own money to help ensure a better event for these guys this year and in turn, I hope that the gravity community starts to see that and comes back to the Pro GRT. There are some really great people at USAC who are willing to work hard and make this happen.

Pro GRT NW Cup Round 1 2014


Plattekill’s omission from the series stands out to the large number of people who place it at the top of their list of favorite bike parks. Is this something that you see becoming a highly selective process going forward that venues are going to have to work hard to secure a spot on the Pro GRT calendar? Will the locations change from year to year?

I think that the new selection process was in place this year. I had a big influence in that Plattekill decision this year and I know that I’m going to get hammered for that. I love Plattekill. I loved racing there as a racer and it’s probably the hardest track in the US right now. The big problem with it is safety concerns. No course marshals and blind drops. This stuff was all outlined to Laszlo before though. If someone crashes at certain spots on that track, how are you going to get to them? How do you get them down the mountain? It just seemed like the level of that event had dropped.

That is an example of that sense of entitlement I was talking about earlier. He used to have UCI inscription. The level of racing just hasn’t changed in a very long time there. We need to move forward with things. That track is great for elites, but for everyone else? I mean the go-arounds were sometimes harder than the main lines. We all know about the shut up and ride mentality up there, which is great - but for a Cat' Three rider who’s never been, they’re walking down the track. Why would they want to keep racing downhill if that’s what’s going to happen?

That’s not how you grow the sport. I was an elite rider and that’s obviously where a lot of my focus has been in the past, but it’s also about the Cat' Twos and Cat' Threes. That’s where the volume of racers will be coming from. We need more of them to show up. We want them to excel and enjoy themselves without getting in over their heads. We all have friends who don’t need to be on the same track as Neko. So yes, a lot of the focus this year has been on the amateurs.

I hope that we move forward with there still being a discussion every year about the venues. I think that, with the new standards that were set this year, there will be even more competition for a spot on the calendar next year. This year saw the most bids ever for USAC and the Pro GRT series, so there is more interest than ever. It was hard this year and I’m scared for next year when even more promoters show that they’re willing to step up their games for a spot. That’s just going to make the decision even harder. We’re creating more competition for not only the riders, but for the venues as well.

Pro GRT NW Cup Round 1 2014




Scott Tucker - Port Angeles Pro GRT Race Director

How did things go at the Race Directors Summit in Bend last month? What happened there that gave you the confidence to go into 2015 as a part of the Pro GRT series?

Well, it was not a laydown. We (Casey Northern and I) basically had to tell them that they needed us more than we needed them. So let’s all try and make this work together. All of us were ready to say: “Screw it, we don’t need to do this.” To their credit they [USAC] did step up. It does feel like a turning point. I think that a majority of the success will still be up to the individual promoters. But, just making us all come together, for me is a big deal. We’ve done the Pro GRT since it started. In the past, all I was concerned with was Casey and my race at Port Angeles. I didn’t care how I fit into the rest of it. But now we are all working as a team and USAC facilitated that.

That was big and also the fact that they are helping offset the costs of the UCI inscriptions for each event. As promoters, we need some sort of commitment. We aren’t working with huge budgets and this is expensive. Without raising prices, it’s hard to say, “Yes, we can afford that.” So, for them to help and get that started definitely encouraged people to stick around and work out the details. They were willing to do that and we’re willing to work hard for them. It was good because we all got to see each other’s perspective. I feel really positive about it. Jill and Chris also put in so much effort into this. There was no gain for them to do that other than to see it succeed. They really want it to do well and are committed to international success.

A United State of Downhill


Port Angeles is considered by many to be the premier downhill event in America outside of the World Cup in Windham. How did it become what it is today and why did you initially want to be a part of the Pro GRT?

I guess we have certain advantages with where we are. One is that we’re essentially at sea level, so we can put on races in the spring when everyone really wants to race and the turnout is big for us. We have a lot of handmade trails with a lot of variety. They kind of all intertwine like a bowl of spaghetti, so you can do a different track virtually every time. We have three separate tracks for beginners, intermediates, and pro/expert. With the Pro GRT, one of the things that we’ve done from the beginning was we put the race the weekend before or after Sea Otter. Most years, a lot of the World Cup guys will head to Sea Otter to show off their new pajamas and they’ll just head up the coast to ride some really good and technical riding. So we’ve had that draw for us.

I think it was Jeremiah Dylan Dean as the original face for USAC before the Pro GRT. He helped them get that going in that direction. He helped us by pointing out that being a part of it wouldn’t hurt our attendance - plus, we were already meeting a lot of the requirements they had.

Pro GRT NW Cup Round 1 2014


What were some of the misteps USAC took with regards to their relationship with the downhill community?

I had a lot of assumptions along the lines that USAC didn’t care about gravity and that they put all of their resources into road. I also had some assumptions that they had a good budget to work with and that it was all going to road and not mountain. I think that a lot of other riders shared those assumptions. I see now that it isn't as simple as that. They really are more of a licensing and governing body rather than an event promoter. In the world of mountain biking, they put on National Championships and that’s all. To me, that’s a good thing. From a promoter’s standpoint, they lay down some rules for consistency but they don’t tell us how to run an event.

If you compare us to road, and I put on events for both, it’s a different mentality and approach and you can’t homogenize the two. Road guys like what they like and mountain guys like what they like. So, if it’s just providing insurance and some of the other things they do, I’m fine with that. They’re definitely not getting rich doing it. They just don’t have a ton of money to put into road or mountain biking - it’s just not there.

Stacking the Deck Part II - Luca Shaw leading the Junior World s points. Need I say much more Great to see Luca still rippin the trails he grew up on as a GROM. All those in WNC and the surrounding areas are so stoked to see a local Hendersonvillian on the world stage.




Jill Kintner - World Champion, Downhill Racer

How were you and Bryn approached by USAC to be a part of the Race Directors Summit?

Herndon had a lot to do with that. He was a consultant for USAC this year and is really passionate about our sport and making a difference. He’s someone who’s been watching for a while and can see the full spectrum of the sport. He’s not someone who will say a lot, but when he does say something, it’s factual and to the point. He’s worked with a lot of different riders (myself included) at World Champs and through teams he’s run in the past. He mentioned to me that this event was going to be held in Bend, Oregon, this year, which is not too far from where we are in Seattle and wanted to know if I would like to be a part of it.

I know some of the USAC guys from my time at the Olympics and other events from the past. I think that Bryn and I bring some knowledge of the logistics involved for the athletes that maybe some others didn’t understand. Bryn and I care a lot about US racing and we bring a lot of organizational and informative skills to the table, which I think was useful for this. It really felt like our opinions mattered. It wasn’t just my perspective either. I sent out maybe 50 emails to other racers, pros and amateurs alike. I asked people what the most important changes they think should be made to the series and a lot of the responses came back regarding consistencies across the board. A better logistical schedule and venues with great tracks and resources. People were also looking for a better East vs. West Coast balance. For me personally, I don’t want to fly out to the East Coast three separate times. I just don’t want to.

2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Windham NY


Now it seems like we’ve helped to develop this series with a lot more prestige, and it’s something that going forward, venues are going to have to work hard to be a part of. I printed all of the comments out from the feedback and every single venue and USAC saw these responses. It was great for these guys to see this as opposed to just hearing it from me. It was just great for myself, Bryn and Herndon to have the floor in front of these event promoters and USAC. All of the promoters were super cool.

People like Casey and Scott from Port Angeles don’t even need the Pro GRT. Their event is so big regardless, especially coming right off of Sea Otter. Their event is so good and everybody wants to race it. But the turning point for everyone was the UCI points. That was the big thing, wondering what USAC was going to do for the sport. If they don’t invest or care or put something discernable back into the sport, no one is going to care about their banners or logos being placed next to an event. That won’t do anything for the series or unify it.

They needed to put something up for us. But, after the summit, it’s clear that USAC wants what we want: they want top level riders at the World Cups. They want essentially what Britain has already, which is depth and a healthy sport. For them to come to the table with UCI inscriptions for the whole series, it really raises the standards of the whole thing. Now a national event is a true national event, not just a regional event with a GRT tag on it. I remember when the US Open was a killer event in America. That was when qualifying was important.

There was a standard set there. That’s how it is at the World Cup level. You don’t want to get cut, so you work hard to make sure you’re in. Cutting a standard and raising the bar is a big deal. So we made a couple of adjustments there; if it’s under 100 riders the cut list goes to 40, but if its over 100 riders the cut list goes up to 60. Eventually, all of these rounds will see over 100 pros. The series is going to be great for the riders and I’m really excited for the future of the US Series. Before, you just sensed that it had split into more of a series of regional races. I didn’t go to any this year and before that, I was a huge proponent of racing in America.

A United State of Downhill


In the past, what would you say were some of the biggest communication gaps between USAC and the downhill community?

I think that the system was pretty fractured. With the Grand Prix, it was obvious that USAC just didn’t care. So, there were a lot of people who were just trying to do their own thing independently. It was good to see that a lot of people now seem to care and really want to grow the sport. There is so much potential in downhill and it felt like for a long time they were giving very little back to the development of it. But now they have the right people in place and it’s the right time. Micah was there and he wanted to hear what we had to say. They were at Worlds and Windham and they’ve seen it at a high level. They want to get people who will medal. I’ve been there and I’ve gotten fourth at Worlds and even won the World Championship in 4X, gotten the Olympic medals - there’s a lot more excitement when you’ve got someone on the podium. I think that we’ve fixed a lot of the problems that we faced in the past.

Do you see this as an opportunity for Americans to really begin to see more riders inside of the top 20 at World Cups?

I sure hope so, but no one can say how long that’s going to take. I can see the juniors coming up from this. This will definitely help make them more competitive. There will also be a lot more coverage. I think that, regardless of the impact at the World Cup level, this is going to be big. The dialed schedule and the better payouts will make this a big series in and of itself. The KHS boys will be there, all of the US guys who want to succeed will be there.

Practice but No Qual Run - Giant Factory rider Marcelo Gutierrez practiced in the slop in the morning pictured but didn t lay down a seeding run. Too much slop Or Not sure which. He seemed quick all morning. Five other Pro riders would do the same also DNS for seeding.


Do you and Bryn feel like its your responsibility to act as examples for other top-level riders by making this series a priority of yours?

Yeah, for sure. I think that is a part of it. It’s set up well for top-level riders to be able to follow it. I think that the Mountain Creek race was moved on the calendar to right before the Scotland World Cup stop. So you will be on the East Coast already and can hop on a flight to Scotland for the Fort William race. I have all but one Pro GRT on my calendar because my sponsors have me going to Colorado for the Freeride Festival instead. Yeah, I definitely want to do everything I can to help develop the series and make downhilling in America better.

A United State of Downhill



The 2015 Pro Mountain Bike Gravity Tour (Pro GRT) Schedule:

Apr. 24-26 - NW Cup Port Angeles, WA
May. 31 - Mountain Creek Spring Classic Vernon, NJ
Jun. 19-21 - Chile Challenge Angel Fire, NM
Jul. 26 - Snowshoe Wild Hare Snowshoe, WV
Sep. 26 - Kamikaze Bike Games Mammoth Lakes, CA
Must Read This Week

267 Comments

  • + 123
 There is only one solution; get rid of all these stupid xbox things and make everyone buy a bike.
  • + 40
 Funny seeing my friends give me a hard time about the money I spend on bikes, but then they go buy a bunch of 60$ games that they play for maybe a week or two then forget about.
  • + 19
 yeah if you count up the money people spend on pointless electronics, you could easily buy a nice YT!
  • + 14
 You absolutley nailed it! America's youth spends most of its time indoors. That is another contributor to them best ng little porkers. If there was an XBox downhill race game they prob will be on top of the list.
  • + 22
 I wouldn't even say it's that we spend a majority of the time indoors, at least my friend group. Xbox is more of a time filler. The thing is, my friends don't wanna drive 2+ hours with my to ride DH when they can walk 2 min to a sports field and play football or soccer.
  • + 12
 I got into DH back in the late 90's at the ripe old age of 14/15, I used to watch the DH on eurosport religiously, but one of the best parts about growing up and following this scene was the NORBA series a summer full of the worlds best racers doing what they do best. I could not wait for video's to come out thats VHS aka a video tape for the Millennials haha just to be able to see what was happening.

I also used to buy every mag just so I could see pictures of all the racing.

Bottom line is bring back NORBA

The few American races, and euro races just don't cut it anymore even with so many people shooting and access to the internet for uploads and so on.
  • - 32
flag PlumStick13-Magnus (Jan 8, 2015 at 14:37) (Below Threshold)
 Not reading all of that. Yanks can't ride for toffee. But can eat for the rest of the world. End of discussion. Burn the priest
  • + 44
 Oh I guess Aaron Gwinn didn't stomp you tea suckers 3 years ago...
  • - 24
flag Narro2 (Jan 8, 2015 at 16:25) (Below Threshold)
 I do both. Videogames and DH. This year the scale will tend toward videogames since a new starfox and the new zelda are comig out so...it will a slow year for mtb for me.
  • + 1
 Yea the NORBA series was great for the sport during the 90's and early 2000's. As it brought in international riders it gave the Americans some top tier competition to test their skills against and with that interest from fans and sponsors grew. If you wanted to watch you would go to the race instead of watching it on your laptop and if you couldn't go to the race to watch you bought the mags and videos which again brought in a lot of $$'s to the sport.
Dh racing is quite elitist now and i can see why enduro appeals to so many including a lot of ex dh pros.
  • + 23
 Right, because the US is the only country in the world where a lot of people play video games...

Now let's look at other factors that set the US apart from other countries...

The privatized/criminal healthcare system that no other 1st world/developed country has. That's a great place to begin! As soon as that's figured, out, let's move onto the pathetically easy "civil" system of suing institutions/resorts/racing series for stupid shit that results in absurdly high insurance costs that no other country shares! (OK maybe the UK but they're not exactly filled with a bunch of scummy lawyers and shitheads with no sense of personal accountability).
  • + 5
 @scott-townes, additional to what you mention are all the sports the US offers to the youth, just to mention a few:

Basketball
Baseball
Hockey
Track and Field
Swimming
Golf
and everyones favorite American Football.

Those are the ones i can think of off the top of my head, and all of them are at elite level worldwide and are also multiBillion dollar businesses at both Profesional and University level. I dont think cycling will ever be able to compete against that when enticing kids to practice a particular sport.
  • + 10
 ^ Well if you grew up in America, you'd understand that action sports have been a massive draw for the past decade at least. Its just a matter of the programs available to participate in the sport. Comparing completely different sports with completely different needs required to participate in said sports is a useless argument. For example, the last time I checked, no one had broken their femur playing golf, or swimming or baseball or track and field. Sure there are risks to the other sports but again that comparison is idiotic since those sports have been around in this country many decades longer than MTBing of any kind. When MTBing became a million dollar industry, football, baseball and basketball were already billion dollar organizations. Its a stupid comparison. Sorry for the bluntness but blunted it has to be. Blunts.
  • + 4
 @narro

I can't say I agree with that, kids do stuff all the time knowing full well that it won't result in making money. What about videogames? Not many kids playing them are aspiring to be pro. Same for lots of things.

The main barrier is just cost and the fact that trails are far away for a lot of the population.
  • + 1
 @scott-townes, dont worry about the bluntness if it makes you feel better about yourself is fine for me.
Coming back to he topic In your comment it is mentioned "it is just a matter of the programs available to participate in the sport" would you not agree that the US has more programs available per capita for the sports i mentioned than mtb programs? Specially when most if not all highschool and middle schools offer programs for all those sports. This will draw more kids into those sports.

@pm148
Totally agree with you that kids dont play for the money, they play to have fun. But there's definitely some influence on kids to pick certain sport due to what they see the Pros do, and there is more access to see pros for NFL and all the sports i mentioned than to MTB.
  • + 3
 What you have to realize is that while the United states is massive and it is also very regional. Yes there are alot of other sports to play but you also have to take into account that mountain biking, specifically DH, is not an option in many parts of the US as many places are hundreds if not thousands of miles from the nearest mountains. Thats the reason why so many kids have access to all those other sports. And as I mentioned to someone in another comment, people outside of the US have a misconception about the amount of people playing American football. Its a hugely popular spectator sport but it's not actually played by nearly as many. Most football fans have never actually played the game. Other sports like baseball, soccer, and basketball are far more popular.
  • + 8
 Things are getting better in the US for mountain biking. 10 years ago I was a high school student who wanted to start a mountain biking club for the school. I was told that mountain biking was too dangerous to let the school district allow a club. A week later an article came out in a mountain biking magazine stating that mountain bikers visit the E.R. more than any other sport, except basketball, which has more visits (and my school has a basketball team). But for me and my club, that info was too late.

Fast forward to today, and not only does my old high school have a mountain bike club, but they participate in a state sanction race series. It's only XC for now, but I am certain that DH and hopefully other disciplines will be added with time.

Also, the US government just made a new law last month that allows ski resorts that lease land from the Forest Service to get a summer lease too. That adds over 100 potential bike parks that couldn't happen before. And with mountain biking and DH becoming more popular, low elevation resorts will definitely want and need bike parks in order to stay in business.

Things are looking up for US DH.
  • + 10
 Dear Mr. Chris Hendron;

You sir are an IDIOT! "what amatuer want to ride the same track as gwin and mullaly". All of us you jack ass. we get to see them fly past and check the lines and be wowed and inspired. Here in canada when we race at MOUNT saint ANNE us little amatuers do the full world cup track you BOZO! so we are slower and more clumsy but who cares......you dont have different hockey rinks for pros and amatuers, didfferent football fields, different soccer fiels, seperate tennis courts, etc, etc, etc.......get this monkey out of the sport before he turns it in to a hobby!!! go quilt something your p...sy and maybe shut your pie hole because sir you are a douche!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

with much respect and admiration your pal an amateur racer and mountain bike person
  • + 1
 Whats the healthcare situation like in the US with regards to "dangerous" sports like downhill? Does this impact the level of participation at all?
And do you have any decent regional downhill series? California is around the same size as the UK, I'd guess has considerably more great riding spots and has a population that is not a million miles away from the UK either - but does it have a decent local downhill series?
  • + 5
 paulski- The initial costs of getting into the sport is the biggest barrier for people wanting to get into it. The healthcare system is a massive barrier for those who want to progress to that next level. To get to the level of a top rippah, you will take some falls and some of those falls will result in visits to the ER (I'm sure many people on this site are aware of that, haha). Regardless if its serious or something less so like a fractured collar bone, you'll be paying out the ass in either hospital bills or insurance premiums/rates or both. There are more than a few people I know that were really gifted in their respective sports but had to slow down or stop progressing altogether because of the costs resulting from one/two visits to the hospital. It really blows and its a huge scam. Look up how much money the "non-profit" hospitals are raking in, for example.
  • + 6
 My daughter just asked for an Xbox 5 min before I read this. Classic. I said no.
  • + 3
 i love you ^^ take her to a race (dh or whatever) and show her the nice bikes... she wont ever ask for an xbox again Wink
  • + 1
 @Bird-Man - You say that "you dont have different hockey rinks for pros and amatuers, didfferent football fields, different soccer fiels, seperate tennis courts, etc, etc".... I get what you are saying but that comparison really makes no sense. All those sports are played on a standard field of play and the difficulty of the game largely depends on your opponent. As long as you match up evenly skilled players and teams everything is fine. DH racing is not a head to head sport. You race the course, how good your opponent is has no bearing on your time.

If you want to compare it to mainstream sports the better comparison would be golf, where like DH racing, each course is different, and you essentially play against the course, not your opponent. And in golf, the pros absolutely do play different courses and setups than the amateurs do. They play longer tees, tougher pin placements, and tougher course setups.
  • - 2
 @sino- Really golf thats your comparison!!!!! are u cracked!! I agree you are racing yourself and it is not head on or head to head or whatever but really dude, that does not mean anything.....Race the coarse that is given to you...I dont need a different coarse for skill level.....Its called a B line for a reason!
If they want racing to become popular in the country of gas and oil and HP and torque they are better off putting down the 1 cent cheeseburgers and fries and try to make biking cool!!!! this is not a track problem this is an image problem and the majority of grown adults think bikes are for kids and geeks!!! FYI this starts with parents getting into biking and passing it down to their kids and so on.......IE the UK, EUROPE, the rest of the world where Bikes are a major part of their culture and their everyday travels...........GOLF!!!!! WTF!!!!
  • + 5
 @bird-man and if your a cat 1 junior you still can, what I think Chris has in mind is there is no reason for cat 2 and 3 riders to be trying to races course they can hardly ride, let alone race. When they advance enough in their racing they can move up to cat 1 or pro and with that ride the harder gnarlier courses the top guys are on.
  • + 4
 @Bird-Man - Yes I am comparing it to golf, because its actually a perfect comparison in terms of a mainstream sport. Comparing DH racing to sports like basketball and hockey (as you did) is whats ridiculous. It makes no sense. There are no similarities. Having separate courses benefits both the top riders and the lesser riders. Lets be honest, a proper DH course which is suitable for the pros SHOULD be to hard for Cat 2 Cat 3 riders. If Cat 3 riders can navigate a DH course without to much of a problem, then its probably not a proper DH course for Pro and Cat 1 riders. The difference in skill between Pros/Cat 1 riders and everyone else is huge. The idea that they are racing on the same courses all the time really doesn't make sense. Have you ever heard the saying "a jack of all trades is a master of none"? The same applies here. A track suitable for all is likely not great for anyone. What is so hard to understand about that?

Back to the comparison to golf, its the exact same situation. A bunch of people competing against the 'course" to see who can score the best. The pros in golf, in the major tournaments play course setups that are extremely difficult. Fairways are narrow, grass is grown thick and long, greens are sped up etc. Those are courses that even high level amateurs would be struggle to break 100 on. And that's how it should be. The pros should be tested on the hardest courses. But putting amateurs on the same course would be unfair to all involved. You sound like you just like the idea of being able to say you were on the same course as the WC pros. Yea that's cool and all, but not a good reason to degrade the product for the lesser skilled riders. It does nothing for the growth of racing.
  • + 2
 Bring back Plattekill ( respect!!!)
  • + 1
 You show your true intelligence with your comments
  • + 1
 I don't know where you guys are from, but the Cat 2 and even Cat 3 on the East Coast have juice. I know that sounds silly. But in years of racing, I can think of maybe a handful of riders that were so slow they made it hard for people to practice. While we are at it, why don't we have a separate track for the ladies? They aren't as fast as men, right? : /
  • + 1
 Well I think part of that is, as the article pointed out, that some of the tracks are not difficult enough for the pros and that if they did make the courses more difficult you might then have that situation come up.
  • + 2
 That does make sense. But why not just keep it one course so everyone can try to get better and just separate practice times like back in the Norba days.....
  • + 1
 Because its America and someone will get hurt and sue the resort and race organization for hosting it on a "reckless" trail.
  • + 2
 @Bird-Man

I think you are misunderstanding what Chris was trying to say about having different tracks. He says why would amateurs want to be on the track with guys like Gwinn and Neko are blasting through. He was talking about the practice runs. Amateurs are just going to get in the way and cause pile ups during pro practice. Pros certainly don't want to have to deal with that. Also Pros do not want cat 3(beginner class) racers on the same tracks as them, they will just ruin the tracks with incorrect braking everywhere, not being able to clear most jumps ect. And most beginners(first time racers) can't handle pro tracks and if they can they shouldn't be racing in cat 3 anyway so that point is moot. Racing on a track where someone can't ride it like it was build to be ridden is pointless. It's also more progressive to ride/race within your skill, just above it and then keep moving up with more difficult trails. Clearly you don't know who Chris(past WC racer, trainer(helps train Neko), builder) is, if you did you'd know he knows exactly what he is talking about.
  • + 2
 ^^^^^^no misunderstanding I have raced the east coast and the canada cups at MSA, Platekill, etc and I have only been riding a bicycle for 5 years. My first time on a bicycle i was 38 and did the Canda cup (UCI SANCTION) at a place called Mount Tremblant. A little know man by the name of Stevie Smith won the race with a time of 4 min 2 sec. So as you can imagine its a proper track. we amateurs did the same track for practice and race and guess what it all worked fine!!!! in fact I was addicted after this experience......oh and so you know my time was almost 8 minutes.......crashed, walked, crashed some more and did a little riding. I agree with spokeapparel maybe us east coast guys and racers are just tougher and more adventerous and enjoy the challenge!!! schedule pros and amateurs at different times.....problem solved......civil idiots sign waivers.....problem solved........add a few B lines for those who need them (making sure they are longer than A line)......if it works well here in canada on WORLD CUP TRACKS (MSA).....do I need to say more. Chris is thinking in terms of making it more attractive to pros.....this is ass backwards the sports future is in the amateurs, the money is in the amateurs, the attendance of races are majority amateurs..Again this is not a track problem this is an image problem, if it had a better image there would be more sponsers, more money, more exposure and this would trickle down to less cost for the racer....lower fees, free camping or reduced hotel, reduce food prices, etc, etc, etc..............
  • + 2
 Crashing, walking, crashing isn't exactly racing and not enjoyable to the majority(this is an assumption I am making). I crash in races and don't give a f. I personally Love racing no matter how difficult the track is, prefer my east coast more technical tracks. I'm just thinking in terms of the average amateur. This is why they have different sized tracks for motocross. Which is the real reason I think DH is not big and never will be in the US, motocross is more popular and always will be. We normally do have amateur and pro practice at separate times, not sure why they didn't at whatever race Chris was talking about. And no Chris is thinking of making it more attractive for both, he helps a lot of amateurs get better in Western NC, I ride out there a lot. And your last sentence, I agree.
  • + 52
 I like to ride my bike
  • + 28
 That's the fuckin spirit
  • + 47
 The US mountain cycling population is massive. Our depth of talent is enormous but racing in the states is ridiculously expensive. The average person would rather spend hundreds of dollars on their gear then the entrance fees of races. Liability insurance sucks!
  • + 14
 You are totally right. If it wasn't for my school team, there would be no way for me to compete in legitimate races , way to expensive, but there are no shortages of local bootleg weekend races which is always a great time!
  • + 1
 We don't have the resort backing here on the east coast. We have 6 ski resorts in North Carolina and only 1 offers lift access downhill and a legit series of races. Out in BC everyone has a bike... Here though it hasn't caught on quite the same
  • + 10
 Bike parks have killed racing interest. This is nothing new.
  • + 15
 @chrisk You are 100% correct! Liability insurance has killed so many things in the US. It's what makes it so hard to create a skatepark, what destroys local dirt jumps, why resorts charge so much for tickets (both summer and winter) and of course why race fees are so high.
The US has a high density of "Ambulance chasers" that don't realize their selfish stupid lawsuits affect everyone.
  • + 3
 It does suck especially in my area. a 1:30 or 2 hour drive from DC is more than enough to get you into the mountains yet there is 1 bike park less than 2:30 hours from me.

That being said, there are also no local spots. A lot of XC trails but nobody wants to build a AM or DH worthy spot. There may not be a ton of elevation but there's still possibility for jumps and drops bigger than the XC ones.

If we had those facilities than more people would pick up DH in the area. It's unfortunate but I don't see DH picking up unless it becomes more assessible for beginners. The few kids I know who have tried DH loved it, but don't want to drive 2 hours to Bryce, or even longer to snowshoe, ect.
  • + 15
 It not just fun things. Its everything. Its one the main reason why healthcare in the US is so expensive, which is one of the biggest issues facing this country as a whole. Doctors have to pay massive premiums for malpractice insurance and are deathly afraid of getting sued which leads them prescribe unnecessary treatments and tests and scans and MRIs just to cover their asses. Without legitimate tort reform none of this will ever change. And the chances of that happening are slim to none as many politicians are former lawyers or are well connected to legal profession and will never let it happen. There are too many people getting rich off the status quo.
  • + 10
 @sino428 BOOM! Well said! "Grandpa had a heart attack from eating a dozen big macs everyday for 50 years. Lets sue McDonalds and the Doctor!"
  • + 9
 @skierdud89 - Funny you mentioned McDonalds. I actually read one just this morning where some idiot lady is suing McDonalds. She suing them because a souvenir glass that she got from there 3 years ago broke while she was washing it and she cut her hand. Shes now suing McDonalds, the Glass maker, and I think possibly anyone who ever handled the glass. She's claiming the glass was somehow defective. Its nonsense like this that we allow in this country that ruins shit for everyone else, costs taxpayers money, and bogs down our court systems.
  • + 6
 @sino

That's ridiculous. We should find a way to deport those kinda people. Odds are shes that laziest and bitchiest f*ck to. Can't believe that's even a real thing.
  • + 2
 Speaking of liability insurance, what's a good company for that? As in, if I get injured...
  • + 1
 @diesel84 - If you are worried about covering yourself if you get injured then you need health insurance, not liability insurance. Liability insurance covers you in the event you are liable for injury or damages to someone else or their property. Auto insurance (at least a part of it) is liability insurance as it covers you in the event that you injure or damage someone's property in a car accident. Home owners insurance also has a liability element to it as it generally covers you if someone gets injured in an accident at your home. As an example I was sued a few years back for a car accident I was in. My auto insurance company in that instance would have covered any liability I might have had. The lawsuit was frivolous at best and I wasn't found to be liable for anything, but the insurance company covered all my legal fees as well. As a side note, this is a big part of why these things gets me so fired up. I experienced first hand how ridiculous our court system is and how a clearly frivolous and ridiculous lawsuit (from the other guy simply just lying on the stand in direct contradiction to the physical evidence, to his quack doctor making up injuries he didn't have) can be pushed all the way to trial. The amount of time an money wasted by the court system on this trial was staggering.
  • + 7
 My idea is to remove all the warning labels from all devices and let the evolution move forward !!!! If somebody is stupid to put hair dryer in to the water then he should deserve to be hit !!!!!!
  • + 4
 Insurance and permitting has killed motocross in a lot of area's including mine.
  • + 3
 @pblazejewicz let natural selection take its course.
  • + 6
 Yea every time you see on of those completely ridiculous warning labels, like 'don't iron clothes whole still wearing them, you can rest assured that label is a direct result of some idiot who torched his nipples trying to trying to iron his shirt.
  • + 39
 The bottom line is there should be a west coast and an east coast series. until that time, there will not be the numbers they're looking for. Most pro racers in the US have day jobs, it's not really realistic to pretend that they can take off a month plus just to race. The cost to fly anywhere is insane, gas is finally going down, but if you know you can't make all of the races, what is the point to take a week or 2 off work to zip across the country? Seems like everyone is trying, but without a solid local series, a national series will not succeed. The USAC is complaining that small series are taking their money, but they don't seem to stepping up to support them, by requiring less fees. Personally, I don't want to pay $250+ just to race cat2 for a weekend, that's not even counting lodging, gas, etc. I'd rather spend the money on something else, and have more fun. It's very difficult for me to justify racing at all anymore, even though I'm already there supporting my wife, as she races pro, and it has nothing to do with me not being into DH, I'm as into it as ever. The thing is, if you can't convince me to race, when I'm already there, already have the bike and gear, and love DH, how are you going to convince someone who is brand new to the scene? I'll await your answer USAC.....
  • + 8
 ^ this +1000
  • + 23
 As an American pro DH racer I find myself agreeing with a lot of what you had to say. The USA is just too big to have a viable National Series, I'd like to see a few national events, but I think more focus should be put on making regional events better. What that Gravity East Series did in 2010 is what it should racing look like (imo) and now the Eastern States Cups is doing a very good job replicating that.
  • + 7
 I grew up alpine ski racing, and the US was divided geographically: The country was broken up into six divisions -- Northeast, Midwest, Rocky Mountains, NV+CA, OR+WA, and Alaska. The youngest kids (about 6th grade and lower) would race within their division only, and had divisional championship races at the end of each season.
Seventh and eighth graders became subject to a points system which ranked them, but most of the racing was still within their respective division. If they qualified at certain races, they would be invited to attend Junior Olympic races, at which the best from several divisions would meet. The points system determined their start order at races...the better your points, the better your start position.
Ninth and tenth were the same scheme as 7th/8th, except for the "local" divisional races which were a mixture of 9th - 12th graders. Now your points not only determined your start position in a race, but whether you were eligible to be at that race at all. There were three race series, with the idea being to work your way up from the "low" series through the "middle" to the "high" one as you improved your points with good race results. The "high" series offered the best points. There were also divisional qualification races for regional Junior Olympics every season.
  • + 3
 Eleventh and twelfth grade was the same scheme, except the Junior Olympics were National not Regional, with fewer racers invited from each division. At this point, the best racers were also being invited to FIS (the worldwide governing body for ski racing -- like UCI) and other prestigious North American races.
In the FIS, you started at the bottom of another points system, but this one was international, and the same one used on the World Cup level. The best racers at this point were getting looked at by the U.S. Ski Team for further racing in Europe to evaluate their potential. If you did well enough, you would find yourself on the team with Rahlves, Ligety, Street, Vonn, etc.
  • + 3
 @kabanosipyvo Sanctioned regional series including Big bear (once they mark a technical dh course again), mammoth, bootleg, and northstar... possibly fontana. Mountains like northstar, bootleg, and i believe mammoth are already having local series why not make one of these races on each mountain count towards national rankings. 4-5 races in the early season at these mountains would make up a pretty solid ca+nv series, now have a similar setup for other regions. These opportunities that organizations are missing out on is deteriorating the sport and will only cause more people to turn away from spending money on entry fees.
  • + 2
 @andybeck ...that sounds like a great idea for what would definitely be a solid regional series. Combine that with some sort of points system so that racers can be compared across the country without actually racing each other. Keeping it regional is absolutely key in making this sport at all affordable. While there are ways to set up a good race bike on the cheap (sponsorships, bro-discounts, used components, etc) everyone pays the same when it comes to travel.
  • + 1
 @kabanosipyvo... I don't think the US Alpine Ski Racing system is a great model to emulate. For 30 years, they have mostly missed the mark on racer development. It took Schlopy, Bode Miller and a few others to break out and do it their way by living in Austria and submersing themselves in the deepest end of the talent pool. From the Mahres until Rahlves, the US system ignored the fact that men mature slower than girls and ignored amazing talent at the NCAA level in favor of 16-18 year olds who could not handle European competition. Even the Mahres bucked the US Ski Team system and did their own thing with motocross against the USSA and USST's direction. Look at the front page of Ski Racing this very day and you will see a full blown criticism of racer development in the US.
  • + 2
 @herzalot I disagree with your first sentence, but agree with the rest. The structure of the US Alpine Ski Racing system is one proven method for dealing with the massive distances which gravity athletes and their supporting organizations must overcome. Whatever problems USSA may have, they are lightyears ahead of MTB gravity racing in the regional and national level structure of the sport in this country.

Your argument regarding maturity is absolutely supported by history. Take your pick of any male european star of the era you refer to -- Tomba, Aamodt, Zurbriggen, Girardelli, to name a few -- and they all peaked in their late 20's or early 30's. Some of them were still winning world cups near 40. USST has been absolutely stupid over the years to put all of their efforts into the rare and unreliable male phenom who looked like he may have the potential to win at 19 or 20 (Bill Johnson being a great example), and consider mid-20's racers who weren't winning as "over the hill" --this has been their standard practice for many years.

So yes, I deliberately avoided all of the background issues in my earlier posts. The structure which USSA maintains for our racers is more or less sound and is able to reliably sift through thousands of aspiring kids to find the ten best, doing so across our enormous distances, all without completely bankrupting the kids or their parents. The problem has been what happens with those 10 kids who are the best, and from there onward the decision-making has proven to be weak for many years. But that's what you often get in an organization which has been run by self-interested insiders and good-'ol-boys for decades.
  • + 35
 Despite what the article says, the most expensive part of any kind of racing is getting to the races, especially in the wide open west. Without downplaying the efforts of all interviewed above, I think the country needs more regional series that can help cat 3 move to 2 and experts try their hand at Pro racing without having to drive from California to the East Coast.
  • + 15
 AMEN. I drove 12,500 miles to races last year. Every DH race I go to is over 8 hours from home for me. I enjoy it, my wife enjoys it and my kids enjoy it, so we'll keep doing it.
  • + 3
 I did what you do for 20 years and enjoyed it very much, traveling at the end with all equipment to keep wife and kids(babe) confortable, great to hear that you will keep doing it.
Is people like you that the sport needs, not too many anymore
  • + 5
 @codypup agreed. I dont understand why so much emphasis is put on a national series, when there should be regional series in the early months of the season. Most of the other sports have figured out how to do regional series in collegiate levels and some even in high school. Why can't mtbers in the USA stick to one area on the map, build results/points that are contributed towards national series entry, then be supported in a national series? It is crazy to think USA is one of the largest countries and makes up such a small percentage of the world cup field, and only has 5 big name races.
  • + 4
 Alpine skiing (also a gravity sport, so it can't be done just anywhere) has it pretty well figured out. Until you get into the highest levels, most of your races are within the neighboring 2-3 states. See my post below (not about Platty, below that) for the full scheme.
  • + 21
 Bring the Gnar back to downhill!!! I'm so sick of racing flat boring courses. If there is even a CHANCE that someone could with the race on a trail bike, that means it is not a downhill course! An example: Bullit at Mammoth has a couple good rock gardens, but the rest is flat, pedaly, and boring... put the race back on Upper Velocity! They raced it in the 90's... why are we racing on easier trails than we did 20 years ago??????????? This is DOWNHILL for crying out loud!
  • + 7
 I think that is part of what they are trying to accomplish here. Thats at least what it sounded like when they discussed the need for separate tracks for Cat 2 & 3. That would allow for a more gnarly course for those who can handle it and a separate course the lesser skilled riders can handle and enjoy. Its good for riders on both sides of the ledger.
  • + 5
 BRING BACK THE GNAR! great points on both ends!
  • + 19
 VERY good article! As far as Plattekill and Lazlo go, they should get more credit for being there from day 1. That mountain IS what DH is all about. What George Ulmer has done with the POC ESC is incredible! He should defiantly be the go to guy on how to run DH and Enduro races! I was at just about every east coast race from 1997 to 2001 then quit due to work and returning to moto-x. After 13+ years I started racing again in part due to the POC ESC and MCBP summer series... They are doing it right!
  • + 19
 Unbelievable to read this and hear these people talk as if they have a clue , it sounds more like they all have there own agendas. If im not mistaken For the first time ever a U.S. Junior won the gold at the 2013 World Championships with little or no help from USAC...in fact USAC had to be reminded that he was automatically entered for the 2013 team because he won silver at 2012 world championships. Where did the only Junior that has ever won Gold at World Championships grow up racing Plattekill, Mountain Creek and Mount Snow. Maybe you should have talked to the racers who have actually had some success and see what helped them achieve their goals. Every 16 year old Cat 1 dreams of racing World Cup or World Championships traveling 10,000 miles around the US and spending their College funds isn't the answer.
  • + 2
 that kid needs to get back racing dh!
  • + 18
 Plattekill does not have the facilities, that is completely understandable. But Herndon and Micah contradict themselves for dropping them from the schedule. Both state the Pro GRT is about the pro's but use the excuse of the tracks being to difficult for the CAT 2/3 racers. They are also requiring a seperate course for CAT 2/3 which would have fixed that issue.
  • + 6
 Crazy to hear this about Plattekill!!!! Back in the early 2000s this was the only place to ride..... TRUE DOWN HILL. A real riders Mountain. Don't get me wrong I loved groomed trails but if you want a fun I survived the ride, Platty is where its at.....
  • + 7
 Whatever excuse they give for dropping Plattekill, it comes down to perhaps it's not as spectator friendly (ie park.) Yes it is rough - unique in that aspect (and I wouldn't take a beginner there) and has nothing for facilities in the middle of nowhere, but, in a race series you need to elevate the game of the pros by putting them on different terrain. Imagine if the WC circuit dropped all the tougher courses in favor for the more spectator friendly easier park crap . Oh wait they are. Man up and put Platte back on schedule!
  • + 10
 Platty is just as easy to spectate as Windham, its trails just don't come out of the woods very often, so it is tougher to shoot video there. The base facilities are a joke, granted, but the Catskills are a pretty active skiing region in the winter, so between motels, BnB's, and rental properties, there is plenty of lodging within 1/2-hour's drive. With their already existing trails, Plattekill could EASILY develop a Cat 2/3 course which is fun/challenging/not $hit-your-shorts scary in order to cater to all racers (except maybe absolute beginner DH riders, but arguably, those don't belong at national-level race anyway).

In total, it is the most challenging mountain around, and deserves to be part of our highest-level racing circuit, but if that circuit is working hard to step up its game, then it's not too much to ask of Platty to step it up as well.
  • + 15
 this is dissappointing. i think itd be a hell of alot more fair if you sent out a pole for usac members on the east coast and let them decide if plattey goes or not. saying its too challenging of a course is just BS.
  • + 9
 Ya, no kidding! Don't enter the "PRO" GRT series if your scared. Race the grassroots programs first. DUUUHHH!
  • + 15
 Yeah, nope. I stopped reading as soon as USAC guy started to answer questions. Smoke and mirrors.... Just move on.
  • + 1
 this x100
  • + 7
 But the other answers from Lazlo and beyond... Wink Priceless.
  • + 3
 its been smoke and mirrors for years and years now here in north america as far as top level dh races go. the wc's are great, anything else is seriously lacking on this continent.
  • + 2
 there's gotta be an existing good working model to blueprint off of somewhere, right? it needs a great financial mind to make it happen. otherwise, you can hold meetings, symposiums all day everyday and give people titles to push emails back and forth to each other and nothing will materialize until the financial piece is sound and in place.
  • + 6
 the people making the calls, making the presentations, guiding the direction have no vision.

plus, most of em ain't ex racers so, ya get suits, or even worse yet, these new breed of poser wannabes that think they know where the sport's headed, but in all reality have no idea and no clue to what the continent should be doing as far as pro dh races.

it ain't hard, but the wrong people keep gettin the jobs so..................

there is money out there for creative people who wanna go get it.
there are opps for webcasting, there are opps for regional mainstream newscoverage, there are opps for whatever bmx/mx does...........

it could be on tv, it could have a fan base, it could be like ' the old days' again..........

just put an ex racer with a business degree in charge of the whole f ing thing for cryin out loud and get it done with.

i spent 2 years chasing the west coast norba races back in 2000 and 2001 and it was the real deal.
and i heard those were the dying days, i can't imagine it at the peak of hype.

part of the solution does rest with the racers though...........and this next comment is gonna piss some people off but, here goes............

if ya ain't in the top 50 of men or 10 in womens, ya need to quit the world cup and come on back to the north american continent and race nationally.

at the world cup, the webcast announcers ignore you and you don't qualify and you spend all that cash travelling.
here on the continent you would be treated as a star in the series.

just some thoughts really.
  • + 6
 That's the thing: you have to have a financial driver, but it's like the frame of the house -- if you don't start with a strong foundation and frame, the whole damn thing will rot and collapse. Right now, these are a lot of good ideas, but when it comes to significant stability and sustainability, this has to be run like a business on every side, not a charity. At the same time, riders have record-low contract payouts and incentives (especially for female pros) are pathetic, so it's painful to pony up and pay for licensing, race entries, travel, gear, accommodations, all to show up and what, be given $300 for 1st place? Sweet, awesome, thanks.

That's not how a business is run (or at least for very long), and it takes more than just intent to pull off a hectic schedule that's pregnant with expectation. We have strong enough numbers in DH for resorts all across the U.S. to spend millions in funding opening bike parks, but USAC can't translate those numbers into a sponsorship proposal for their national gravity series?!

C'mon. The data is there, the riders are (obviously) there, and DH racing could be something huge in the US as it's currently the only MTB discipline that's easily broadcast outside of freeride. The pieces are there, but no one is willing to put the puzzle together.
  • + 1
 @stacykohut: I agree with most of what you said, but I'll be honest here -- outside of aiming for World Champs inclusion, there's been no reason for pro racers to waste their time and money on the GRT up until last year (2013 had f*cking SEA OTTER as a GRT stop), and being ignored at the WC but still racing with riders of higher caliber on sincerely tough courses is a much better way for a non-top level racer to get better and excel than to swim in a small pond and 'be a hero', as you say. Kids who sandbag will always be sandbaggers, and those willing to learn (even at the cost of their pride) will always excel.
  • + 8
 okay, sure, but.............

i never said sandbagging. you don't get it.

sun peaks, whistler can open, pano, mammoth velocity, platty, anywhere in colorado, utah, new mexico,east coast america, crystal, and on and on.........these courses are easy for you? you clean em at race speed everytime? hit all your marks and breaking points?

i said alot of people don't belong on the world cup. they belong back on the continent racing as a regional pro, not an international pro.

every other sport has regional pros. they have have sponsors, the make a descent living during the season, they love what the do.

lets get real here, i am a cripple who rides a 4 wheel bike, you are a regional pro who could have a career racing and touring the continent and influencing young and old everywhere you go.

facts yeah?

but i ain't walking and you ain't gonna make it to the world cup. and if ya do, you will be minute plus off the winning time for the ladies.

facts yeah?

but i sure can see you on the cover of a delta inflight magazine ripping the 2017 deer valley pro grt race.

peace
  • + 2
 just look what the canadian motocross series has done in the last 10 years for regional pros.
  • + 4
 How about the Bmx model? Is there something to be gained there?
  • + 5
 Here-here @stacykohut... I know a couple of these wannabe international racers who just need to come back home. Their lack of participation in local/national races is noticeable and drives down the moral and quality of the local race scene. They are just wasting their time and money chasing a dream that the clock has already told them isn't going to happen. Run off to Europe if you win National Champs...otherwise, remember where you came from and remember racing is about the "scene" and not being "seen".
  • + 4
 bmx, nor am skiing, euro cup skiing, arenacross, regional skateboard pros, regional snowboard pros, there are many examples and models.
  • + 2
 Supercross series... Pros do all nationals and ams split regional east/west.
Top east/west ams get invite to nat'l finals. Nat'l pro champ crowned and top 3 ams crowned move up to pro series
Could that work? Regionals save money on travel and allows cream to rise to the top. Meanwhile, both regions get to see top pros race. Racers motivated fans excited....
  • - 10
flag ambatt (Jan 8, 2015 at 21:02) (Below Threshold)
 You know what, man? I feel for Ya. It must f*cking suck to be stuck in a body that won't work and hating everything while other folks go chase dreams doing shit they're really good at.

Check your 'facts' and that WC roster one more time. Just because you've given up on your body doesn't mean I don't have plenty of life left for living.
  • + 9
 wow amanda, you are something else. go get em kid.
  • - 3
 @ambatt I don't know you... but I think I like you! Way too speak your mind! Very Intelligent! Way to be passionate about what you do! This sport needs you!
  • + 5
 I think you guys are forgetting one very important thing here when you're accusing people of being washed up and they need to "just come home"

Payouts. If they made more racing nationally winning vs. losing on the WC they would be here.

Those are the "facts" you guys omitted while getting into some ridiculous pissing match. Money pays the bills.
  • + 12
 I think what you are all forgetting is that even if all the riders came back, USAC still wouldn't give a fuck and would screw it up and drive them away just like they did in the past. USAC is the biggest problem here... Always was and always will be.
  • + 2
 It's also about progression for those of us on the WC -- staying in the US to waste the same money and ride sad courses for a federation that couldn't give two f*cks (Beech Mountain, Sea Otter, etc) is just pointless. USAC (with Micah's statement) is basically saying "yeah, we know you guys are a viable market, but until you're fully developed, we don't want to make an investment in the discipline." That's f*cking lame. That's not how smart investing is done, and I agree with Dave about USAC still not putting in the work to help us make it something huge. As our national federation, they have a lot of industry 'buying power' when it comes to shopping for series sponsors, but they haven't done that for the GRT. Despite a vastly improved schedule this year (f*ck yeah!), I still feel like they don't have a full commitment to us and that those changes and the UCI points were ideas from Jill, Bryn and Herndon that USAC acquiesced to, just to keep the meetings together.

At the end of the day, it's great that they're talking about broadcasting and ICI points, but this deal lacks meat, and while I'll definitely continue to race the series and have a blast, I'm not holding out for USAC to be what they need to be, and I'll still race unsanctioned stuff to support the folks doing the best they can.
  • + 11
 again, nobody said 'washed up'.you don't get it.
are the racers racing indy car intsead of f1 washed up? no. they just race here in north america.

and as for you amanda, heres some words from YOUR website.....


"After being lazy, fearful and passive throughout my life and making decisions that would ultimately end in heartbreak, in 2007, everything turned upside down after a series of medical diagnoses, health problems and tumultuous relationships. My world, the world I had created, no longer made sense. I sought answers and hope in all of the wrong places during treatment until, finally, I had to choose between giving up and dying or taking my life back and thriving. I chose life, and health, and happiness. "


now, i have never been thru any of the above stuff in my 44 years, so please, stop PROJECTING your shortcomings and insecurities onto me and my life thank you.
  • + 3
 any pro level sport sponsorship has always been about marketing product development to consumers. obviously, all involved are holding out for the promise of revenue returns cuz folks have to eat. USAC owns the land and the racers are the farmers. definitely want to support homegrown. hope they work towards it.
  • + 3
 ..or everybody starves
  • + 11
 I'm perplexed that the most outspoken and abrasive person in this thread claims to be a WC racer and part of the WC but as far as I recall has never actually raced or qualified for one.

@stacyKohut I'm with ya all the way here. The World Cup is for the best of the best and the domestic series "could" be far better off if a few of the less than competitive riders re focused their attention at home. The riders on the WC who are a minute off the pace just lower that caliber of racing for everyone, and are a big reason courses are being dumbed down, etc.

I look at the UK as a great example. Their domestic race scene is so strong, and with so much talent at the top end most of the fast riders will still never get to race a WC. SO they stay home and continue to raise the bar on the domestic scene, pushing up the level of competition and in turn the best riders rise out of this. The top 10 at a local British race would smoke all but about 3 American riders.

In the US a handful of decently fast riders try in vein to qualify for WC and fail, while in their absence at home mediocre riders "win" and get this false sense of entitlement to run off and be WC racers. Where in fact they should all stay home and race each other in a more competitive setting. The place/number you finish doesn't mean a thing if you are still way off the pace. It just means no one else showed up ;-)

This past summer a bunch of top 5 grt guys and gals went to a few WC races.... one of them at most qualified, and the rest were in the 100's.
  • + 3
 you pretty much hit the nail on the head with entitlement. big fish in little ponds.
  • - 5
flag ambatt (Jan 9, 2015 at 18:16) (Below Threshold)
 Dude, (@stacykohut), that last comment wasn't even towards you. Let it go and move on, creeper.

Not everything is about you.
  • - 4
flag ambatt (Jan 9, 2015 at 18:18) (Below Threshold)
 I'm not trying to be abrasive, Dave, and injuries have kept me from racing the WC, but I'm simply trying to give some perspective from the 'regional pros' that @staceykohut referenced. Reread my comments without the bitter tone you've both attributed and it may come off differently.
  • + 12
 You took a cheap shot at a guy in a wheelchair, and once again tossed in your two cents without stopping to think what you were saying. No need to re read your rants and raves.
  • + 8
 @ambatt

Two words- Weak Sauce.

Callous. Hide behind your smartphone or PC but you'd never say that to someone in person.

You've never been in that situation. Your words make me cringe.
  • - 4
flag ambatt (Jan 11, 2015 at 8:58) (Below Threshold)
 (1/2) Wow. For folks so judgmental coming at me, it seems as though you all have lost perspective. First: as someone who regularly 'dishes' it out, I fully expect to take heat, and often do. If @stacykohut wants to bring his paraplegia into a conversation about how it is a fact that will never change and how that relates to the racing and riding careers of others, then yes: he made it fair game.

Secondly, we were originally talking about how WC racing (or attempting to race WC as an 18-month pro, Dave) has outweighed any effort made by USAC to make the ProGRT a preparation ground for US riders. This has come to a point where we're talking about 'trying' and 'effort'.

Not one single person has any sort of right telling those of us 'trying' to race the WC and doing our best to progress and push ourselves that we should just give up. Just as I would never tell @stacykohut that he should ever give up on the possibilities of being fully or even-semi improved in his physicality, his assertion that most of us should just stop trying is not only cruel, but defeatist and weak. If there weren't constantly racers pushing to be the best or even improve their standings inside of the WC, there would be no competition and the series would be valueless.
  • - 5
flag ambatt (Jan 11, 2015 at 8:59) (Below Threshold)
 (2/2) I do feel bad for @stacykohut and his condition, but just because he's paralyzed doesn't mean I'm an awful person for calling him on his defeatist shit towards me or the other racers at least making an effort, especially on a thread that has absolutely nothing to do with me as a person or my personal efforts. In fact, in the less than two years I've been racing pro, I'm very happy with the progress I've made as a racer and a rider, and I stand behind my words, personally. I don't hide behind a fake username or profile or PC ( @vw4ever ), and I'm more than willing to be attributed for my actions and my words, for good or for bad. Also: you don't know what situations I've been in or not been in, so you're not really able to claim that I've never been there.

Regardless of what any of the peanut gallery has to say, it's not about you anymore than how it affects DH growth in the US. This series, however, and our efforts and the personal collateral many of us have put up has little to no effect on your daily lives, and it's so easy to claim that we're failing at what we do... Even from your couches (or a wheelchair). And while it may be all sorts of fun to project your feelings on the way we're trying to do what we do, citing bullshit as 'facts' still makes it bullshit.

So am I an a*shole for calling another a*shole on his a*sholeishness? Sure. But I don't have prejudice against any a*shole, regardless of their current standing. So pin me to the wall: I'm an a*shole. But who of you isn't? Glass houses, kids. Glass motherf*cking houses. Wink
  • + 4
 no need to feel bad for me girl. condition? what condition? are you from the 1950's? condition?...wow,talk about being off the back.

i have accomplished more since breaking my back in the international sports world than you ever could imagine or possibly could accomplish yourself.

you wanna start a pissing war with me?

remember amanda..........impossible is nothing.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmjgzEFJhi0&list=PLF090A492263F6B35&index=4

ya, 10 years before there was 'prove can't wrong' , there was the original................'impossible is nothing'

you wanna compare international sport accomplishments and titles? anytime amanda, anytime.

just stop opening your mouth and putting your foot in it when it comes to your evaluation of who iam and what i do or have accomplished.



good luck amanda.
  • - 1
 And yet, your reading comprehension once again fails the test. NOT ONCE did I say or claim that you haven't accomplished anything. Not even once. I never attacked you, and you're the one who brought your own physical limits to the game. This isn't a pissing match and I'm not burning anyone (including you, @stacykohut) down in the slightest. I'm simply saying that you're an a*shole for trying to play like our efforts don't mean anything. That's it.

So now that you've trolled my website, continued to attack me personally and professionally, how you feelin', buddy? Better about yourself? About the MTB community in general? About me, and my efforts? No? I thought not. Congrats on all that you've achieved (and I mean that sincerely). But I won't cower under the pressure from a million internet a*sholes... Not now, not ever. If you choose to internalize this shit, that's on you.

Instead of taking it personally because I addressed an issue that YOU brought into the conversation (your physical limits versus my potential career moves) and your shitty attitude, maybe take a breather? I don't particularly give a shit if you roar at me over the airwaves... I just don't. You aren't the first hater and you'll certainly not be the last. I know you probably don't get called on much of the nonsense that you spew, but I'm unusually honest and irrationally careless, and I did call you on it. Either live with it or don't, but I'm done.

Either way, best of luck to you and yours. No hard feelings on my end.
  • + 1
 @ambatt please just stop talking about yourself.
  • - 2
 @ ambatt

do you truly think that you can see a perspective from a standpoint of someone that has been permanently injured?

I think you have proven that you cannot.
  • - 1
 gross
  • + 1
 this can't read well for sponsors, can it?
  • + 2
 @fullbug i can't get this thread out my head for that reason and for so many countless other reasons.
  • + 0
 obviously, the passion is there for wanting the same end goals as far as more racing and development for here. let's hope something happens that we can all show support for. ...for the process as well as the goal..
  • + 12
 Did this long-winded article have a point? It missed the two most obvious reasons for the demise of high-profile American DH racing. The NORBA races used to be on ESPN or OLN I forget, but regular highlights were featured, until about 2004 or 2005. The TV contract stopped, sponsors like Chevy and Shimano pulled out because they weren’t getting worthwhile exposure. No big sponsors = no prize purse for pro riders. There were a few years with sadly no prize money for pros at Nationals (maybe 2005 to 2008 ). During this time all of the fast American pros had two choices, race for free in the US with no consistent exposure, or spend all season in Europe on the World Cup circuit against the best and cross their fingers for coverage and some prize money.

In the Vice President’s own words in this article:
"There’s no real hierarchy that we’ve listed out in any way. We look at a lot of things when you think about the importance of these disciplines"

Road and XC are in Olympics…hmmm, me wonder if they get more of the funds to grow and promote that segment? Also, people race road bikes a lot longer than mountain bikes, so of course USAC gets more road memberships, because there are still people in competitive Masters classes well into their late 50s.

Obviously, the best racers go where the $$$ and exposure are, and with no DH racing on American TV to attract sponsors and prize purses, don’t expect anything to change. It’s a shame the GRT or whatever it’s called now can’t get a live streaming system going live the World Cups and Red Bull. Seems like the only way to stop the circle of conversation that’s been going on for a decade now is to get live coverage of the US DH races.

Sincerely, your friend Captain Obvious
  • + 2
 We're working on it.
  • - 1
 As far as prize purses go make it equal for the man and women, a lot of the time I see men getting 250 for their win and the women get 40 for racing the same course. I understand the purse to rider ratio isn't the same for men and women, but still it should be equal. I like the idea of money going to the fastest times for each gender usually goes to the 1-3 pro spots but sometimes those cat 1riders beat the pros and they deserve the money instead for that!
  • + 11
 "George runs the Eastern States Cup better than USAC. He should be the head of the gravity scene for USAC and the Pro GRT. I think what he has developed - and I stand behind my words - has been the best thing that will happen for any type of gravity racing" ---
  • + 5
 TRUTH! And to the first USAC guy who 'called out' unsanctioned racing as USAC's problem child that's costing them money?! Sack up and bring some flesh to the game. Do your groundwork, bring some extra sponsors into the series and stop expecting handouts from the USOC and U.S. Sports Commissions. Donny has been AMAZING for downhill in the US, and he's a rad dude.
  • + 4
 years ago alot of the people who are unsanctioned were sanctioned! they went on their own due to their experiences. That is proof of who screwed this thing up right there.
  • + 9
 They left because of the lack of support and the high costs to be involved with a a federation/governing body when pros didn't outweigh cons... The series that are working now don't need USAC, and USAC knows that, which is why they're (finally!) trying to get UCI points as a leveraging chip to offer organizers' to sway riders into paying for higher 'sanctioned' race fees (and for insurance that doesn't actually do anything for injured riders).

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful as hell to have a national federation and races close to me and yadda yadda yadda. But personal politics and hurt feelings often trump what's best for this sport, and if we don't move past that now, it'll kill us once again.

What we need is for USAC to continue looking at the most popular race venues, and ask themselves why those venues get racers. Is it because the course is 'safe' or 'easy'? Never. It's because the organizers to out of their way to make everyone feel heard and have fun, and that's the difference -- we're a community with a future, and it's time we all start acting like it instead of taking whatever we can squeeze out before the bubble bursts. It's a financial, personal and communal commitment that has to go beyond petty arguments and fear of f*cking up.
  • + 11
 An actual national DH race series with UCI points is going to be HUGE. Now if only our friends at USAC would ditch the "shut up, we're doing you idiot downhillers a favor" attitude....
  • + 9
 Except that only Herndon is rooting for DH. Everyone else is just playing a game... You know how to raise money?! Sponsorships do it, I've heard. Saying that the USOC and the US government is the only way USAC raises the majority of their funds is utter bullshit. Insurance? Online registration? Really, dude?!

Otherwise, this is an excellent article, Brice! Massive thanks go out to Jill, Bryn, Herndon and everyone doing their best to put US DH on the map once more, and UCI points is a huge step towards that. Hopefully, USAC will pull their heads out and actually appeal to companies who are open to sponsoring a UCI-points series. It's time.

Thanks for the background info on this, and showing the important political steps that have to be taken for something of this size to get off the ground.
  • + 4
 Well at least this time they have downhill mtber in charge unlike in the past where the had a pro beach volleyball player who barely rode bikes in charge of the national gravity pro grt and nationals at Angelfire.......complete mess and I put it all on USAC and applaude Angel fire for doing their best with who they had to work with.
  • + 9
 We need more school programs to get kids on bikes!!! When i was in school i sucked at team sports and would have loved to join some kind of a bike team or club. It also helps to have a better bike culture in general. Across the pond everyone rides bikes, over here everyone drives. There are a lot of people who just down right hate bikers over here.
  • + 7
 Totally agree. My highschool has 0 clubs relating to bikes which sucks because I know that once people tried it they would enjoy it. Even getting people out to a race weekend would be a huge step. I did my first race last year and it was a fuckin blast. I made a lot of new friends and overall it was just a sick weekend. Even my parents really enjoyed it.
  • + 3
 If your school has 0 clubs then you should start one. That is what this is all about. No one is going to do it for you.
  • + 1
 while I agree with kabanosipyvo, it sometimes isn't that easy. when i was in high school i tried twice. first time i was told there wasn't enough support for it and it didn't have much to do with school. the second time i got a bunch of signatures and then they said it would be too dangerous and didn't want liability for anything that could happen on rides coordinated through the club..
  • + 2
 I've thought about giving it a go but the cost barrier and time consumption it takes is difficult for a lot of kids, most already have "their sport" that they do.
  • + 9
 I for one am looking forward to this year like no other. I do however agree that it will not happen overnight, but we(they) are making big steps in the right direction. There's even going to be some network television exposure this year which is definitely a step in the right direction for acquiring sponsorship for events which will trickle down to a better experience for all.

As far as the liability issues, not much we can do about it other than on an individual level. You can't get caught up in the what if's and still continue. I would have quit a long time ago, or not even started promoting races. Liability waivers at this point are the best protection but we've even seen those diminished a bit. I had even considered adding some sort of Participation Contract. Not so much because I'm worried about the participants transferring responsibility as I am the insurance lawyers.

For course gnar issues, it's a tough one. We do everything we can to provide a challenging but safe course for pros/Cat 1s, another course for Cat 2s that is just as challenging, but they have it to themselves, and a course that my 11 year old daughter that will race for the first year ever can race comfortably. All of these are just as important as the next. In the future when things grow, maybe we will have enough Pro racers to have some pro only races (a la World Cups), but for now it would just be impossible.

Bottom line, this is going to a fun year of racing and I look forward to seeing familiar faces and some new ones.
  • + 2
 Yah Buddy! Stay positive!!!
  • + 0
 Fully agree with the need for split tracks for the different cats. Nationals a few years ago at angelfire USAC made the 14 and under cat3s race the pro course they didn't even get their own practice time which made them never get a full run in before their race run. Can you imagine being 11yo having to walk through a pro course rock garden as Gwin comes in at light speed to hit the rock garden and followed by a number of cat 1 and pros how dangerous and scary that would be for a lilttle kid. I'm glad that my son and his friends had the opportunity to race a pro course it was extremely hard for them and some got injured and some didn't. The fact is that if you make things to hard for the juniors you lose them and the parents as it is dangerous, super expensive to race and attend national events. Saftey and fun is what keeps the kids coming back and off the video games. For the pros make it gnarly for crying out loud none of this trail bike 29er shit in dh!
  • + 2
 You guys do a great job of creating or picking courses that different levels can ride. As I said in another post here, had you not had a fairly easy cat3 course at Stevens and PA my nine year old daughter would not have become so excited about racing. Really makes a big difference and she is really looking forward to next year.
  • + 7
 Certainly there is a LOT in these interviews to digest. Just want to thank Pink Bike, Brice, Scott, Jill and all the others interviewed for sharing their voice and guiding US DH. One thing is for sure, in a country the size of The States, you're guaranteed you will never accommodate everyone's wishes, so it will always be a compromise. Looking forward to seeing bigger turnouts for PA and the other GRTs, with the UCI points up for grabs, it will definitely improve Pro turnouts, and make the racing even more competitive! Good stuff, can't wait for April!
  • + 11
 I'll tell them how to run a national series!
  • + 1
 Please freaking do. All i want for Christmas is what you built, but on my side of pond.
  • + 7
 If Lazlo put on an unsanctioned race the weekend he was supposed to have the GRT race, I'd go. Going back and forth across the country to race is only viable for a very small handful of people. Regional series are the way to go. George at Eastern States Cup does a phenomenal job,. I started racing in the early 2000's, got out of it for quite a few years, and just started really getting back into it the last 2 years. I've had more fun racing at 41last, thanks almost all in part to George, than I ever did in my late 20's and early 30's. Keep up the good work ESC.
  • + 2
 They could easily foster those series, then put on a 2 or 3 race "finals" with the best racers from each series, culminating in the nationals.
  • + 7
 It's also about the "return on investment" for the riders. With enduro races on the rise, your looking at a few 3 minute runs compared to a few hours of racing for likely the same cost. And since its the lowly Cat 3 and 2 riders that provide a lot of the funding, they need to feel like it was worth the cost.
  • + 2
 Especially true at bike parks where the track is just a run you could do 5x more laps of any other day.
  • + 7
 Herndon's statement about "safety" at Plattekill is offensive. I have been racing there since 98 and have seen plenty of their medical operations to help riders. Their team was always capable and handled the situations well. I broke my back at Plattekill in a tight area near the peak of the mountain. The medical team took excellent care for me and they had no problem getting me down the mountain safely. Plenty of my friends have been taken off the mountain. We have also seen the same happen at other mountains. Mount Snow Yardsale come to mind for anyone? That is just the nature of the sport. I hold no grudges for my injuries and have nothing but praise and gratitude for how the medics helped me in a time of need. You have to ride within your abilities and when accidents happen take accountability for your actions. Laszlo is always taking rider feedback into consideration especially for safety. I have spent plenty of late nights with him out working on a course changing things to address rider feedback. As for course marshals it is true in the early years course marshals were sparse. That is long gone however for the last 5+ years. Saying there is no course marshals is simply not true.
USAC gripes about unsanctioned races and yet aside from pitbike racing shenanigans in the parking lot I have no memories of unsanctioned races at Plattekill. If you run the numbers for sanctioned dh races held in the USA I would not be surprised to see Plattekill at the top of the list by a large margin. They have been doing racing forever. The way Plattekill was dropped from the circuit is rather unprofessional especially taking the years of support they put in. If you need to switch venues up to address scheduling conflicts or rider feedback about not wanting to race the mountain that is fine. That is not what it sounds like though. It sounds like excuses to foster politics which is unfortunate.
  • + 9
 RACING IS LIFE!! My Canadian buddies and I all go down and race on the east coast. George Ulmer is the MAN!
  • + 6
 Here's the real problem - Yeti doesn't have a DH team anymore! They were THE development program for World Cup DHers. Aaron Gwin, Sam Blenkinsop, Jared Graves, Justin Leov, Nathan Rennie, Richie Rude and a shit-ton of others were discovered and developed by the turquoise team - then lost to wealthier pockets (except Jared - hang in there Grubby! You too Dick Rude!).
  • + 10
 ESC - the best in the biz
  • + 6
 Sad to say a BIG reason I don't race is you pay more to ride less.. Not sure how you over come that.. but my dollars go to travel, good food and beer. I know a few fast guys and we all feel about the same about it.
  • + 5
 I really wish I was filthy rich so I could pour mounds of money into the sport!!

Someone above said it perfectly. "I like to ride my bike"

I love every aspect of mountian biking, from DH racing, Enduro, XC, DJ and Freeride.

May the sport live liong and prosper!!
  • + 1
 Right on bro.
  • + 4
 interesting read... there's a lot of BS behind the scenes that wasn't mentioned here, so it will see how all this unfolds. I'm just glad i pulled out of this clusterf*** when i did. There seems to be a bit new life in some areas, but i warn you, some of the areas that seem like a great solution, can actually be a detriment to the series if not done correctly. I've moved on to bigger & better things... but you still might see me involved with racing again down the road. we'll see!
  • + 1
 yeah @jdylandean, this could have been a 3 hour read had I put every word in...there will most certainly be some follow ups though!
  • + 6
 Throwing Donny @ Southridge a bone! He's got the best race program I've come across yet! Can't wait for the Winter Series to start this weekend!!!
  • + 4
 Cant speak for Donny but, I bet he tried usac and they failed him. Thats usually when you do things yourself! When the only way you feel it will be done right!
  • + 6
 I will GLADLY prop this comment... Donny was the first race organizer I met who sincerely gave a shit about everyone on course and made sure we all felt heard, included and that we were having fun. To this day, Donny is one of my favorite guys in american MTB simply because he cares. That's a huge goddamn deal.
  • + 2
 I raced fontana once and thought it sucked. That being said, it had a great atmosphere and I had one of the best times at a race that I've ever had. Weird.
  • + 1
 @metaldude I can't speak for Donny either, but I can relay what I've heard from other race organizers: the USAC has done nothing but make demands for no return from them. It's funny that the USAC person brought up the insurance, & how theirs is "cheaper": that's the exact opposite of what every race promoter I've talked to has told me, the USAC insurance was always more expensive.
  • + 1
 Fontana courses seem to have little relevance to WC tracks, but man, there sure is some talent that comes out to race there. I've seen and "raced with" and sometimes chatted with Gwin, Atherton, Ropelato, Mullaly, Hannah, Binggeli, Beaumont, Kovarik, Carter, Houseman, Swanguen, and tons more I am forgetting. I have seen results sheets including Peat, Hill and Blenkinsop in the recent past. Donny is fully committed as mentioned above and it really is fun for the whole family at a reasonable price. First round starts today. Unfortunately, work responsibilities will preclude my participation.
  • + 2
 Agreed! I think part of the reason so many of those guys race there is A: it's bike time and B: it's fun. The atmosphere and company far outweigh any benefits the Fontucky course may provide, but it's still a timed race on a bike -- it's all relevant when you look at it like that. Wink
  • + 4
 American DH is like American Music these days... It takes money to make a record... a shit record... that sells! There are a lot of talented musicians, but you won't ever see them where they should be.. on a big stage. There are tons of passionate hardcore DH riders in America... soul riders! But, you are not gonna see them on a hardcore DH race run. Plenty of trail builders are passionate about what they build, and are just as stoked seeing riders hit big lines... but when you go to a national championship and have promoters "taming down" world cup runs.... so everybody can ride it...it's strange. " You can keep that boulder here, but you have to get rid of that boulder there.." Let's face it, DH parks ( in America) are limited to what they can build so "everybody" can ride it.. meaning, we want to attract the whole family of 5 to rent 5 bikes at $200 a day per person...so the resort can make money! They don't make money off people who lost their jobs or are working 2 jobs to support a heavy DH addiction. So when these people come out and blow up perfectly clean trails, or just camp out in a middle of a DH run... it gets dangerous! Hat's off to Laszlo for speaking in "black and white" and keeping it real! You want more American DH riders racing World Cups? Build World Cup Tacks! The heart and soul is here...Gwin's flat tire run... Neko's chainless run? 100% AMERICAN! Nothing to lose...that's DH racing! This is just my opinion... and thanks to everybody interviewed in this article for working at changing it around! Let's all stay positive! It will help!
  • + 4
 1) US healthcare is SHIT. If I get hurt riding downhill, I am absolutely f*cked. Bikes are also crazy money. I don't make enough.
2) IMBA paves half our trails so beginners who never show up will ride it and "expand" our sport so my boss can get a raise. Cool. I still can't go to the hospital.
  • + 4
 The east coast does have great downhill series, and i;ve really enjoyed my first season of racing. But in terms of increasing popularity their is one thing I think needs addressing. One of the things the POC ESC did this year was remove the Cat 3 category altogether. Technically they combined cat2 and cat 3, but in reality they simply removed cat 3. Witch means someone who's just getting into the sport and is trying racing for the first time has little chance of making a podium. Especially given that winning cat 2 times often for some reason are actually faster than cat 1. Witch was the case for many of the races i attended this year. Witch is fine for a competitive racer. But for someone less experianced, it simply isnt going to be much fun. Having the opportunity to fight for a podium spot is important for gaining confidence, and lets face it, downhill racing is a pretty intimidating sport as it is. If they are really trying to increase participation they should give beginners a dedicated class.
  • + 2
 Totally agree. My nine year old daughter did the last two races of the NW cup this year in Cat3 and having a chance to win and be on the podium was great for her. I don't think she would have been able to ride the cat2 courses at either events.She is now hooked and cannot wait for the new season to start.
  • + 10
 I agree with you to an extent. I think one thing that needs to be monitored more closely (and I have no idea who does it) is the sandbaggers. I don't have a problem with someone podiuming at every race in cat3, but if you are killing the cat2 guys move up. If you aren't keep podiuming and then move up the following year.

I was just looking at the super championship results from Mountain Creek. Most of Cat 2 (6 guys) , would have podiumed in Cat 1 (18-29) , the winner of cat 2 was faster than the winner of cat 1.

That's not helping to grow the sport either.
  • + 2
 IMO The reason I think that is, is because cat 2-3 riders don't have to buy a year license. Cat 1 and pro have to have a year license to compete in their cat. If you raced cat 1 the year before and had a licence, but this year you don't buy a license you can only compete in cat 2 since you didn't buy a lisense. (Sandbagger do to license)Pretty lame in my opinion. The only official way to move up is through USAC licensing and you have to pay every year to have that license, and you can't officially move up unless that race is sanctioned by USAC.
  • + 3
 Reading this makes me mad and think of my last job and how they ran the place by coming around now and then to collect the money and criticize for things they have not been involved in enough to know the real deal and never listening to the fix for problems by the people in the trenches that are involved enough to know the real deal. We need an organization that is only for mountain bike racing only!
  • + 3
 USAC is a joke. It's an old boys club and corrupt business model that is essentially a centralized racket. No different than the IOC, FIFA, UCI or any other large centralized sporting federation that that uses human conditions such as national pride and competitiveness as their lifeline for existence.

Athletes,
Do you want the honor....the privilege.... to be a National Champion ®. I mean it's not too hard with all of the 500 different permutations of rider classes and age brackets. Oh and we also offer such great things such as 2nd class insurance and a Hertz coupon with you're membership......

Venues,
Do you want the prestige...the privilege....to bid on and host events where people compete in races that are sanctioned for National Championships ®! Big Ponzi Brother UCI only recognizes us as the national sanctioning body so if you want to draw pro athletes, fans, sponsors you need to get in bed with us. Pro athletes want to have jerseys with a rainbow stripes on their sleeves-> World Champion ® titles or even better yet, an Olympic ® medal!!!
We offer such great things as insurance, and 2nd class event planning! We apologize but so far we only know how to make this racket sustainable for ourselves and we haven't quite figured out or really care to figure out how we can make this a great two way entrepreneurial endeavor. Some day...maybe....we can work with you venues to make your investment working with us provide real long lasting impact like improving area infrastructure and making our events teachable moments that improve how you run your everyday business outside of this one event!

BTW, could you put the PSA out to the locals or maybe that injured athlete on the sideline that we need course marshals? I think we have a vest, walkie talkie, and a free lunch voucher that we could give him?
  • + 2
 And regarding the comment from this Micah guy that they do not get money from the government, that's utterly ridiculous. USAC is a friggin non-profit, so while not receiving moneys directly, c'mon. Oh and for anyone that loves doing reading, there's this guy by the name of Thomas Weisel, a company named Tailwind Sports, the USA Cycling Development Foundation (which hilariously is on the rally.me website) the US Postal Service, and something like $40 million.......

For anyone that thinks that all of a sudden the environment of racing is going to change in this country because OMG UCI points! I have news for you. It isn't. There needs to be a massive paradigm shift in how racing, especially in the gravity disciplines, is run and conducted. The barrier to entry for the sport has only grown under the USAC's watch and it is failing at their 'Purposes' according to their article of incorporation.
  • + 1
 Dude. You're not only ON POINT, but this is really funny. The 'stars n bars' are east to snag for the fastest sandbagger in lower categories, and it happens often, yet USAC lacks basic internal structure to prevent injury and death (course marshals, double barrier spectator tape). God forbid you actually DO get injured.

I'm applauding you into the sunset on this one.
  • + 4
 Sad to hear about Plattekill. Unfortunately due to how far away I live from these resorts, I only go to them to race. Ultimately they lose business because I can't be the only one.
  • + 2
 Same here.
  • + 3
 One of the biggest issues in the US "back in the day" that I believe led to the downfall of DH/Slalom and MTB overal in the US was Eric Moore and NORBA. Those who dealt with him and complete disdain for anything other that XC back then will understand.
  • + 4
 Same shit different era! Why you think they dropped Norba as the name? because it had gotten that bad of a reputation!
  • + 1
 Agreed
  • + 1
 I don't know squat about NORBA or Mr. Moore but it seems like here in the US there is a huge emphasis on XC. Maybe that's just my perception.
  • + 8
 America!
  • + 4
 Bikes!
  • + 3
 PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!! USAC abandon all gravity events, sanctioning, worlds teams, licensing... basically say f@ck it!!!

George and Laslo and the other promotors and teams start a new Gravity sanctioning body. Make it ours. 100%

We can sell it to tv and internet video. Its soooo easy CUZ ITS THE MOST EXCITING SPECTACULAR FORM OF RIDING!!!

Get away from USAC please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • + 3
 I'm sorry to hear that you US guys have such a bunch of assholes at the top table of UCAS. Just ignore them, race your local events and if you give a frig about making money from it then sync the smaller events up for TV sponsorship and pay the airfare ntoeurope if you're good enough. Micah sounds like a total prick.
  • + 3
 tl;dr - still my 2 cents: just because you spend insane amounts of money on your military which makes it the best in the world, doesnt mean you automatically have to dominate all aspects of life, competition etc.

another thing i have to say: i like athletes because of their nature - not because of their nationality. The athletes can pretty much influence anything (training, habbits, attitude) except their nationality - so why concentrate on something that is not influenceable?
  • + 1
 Totally agree with you about this, Americans have this intense need to beat everybody else at everything(I oughta know.)

But this isn't that. This is the same sort of thing that every country goes though, if they're trying put together a development program for a sport: look at how other countries are doing it. compare what we have, to what the best countries have, & try to emulate it, or even surpass it.

The BDS wouldn't be the powerhouse it is, if they'd been complacent when they got to "good enough." They kept pushing the bar as high as they can.
  • + 3
 I raced for about three years and it was great fun, but really here in America at least for me I love to explore and see awesome things not just be tired down to going as fast as I can down and not stopping to enjoy what things are around. Riding is more than just racing it's about having fun
  • + 4
 It really all boils down to politics, money, and access. There is no reason what so ever that the U.S. cannot have legit DH courses, trails, and a national series like Australia, Europe and the U.K. do.
  • + 3
 For me, I have less drive to pay money and travel to a race that is hours away now that Strava exists. I can race on my local trails against my buddies anytime I feel like. No pressure of a single race run, and I can do it in the middle of a 3 hr ride. Its really a much better experience. Its made me ride more and be more competitive and faster than ever. Now if Strava sanctioned races that could be interesting....
  • + 1
 At my closest bike park some of the race courses are actually strava segments, so you can even race on the same track! Timing may be off by a few seconds but who really cares. When there isn't just one lap, gps drift and all that stuff evens out for everyone over time.
  • + 2
 Hmmm, great article and lots of good information. I feel for Laslo, but understand the issues surrounding that decision. I really wish they could double the number of races, include Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Southern Cal, and maybe a southern/southeast US Venue. One point though, and at a risk of sounding nationalist, I think a US pro series should only be paying points to US pro riders. What is the value of attracting international riders to this series?(Most are already qualified UCI pros) (and Canada already have a national DH series paying UCI points!?) it is supposed to be the series that produces the best American candidates for UCI competition. Every non US rider participating (especially existing top WC riders) is therefore taking up spots on the qualification roster for our boys in World cup berths. (Which has been imbalanced for some time against US riders requiring trips out of the country just to try to earn qualifying points, or as Chris described makes for a tough selection process of petitioned entries.) It seems that the US Pro GRT series in this form is actually an American Continental series potentially pulling from north and south of the Border. Im not sure I understand that in principle, but then I am surely ignorant of many of the factors surrounding this. Again, Great article, explains a lot, was needed. Thank you PB.
  • + 2
 But if they're getting swept by the Canadians, Aussies, etc whats the point in sending them to WC's? PS, Americans can go to Canada for points as well I assume?
  • + 3
 Not sure, but if the goal is to create WC opportunity for US racers, then it makes sense not to fill the field with riders that are already WC qualified. The best solution may be an East/West (5 races each side) series that could then collect together at the Nationals every season. (emulate AMA Supercross)
  • + 2
 lets get back to sq. one,development,,promotion, and exposure for a amateur. small local race series is the first step,motocross is a great example,build a local following and soon the venders want to be there for exposure,then with all the cable and internet options,find someone to cover the event to be viewed on a larger scale,it seems there are more film editing people contributing to pb than hollywood,do the math,there are 90% amateur ,and 5% chasers,with 5% top pros riding,
so where do you think the venders want to be?ok, you say,so what, but think for a minute! most of the money that can grow the sport comes from venders. in so. cal.
last summer a local mountain was building trails to suit pros and top riders, thats a small % of the people riding the mountain,but, thats another issue.unfortunatly
most of the adrenaline sports requires travel and dollars,my 12 yr old is the one that dragged me into this, after motocross,trials,snowboarding, formula car racing,speedway racing, dh still gets my attn. so, exposure is the key....drag a friend into it, help him so he doesn't die the first day and you'll have a carpooler for the next trip.
  • + 3
 Plattekill definitely needs to update their s*** love the place but at the same TimeThey need more variety all around and definitely need better facilities.they need to sink some money into that place
  • + 2
 Yikes..!
So from what I gather, the governing body/owner(?) of the 'premier' professional DH racing entity in the US, is a lot like the AMA, in that it's a non-profit, and pays for everything through its membership..?
When the head-honcho stated that 62% of membership racing is ROAD bicycle racing, and words along the lines of 'XC and DH combined don't even show up on the map', the first thought that popped into my mind was that if he's actually going through with what he says he is(dumping an increasing amount of effort and MONEY) into mountain bike racing-DH racing in particular) his road-riding membership ISN'T gonna be too happy about that. He stated CLEARLY that they're interested in road-riding/racing, so common sense dictates that when they get wind of where their money is going(again, if what he says is true), they're gonna either throw the dude off the board, throw everybody off the board and elect new leadership, or simply remind them who's buttering their bread.
In any event, I don't see how THIS particular organization is the right choice for steering professional mountain bike racing in the US.
Back to the AMA, they eventually got wise and sold off AMA Pro Racing, albeit initially to the WRONG people(who more of less buried professional motorcycle road racing in the US), but from what I understand, it's now in the hands of some very qualified and motivated people.
So maybe USAC should take a lesson from the AMA. Either sell off the rights to mountain bike racing, and just sit back as the sanctioning body and collect membership $$, or at the very LEAST, let someone ELSE run it.
Clearly it's gonna have to get to the point-QUICKLY- where it not only supports itself, but also makes money for USAC, or it's going back in the toilet
  • + 2
 Any biker worth his salt knows that putting anyone anywhere on a bike is a good thing. Road bikes, enduro, BMX, DH, whatever. I'm sure road bikers that arent completely useless twats will understand this as well.
  • + 1
 back when DH in the U.S.A,was the place to be seen,i was there and some of the PRO rider's said to me that big name money was going to the road guy's and not to dh,and i'm talking CHEVY BRAND was on every plate that came down the hill so when they pulled out,and USAC didn't have a plan then to make it stay on track,they just let the DH SEEN CRASH,now 10 years later they are way late the sport has moved on to other events, they need to look at the history were things got CRASH OUT.
  • + 6
 No Pro GRT at Platte? Wow
  • + 2
 great article! I started racing DH on the NORBA circuit in the late 90's. then in the 2000's everything fell apart. I always wondered what happened to the DH racing scene. This article answers some of those questions. I guess everything flows in circles because in the past few years there has been an upswing in interest in DH riding and racing and we are seeing an upswing in race events as a result. I'm looking forward to doing some more racing this season and seeing more DH mountains open and more race series take off.
  • + 7
 More DH, Less Enduro
  • + 2
 Well, the problem is I can ride my 150mm bike from my house to endless trails and to ride DH I got to drive. . . . They are different.
  • + 2
 i was lucky to ride when it felt like a world cup race at the NORBA race,top 50 in pro got your name on to of your number plate and only pro on practice time and a lift to the top Mt.,but the big money teams left,and guys like DONNY J.,and PLATTKILL,PORT ANGELES kept it alive,RED BULL RAMPAGE puts us back on the map,so now there are to many factors to get it back as TOP PRO'S need money and with no TV time its going to be hard to sell it.
  • + 2
 USAC my nuts.
You guys shafted one of the main people who put east coast racing on the map.

You lost what little respect I had left for you.

Safety? Get real, it's downhill not Friday night bingo at the local senior center.
If you can't ride it, don't. It's that easy.
  • + 1
 All Micah talks about is money, money, money I let my USAC license expire years ago because they raise the fees and hire more officials and directors than needed. Most of the so called underground or none sanctioned races that are successful use volunteers and why bring in an organization to run your event when they don't know what they are doing. They should offer options for the organizers instead of all or nothing, we don't need all your power hungry officials who love to tell you what you can and can't do. The NORBA days were much different in that we had National none endemic sponsors to help fund everything along with people who had a passion for the sport and a understanding of the racing.
  • + 4
 Sorry man, you're way off. The only time they spend money on officials and directors is for the National Champs. We, as promoters pick up the expense for an official (and/or volunteers) sanctioned or not. The only significant fee for promoters is insurance, and all they do is help when it comes to cost. It is far cheaper to buy insurance through USAC than any option I've looked at because they buy in bulk and pass it along with little to no mark-up.

Sponsorship and television is what made NORBA what it was, not NORBA itself in my opinion.

We can complain all we want and nothing will change for the better. Actions are the only thing we can do to improve things.
  • + 1
 USAC should have their own Race Events Promotions Business for each discipline for cycling if they are really serious to grow the sport and to make money.
  • + 1
 Wow, what a craziness that has become to move forward. USAC limits races, listens to a hand full of people, has no money and is the governing body for cycing in the USA. Well, work with what you got I guess. USAC should have an internal Race Event Promotions Teams, to put on a National Series while working with the Local Event Race Promoters (easier said that done). Putting a "bid" into USAC to be part of a series, something isn't right about that, understandable to have guidelines, rules, fees, licenses and etc; which goes back to USAC needs to have their own Race Event Promotions Teams. Sorry to read about Plattekill, it is a hard place to race, guess times have changed. Herndon is a good coach, "elites" type of person and its all about him anyway. Scott, good for you, working together to get things done rather you like it or not, it works. Jill, keeping it real for all of us to understand how to get there. Sure it will work out for the best and back to the same ole, some ole.
  • + 1
 If USAC really wants to wants to grow the sport: Have regional section series, North East, South East, West Mtns and West Coast, this more for the AM racers and East and West more for the PRO racers and finish the series with a Championship Race. Each regional section would have two Pro-Grt races. Have two courses for Cat 3-2 and cat 1-Pro, this does make sense, do away with the one-day license, if USAC wants more money, stop with the one-day license, full year long license to bring more funds in. A tier entry fee system, Pro's pay more and Cat 3 less, example: Pro's $100, Cat 1 $80, Cat 2 $60 and Cat 3 $50, the race has to get paid for some how, sponsors really don't pay for that much. Pros like pay out, Cat 1's like some payout and Cat 2-3 like prizes from the sponsors. All the Sponsor's should give money and product to the series...And this still goes back to USAC should have a Race Event Promotions for each discipline of cycling, yea, I know easier said than done.
  • + 1
 Well, is really sad to read all this......and find out that Plattekill is out of Pro GRT!!!! What kind of crap is that!!! Platty, I think is one of the crazy and Nice's natural terrain mountain bike park !!! I'm sure Lazlo is doing all he can to make it happen ......Platty needs real support ,stop the critics and make it Happen , everybody loves PLATTY!!!!!!! See you All at Platty this Sumer!!!!, be ready......Shut up and Ride!!
  • + 1
 IXS Cup model....being inclusive as opposed to non inclusive/elitist World Cup model is a better way to grow the sport. IXS Cup races are fun because they have rad tracks, tons of practice time and let everyone race. As a result the depth of talent is astounding at these races. For racers ranked 35th-500 in the world, the number of racers with times within 5 percent of each other is considerably higher than at world cups. And they are successful without any tv/internet broadcast. If this gets traction it will be interesting to see whose pockets end up full from the revenue stream. With Tim Cook at the helm of the UCI and talks of DH becoming an Olympic event the pigs will want access to the trough. I am glad we have Jill, Bryn and Christopher as our voice. They are intelligent, reasonable, and motivated. I just hope they understand they have almost all the cards in this poker game.
  • + 1
 The development of talent is coming...The northeast guys are stepping up and some of current crop of Pros (not naming any names mostly the closest to Bromont ) ARE competitive with National Talent and might even win a Pro GRT or top 10s. That hasn't really happened before 2000-2007 yeah Lars Tribus, Knobman, and Ford were nationally competitive but that was about it. They didn't travel west or internationally consistently. They didn't have to because NORBA NAT's brought them WC Talent Competition ...

This past season about half of the regular ESC Pro field spent trained / wintered in CA , hit up International Pan American Events , Urban Shit in Mexico and S.America, Leogang , Saint Anne, Windham.. These guys know you got to travel to meet the competition. Yup a bunch of tried World Cups over the past 3 seasons with out a ton of success call it bad luck...but its coming. The Beast Coast is coming to the WC. One guy ...even used to race some moto I hear and put it to them at the Windham Citizens Event. There are about 5 guys that can and will Crack the WC from the east and follow Mullaly and Rude with varying degrees of success. Then the next wave of juniors who grew up on real DH bikes will be like Moto Groms where the plan and path is laid out and they just have to work for it. Right now that path is being made ....
  • + 0
 "This past season about half of the regular ESC Pro field spent trained / wintered in CA" , if the ESC would realize that races could go on in the South East area in the winter months, that series could almost be year around.
  • + 1
 The biggest problem is the vast distances involved in our huge country. My closest bike park and downhill race is 13 hours away. I love downhill. My friends like downhill. But how can anyone outside of families who own summer timeshares in a few resort towns actually hone their skills and afford to race multiple events across the States?
This is why homegrown Enduro events are on the rise. People work with the land they have and make it as gnarly as they can, because for most of the country the only option is to pedal up for it. I'm hoping to see an Enduro series come together in the Texas Hill Country. While we'd pull from two state mountain biking hubs of Austin and San Antonio, we had guys from Arkansas, Missouri, and maybe even Colorado show up at a race on Nov. and it was awesome! Maybe, as weekend warriors are introduced to racing in that format, riders will be more inclined to travel and dabble in pure gravity events.
  • + 2
 What I was getting at with the distances it that, compared to other countries, big portions of our cycling communities are not located within driving distances of downhill venues in a way that the British, Euros and Kiwis see.
  • + 1
 After wading through all this crap one can still only conclude that USAC doesn't really care about gravity racing. Every few years there looks like there is some push to do something but it never pans out. Everyone gets strung along and at the end of the day nothing really happens. Gravity needs its on sanctioning body with a real national championship as currently it is a total joke. Look to USABMX as a model how to run national and regional series. There are a number of regional series like the GES, ESC and those on the west coast that could make up a national series for gravity racing but will never happen under USAC.
  • + 1
 Pros and cons not right or wrongs?? It would be awesome to have wc dh on mass media and more Canadians racing ! But getting there is gonna take more than what's goin on now! Why do bikes cost so much ? A cheap bike will destroy itself and you on any downhill but who can "really" afford to buy a new bike without all the brainwashing about why I need a 10,000$ bike?? Or maybe pay pro riders more of the profits from your company ? Stacy kohut has a great suggestion that might need to be explored more in depth but the system is def. broken !! I don't think there has ever been this much discussion on such a passionate level from so many different people ! We need a regional series for sure ! I dare someone to step up and do something now before it's too late or 15 yrs from now we will be havin the same discussion again saying the same things ! Mr kohut also said that as wc 'r who is never gonna win one should absolutely have a series to come home to? Or as an amateur to have a standard or specific trail to follow to get there without goin in debt!! But not without sacrifice of course !! Maybe the calibre of being a pro racer would increase as well ! I would like to see more of the profit money of companies benefitting from racing put back into development of a better system !
  • + 6
 DH will never die.
  • + 3
 "That’s going to be one of our goals over the next few years; bringing unsanctioned races back into the fold" - NOOOO I love my unsanctioned races!
  • + 3
 A vast majority of America doesn't have access to mountains worth buying a downhill bike for therefore participation in pure downhill especially racing has been limited
  • + 2
 Especially with AM bikes being so capable now. It's a matter of going faster on the downs, but having to shuttle the ups, vs not being able to go quite full breakneck speed, but being able to pedal back up.

10 years ago, it was all about the shuttle, because 6" bikes almost didn't exist(& didn't have good geo) nowadays, why not earn your turns?
  • + 0
 @groghunter Very true. I sold my DH bike for an AM bike for this reason. The best part is, these new capable 6" do it all bikes can be taken to the lifts and ridden on practically any DH trail on the mountain.

I'm just fortunate enough to live 2.5 hours from lift accessed trails. In the off season and when I can't afford a lift ticket, I just drive 10 mins to my local trails and earn my turns.
  • + 4
 A vast majority of Americans don't have snow or huge mountains, either, but the ski tourism industry is booming... As is the ski real estate market.
  • + 4
 @Ambatt, But skiing is a whole family access activity making that possible. Plus winter is still a romantic sell for vacation homes. Most DHers are willing to sleep in their car to ride. Its just a different demographic maybe?
  • + 5
 I blame obamacare. And crystal meth.
  • + 0
 Its frustrating to hear some people complain that there is no where ride on the east coast. Instead of complaining about how there are no gravity oriented trails and only a handful of bike parks, wouldn't it be more productive to go out and work to fix that issue? All it takes is a couple of buddies, picks, shovels, and beers and you can have a brand new trail cut out in a few days. That's how these places like BC and California got so big, people just work until they have something to ride and soon enough, the whole region is filled with kick ass trails.
As for the law, don't worry, as long as your not an ass, most people don't give a shit if you build an illegal trail in a park or private property. Just get out and dig and ride and the sport will keep progressing.
  • + 2
 Speaking of gravity racing, come check out www.phxgravity.com. We are doing our best to include race schedules for all of the upcoming USA racing.
  • + 2
 Did they look at the increase of American Football? Must be a major factor that most people choose to do that as it is 'cooler'
  • + 4
 I don't think that has much to do with mountain biking. For one, actual participation in football here in America is not growing, and in many age group declining a great deal. Second, the areas of the country where football is the most popular (the southeast, Texas etc) are areas not likely to produce anyone riding DH bikes anyway as there are no mountains.
  • - 5
flag HutchJR (Jan 8, 2015 at 13:34) (Below Threshold)
 yeah well im not from there so i cant comment really haha
  • + 3
 Yea I there its a common misconception about how many people actually play American football. People assume that because its so hugely popular on the college and professional levels that there are alot of people playing. But thats not really true. Its popularity is more as a spectator sport. Most football fans have never set foot on a field in their lives. There are far more kids playing soccer (your football) in the US than are playing our football.
  • + 3
 Soccer (European football) is way more abundant where i'm from, California. There are soccer fields everywhere, and most of my friends have played on a team at one point. I know one person who has played american football.

Like sino428 said, it's more of a spectators past time than a widely played sport.
  • + 2
 You're right. I grew up in east Texas and now live outside of Austin. I dream in DH but there's no way for someone like me to seriously grow in skill and dabble in racing. I started mountain biking six years ago and I can count on one hand, including myself, the number of riders I've seen on bikes with 160mm+ susp.
  • + 1
 Interest in other sports isn't the reason. UK have some of the top football (or "soccer" if you like!), rugby, cricket, tennis etc etc etc in the world. You don't get handed a sport that you have to be interested in. People can choose whatever sport they like, its a mutually exclusive choice... or something like that. I haven't been in maths class for many years.
  • + 3
 It's beyond interest. It's access that is the problem. I love downhill. I'm pretty good at it for my limited experience on legitimate downhill trails (from Texas, after all). Had I the ability to ride and train, I have confidence that I could have raced and done well! Not saying I'd be in the World Cup, but I'd like to race. The problem? The closest downhill trails are 13 HOURS away in Angel Fire, NM. Budding riders from any other contending country outside of North America do not have that type of logistical problem of being so far away from trails and racing venues.
But, every small town taxes it's residents to build multi-million dollar football, baseball, and/or soccer complexes.

It will be a long time, if ever, we rival the Euros' love of the bicycle and public access to trails.
  • + 2
 @PeytonP You have my condolences... 13 hours from DH trails is awful
  • + 5
 whiteface!
  • + 2
 As soon as the racers want to race the Whiteface 5KDH again, we will return to the racing scene. Gnar and big mountains on the east coast. Anyone? Anyone?
  • + 4
 the priciest rides of them all... downhill bikes
  • + 2
 Not true! I can way overprice a dh bike with what is out there on the road now.
You will have a hard time building a 15k+ DH bike. You might have to leave off something
cool hitting that price range with a high end road bike. USAC puts most of their efforts to
the road. That way if there are mtb racers that are fast enough on the pedals they can
persuade them to the road to make the dollars! Then they just win and get stripped for doping!
  • + 2
 aaallllrighty then
  • + 1
 Yes, but 1500 dollars will get you a raceworthy new road bike. Or xc bike, if you're not picky about good suspension.
  • + 1
 Main reason Britain does so well is the accessibility. Within two hours drive I could be at a good few natural DH trails or mad made trail centres. Or indeed have a ride with then a cup of tea with Mr Peat.
  • + 3
 Might be the longest article I have ever seen on Pinkbike. No Plattekill is lame!
  • + 1
 The NICA is a good start (yes I know it is XC) but I race in it and it is super fun and gets me stoked to get out on a bike. I wish they could have XC and DH disciplines in the NICA one day...
  • + 0
 I also like it because no one gives a shit what tire size you have or if your bike is carbon.
  • - 1
 cleekndestroy pretty much rules this comment section. Also, just for the record, NICA suxxxxxz nutz, kids. Learn to ride and then go earn your sponsorships like real, non-entitled people. You should have to do more than just join your stupid high school club.
  • + 3
 Great piece here @briceshirbach Thanks.
  • + 2
 Plattekill=Southwick and AMA=USAC all comes down to money in the end and politics. No one cares what racers want.
  • + 3
 More DH in the southeast. Period.
  • + 1
 better Races? april 24 port angeles, come watch the race, take notes, repeat in rest of the country. best races hands down.
  • + 2
 Freeride: yeah, that's what happend.
  • + 2
 f*cking ell that is a man's rock garden (5th photo down)
  • + 0
 What do you think about another Pro GRT at Bootleg Canyon. 2 years ago we had over 250 racers, being the most popular stop on the tour in 2013.
  • + 1
 If the US wants to bring dominance back to the downhill wc scene, they need to START by putting Gwin back on a Trek.
  • + 5
 You sound smarter when you don't comment. Gwin left Trek for many reasons... Let it go. Also: if you think US DH is limited to the Gwin, you need to emerge from whatever rock you've been living under.
  • + 2
 The rocky mountains are a big rock to climb out from under.....
  • + 0
 What other US downhiller actually COMPETES and does relatively well on the WC level?
  • + 1
 I didn't know I would have to drive so much to ride my bike
  • + 1
 Stoked for the grts again!
  • + 1
 NORBA HATES YOU!!!
  • + 1
 Shots fired
  • + 0
 That's a lot of reading
  • - 1
 That's what I was thinking
  • + 6
 can't think of a single MTB story that kept me in front of the screen for over an hour (between text and comments). it's nice to have some real reporting. where sources are answering tough questions directly and someone is taking time to compile an article of worth rather than just printing hearsay to get a story up quick. this kind of reporting is real work. my hat's off to Brice.
  • - 1
 I got bored half way through your reply
  • + 3
 liar.
  • - 2
 The brits got balls!!!!
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