Marcelo Gutiérrez, The Urban Legend - Interview

Mar 10, 2016
by Fraktiv  




Marcelo approves and so do we. Much of the woods are fresh cut and covered in loam. What lies beneath roots is still yet to be seen.

With the 2016 race season only a few months away, the athletes are busy training to ensure they’re at their peak performance when they take their first pedal stroke out of the start gate in Lourdes. One of the most dedicated riders in the off season is Colombian, Marcelo Gutiérrez Villegas.

Marcelo is not just dedicated, but he does his country and continent proud by being one of the few South American riders to make it to the top ranks on the World Cup circuit. Growing up and having a mentor like Cedric Gracia hasn’t done him any harm either, and Marcelo is one of the most affable characters on the circuit. For years Marcelo was known as the king of urban DH racing, and even after one or two hefty crashes along the way, he remains a threatening force when he threads his way at high speed through cobbled back streets and slick concrete slabs.

Marcelo was given his first bike when he was three years old and was soon competing in BMX races. As with many before him, Marcelo discovered DH and in 2007 as a Junior racer, he entered his first World Cup in Fort William, Scotland. Finishing 12th that weekend, it was his first real step in making an impression on team managers, sponsors and his fellow racers. Fast forward eight years and the lead rider on one of the biggest teams on the World Cup circuit, Giant Factory Offroad Team, Marcelo returned to Fort William as an Elite rider and was up against the likes of Gwin, Bryceland and the great Greg Minnaar. In tricky conditions, Marcelo’s training and approach paid off, crossing the line in third place behind Minnaar and Gwin. At the end of last season, Marcelo accomplished a stunning fifth place at the World Championships at Vallnord, Andorra.

When he’s not racing the World Cup or training for it, Marcelo is competing at Crankworx in a multitude of disciples or at challenging DH venues like the Nordkette in Innsbruck, Austria.

Now it’s the off (AKA training) season, we sit down with Marcelo and talk to him about how last season went, what makes him tick, how he handles the pressures and what his plans are for 2016.

First things first… I saw that you tried your hand at skiing for the first time whilst in Whistler at the end of last year. How did that go?

That was an embarrassing experience, to be honest! I was excited about doing it but also not so; I've always wanted to go skiing or snowboarding and I've never been in proper snow like that until that day. I was excited about going back to Whistler to see it covered in snow but a few years back I went wakeboarding in the off season and injured my knee so I had that in the back of my mind. My mechanic and I were in the learning area - the flattest part of the hillside - and ten seconds into my first attempt to ski, I tried to do a snowplow and thought “let's see how it feels if I just throw myself to the ground!” So I did and managed to cut my shin! I ended up having to get five stitches in there!

With 2015 behind us, what are your reflections on your season?

I was really happy with how it went; with what that I learnt, tried and changed.

For me, the biggest thing was when Oscar (Oscar Saiz - Marcelo’s coach) asked me "Marcelo, are you willing to pay the price of being a professional mountain biker?". I started to think about that a lot and then Joe (Joe Staub - Marcelo’s manager) got me thinking too when he asked me what small day-to-day changes I could make to help me improve my competitiveness. These two things had the biggest impact on my season, and I’ll be taking them through to next season.

How are you preparing for the 2016 World Cup season?

I'm in the off season right now so I'm working hard preparing with Todd Schumlick, my personal trainer. There’s a lot of work to do and cool stuff to learn and apply. I'm looking forward to some good results for the 2016 season.

Three wins in three years for Marcelo Gutierrez.

You have made a name for yourself riding urban downhills. How has that genre of downhill racing developed during your career and where do you think it’s heading?

The urban racing scene has been growing a lot for sure, but I think there’s still more room to grow. I think that it was better a few years ago compared to what it is now. I'm not sure the urban world series has been good but still, it’s such a cool type of event because you’re bringing the sport to the people and I can see a future in developing this kind of racing. I like it, it’s definitely sketchy - some tracks are more sketchy than others - but it’s definitely a really good way of selling our sport to the world.

You had a pretty gnarly crash competing at one of the urban downhills a few years back. Was that your toughest crash to date?

The crash I had in Mexico last year was one of the hardest crashes I’ve had, but it wasn’t the toughest...that was Argentina in 2013 when I cased a big drop and hit the flat part of the landing pretty hard. I fell on my head, broke two teeth, two fingers in my left hand and destroyed my helmet. I was unconscious for a while to be honest.

Going back to the pre-Giant years, what was it like riding on the CG Racing Brigade? What one thing from that time helped you in futures seasons?

Being on the CG team was definitely a great experience and I learned a lot even though it was a relatively small team. I was really stoked and really grateful as to what I was getting from them. Unfortunately, because Cedric crashed out for the two years I worked with him, I ended up on my own. So even though there was a lot of learning there were also some rough times. But all in all, it was a good experience.

In terms of what I took from that experience, I guess the point of being humble. Even though I'm in a big team now or even back when I was on my own or with Cedric or whoever, I've always been myself. I don't think I've changed much. I don't think I'm better than someone else. I'm just myself. Maybe sometimes I need to be a bit more serious so I don't get distracted and try my best at the race, but that could be something from that time that helped me in this and future seasons.

CG Brigade old school and new school Marcelo and CG

What’s the racing scene like in Colombia?

The racing scene here is a lot of fun for sure. I like it. There are about 80 to 250 riders per race. The tracks are way more natural than World Cups of course. I really like racing here because I get to see my friends and all the people who’ve supported me all these years. It's definitely not as big as, I don't know, not big events like Crankworx or World Cups, but still...I don't know how to describe’s just a smaller version of those events; just fun, good people and good vibes...and still fast people! It's not as though I can go and just have some fun and boom, I win the race, I do have to focus on it and try hard for the win.

How would you like DH or MTB in general to develop in Colombia over the coming years?

I would definitely like it to be more organised with more support from the Federation. So better tracks, better events. There's still a lot to sell. By sell I mean if you build good tracks, if you get good people to put on a decent enough event and people who know how to build a good track...if you get those guys to travel around Colombia building tracks, then it can keep growing much like it has grown for example in Argentina, Chile and Brazil. Because those countries are putting together good events, big enough events that people are interested enough to travel there to race, for example, the IXS in South America this year.

The Enduro World Series has made it down to South America, the iXS European Cup is hosting two races in Argentina and Chile this year, but the UCI have not hosted a race on the continent for nearly 10 years. What would it mean to you to have a DH World Cup hosted in Colombia or indeed anywhere else in South America?

For sure it's a shame that we haven't had a race down here in over 10 years. It would be super rad because having a race down here would be like having a race at home. I’m hopeful that in the next few seasons the UCI will give us a World Cup in South America, even better in Colombia. But considering what we have, I doubt it will happen - not saying anything bad about my country but I wouldn't push for a race in the kind of tracks we currently have. Maybe in Chile, Argentina or maybe Brazil - that would be a good place to go to have a South American World Cup race.

First ever top ten for the Colombian champ and street racing hero... a lot of commitment paid off today for Marcelo Gutierrez. Clearly he has the ability to rip at top flight world class level. The confidence boost from today s result should fling him into Quebec on the money. Good luck to him

You’re recognised for having a pretty distinctive pre-race routine. When did you start doing this and how does it help you?

Oscar and a few other people made me realise that when you’re sitting on a turbo trainer before a race run, you’re not warming up your whole body. So that’s why I start with jumps and upper body exercises…focusing and breathing. It’s all about trying to find all those aspects that you can improve, and that pre-race warm up was just one of those things I saw that I could improve.

At the beginning, I was worried about what people would say but you know what, who cares because you’re just yourself racing against yourself. Yes there’re a bunch of other people out there but it’s whatever makes your mind feel better - do it - because you’re not racing against them, you’re racing against the time. So just do your best and if that helps, then go with it...that’s what I do.

When things aren't going your way, how do you stay motivated?

I've changed my approach a lot for those kinds of situations. Sometimes if things don't go our way, we just collapse, but you know what, something that I've learned from last year is being optimistic. Being positive and you know, if things aren't in your hands why are you going to stress? And if things are getting harder and more complicated and there's more stress, why not make the situation easier?

For example, when we were in Scotland for the BDS; it was cold and half of the track had been closed due to the poor weather and I said to myself “Just get your waterproof gear, get warm and if you're still cold go and drink a cup of hot tea!”. So that's kind of the way I work with those kinds of situations now.

I'm conscious of what I do, this is downhill and it's an extreme sport and if I crash I just deal with it and get better and heal up and get out there again. It's all about being patient, optimistic and realistic about what you can do and taking it day by day, moment by moment.

Marcelo Gutierrez dancing amongst the angel boners.
Marcelo Gutierrez drops in as the picturesque village of Les Deux Alps lies below
Marcello Gutierrez Villega being congratulated after taking the number one spot at the Garbanzo DH.

What do you think has been the biggest development in mountain bikes whilst you have been competing?

Definitely the dropper post. I love it! It's not for DH but it's such a cool thing to ride your bike without having to stop and put your seat post down and then up again. It's such a rad component.

How would you like to see DH in general develop in the future?

I just focus on my thing...which is racing, which is training and getting faster. I live day by day and I don't get stressed thinking about how I see downhill develop in the next few years. That's someone else's problem. My concern is to be better every day.

I hope that it will keep on going as it is going. I don't really want it to go the way Red Bull Hardline went last year. Lots of people were saying that it is the future of mountain biking but no, it's not. Let's keep downhill as it is right now. It's safe enough and it's fast enough; you don't want to make DH that extreme.

Outside foot still unclipped and drifting Marcelo Gutierrez was aggressive right from the start today.

What’s been your most memorable race to date?

Without any doubt, Fort William last year when I took third place. Why? Because of the various things I changed for that race in my head and on track. It proved to me that by changing things I could achieve what I wanted.

What’s been your hardest weekend of racing in your career?

Definitely Australia in 2014. Oh my god, that was a hard weekend because it never stopped raining. There was mud everywhere. You were dirty every day, all the time, every run, struggling to see anything because it was foggy in your goggles because it was so humid. And it was hot and it was raining and you were wet and you were sticky. Oh, it was such a mess. That was without a doubt, the hardest!

Gutierrez low smooth and fast

What’s your favourite World Cup track on the circuit?

It would be Andorra. It’s such a cool track. It’s either that or Val di Sole or MSA. But between MSA and Andorra, I would stay with Andorra.

If you could choose only one, what World Cup DH track would you like to race on and why?

Maybe Fort William. It’s such a difficult, challenging and beautiful track. It’s got such a environment, a lot of people and spectators. It’s a good show.

Who on the World Cup circuit do you admire the most?

Someone that I really admire is Greg Minnaar because his talent is exceptional. But the person I admire the most right now is Aaron Gwin. Aaron is such a hero and he’s proven that with hard work and the willingness to put it together, he showed the world how things can be done.

The first ever downhill World Cup podium for Colombia and the first ever for a Norco rider.

What race are you most looking forward to this year?

Maybe World Champs. That’s a cool race for me and I'm looking forward to it. I had some trouble last year and hopefully this year it will be in the dry; I’m not looking forward to Val di Sole in the wet!

Whilst you’re on the World Cup circuit, how often do you go home?

Basically after the busiest part of the season starts, which is June, I don’t come home until September when the season is over. That’s four months on the road. It’s quite rough, to be honest, but still so much fun. Last year I rode my bike as never before and I just had so much fun.

Marcello Gutierrez for sure did the most runs today and kept the session going right up to the very close of play.

One of your sponsors is a university. Can you tell me a little more about this?

When I was younger, I was on a scholarship at the Universidad de Manizales, it was around the fifth semester that a teacher recommended that I approach the university to see if they would sponsor me. I thought it made sense and so I approached them.

In the early years to help me fund my races at home, but later on to help me go abroad and race and although I’m no longer a student, I’m still sponsored by them because they really appreciate what I’ve done for them and they see me as a good example of how a student can balance their sports and academic life.

They also liked the idea of how I was a ‘self starter’ in terms of my career. I just started dreaming of my own career and put all my effort into that, so for them, I’m a good example to other students that things can be done from zero. It’s a great partnership and I’ve just signed a contract to work with them for another two years.

Would you ever consider following in the footsteps of Nairo Quintana and moving to road cycling, or pursuing Olympic gold?

No, no way! I'm definitely not going to follow his footsteps, I'm definitely not that kind of guy. Even if I wanted to go that way, look at my body type...I'm too big for that sport. So I’ll leave it to Nairo and Rigoberto (Urán).

If you weren't a professional rider, what would you have done as a career?

When I started off I wasn't sure what I was going to do - if I was going to have a career in racing - but at this point, if I was doing something else, it would be something like owning a restaurant that focuses on healthy eating. Eating healthy helps to improve lives and wellbeing and I’d have liked to have done something like that if I wasn't a professional rider.

Marcelo Gutierrez

You've attended numerous Crankworx over the years. What is it about Crankworx that keeps bringing you back?

It’s definitely my favourite event of the year. I just love the Garbo track; it’s such a painful race but I also love racing it. The vibe of Whistler… Whistler is so rad, I just love it. That’s why I always want to go every year; it’s so much fun to race and I just want to do my best and race the Garbo, Air DH and Canadian Open. Of course, there’s the Dual Slalom, but I love those three downhill races.

You’re a bit of a master of the Crankworx Garbanzo DH, having won it several times. What’s the key to success on that track?

The key to success for Garbo is not giving up, keep pedalling, and make sure you get to know the whole track. I can tell you every single corner of that track. Last year they changed it so it was even more challenging but it just pushed us harder.

Sometimes in the past, I've started way too hard and in the middle, I've been burnt out. Sometimes you only push when you get to the middle and then you’re a second behind, and when you reach the bottom you think ‘I should’ve pedalled harder!’, but it’s just finding a good rhythm; the consistent speed that allows you to go all the way through without dying. Last year I almost died because I pushed way too hard!

Marcelo Guitierrez the defending Garbo champ getting ROWDY with the outside line in the upper Garbo zone while the course marshal looks on.
Last man on course Marcelo Gutierrez Villega about to pull the rug out from under Nick Beer and Mark Wallace to take the win.
Steps to the Top - Marcelo Gutierrez

Do you have any advice for young and aspiring racers?

Just dream, work hard, and remember things aren’t going to be for free. Don’t expect that if you bought a bike then you’re going to be sponsored right away. No, it will take you years; a lot of work, a lot of crashes, a lot of discipline. Work hard and at some point, the hard work will pay off.

What or who are your influences?

I follow and respect a lot of motocross and MotoGP riders and F1 drivers. I admire those guys and I get a lot of inspiration from them as to how they work hard to get where they are. Maybe mountain biking isn't the richest sport but it’s still a fun sport to be involved with.


You can keep up to date with what Marcelo is up to via his Instagram, Twitter and Facebook account.

MENTIONS: @giantbicycles / @Fox-Head-Inc / @SramMedia / @schwalbe / @natedh9 / @davetrump / @mdelorme / @officialcrankworx / @geebeebee

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Author Info:
fraktiv avatar

Member since May 14, 2008
227 articles

  • 19 0
 I was surprised to read what he said about the Hardline. I would like to know what most elite riders think about Hardline and the future of it.
  • 14 2
 I like his distance to the sport throughout the course of the whole interview. Yes, as interviewer mentioned, a lot of people were saying that Hardline is the future of downhill. Their educated, experience driven and highly evaluated opinion was formed between taking a dump and entering private mode on their smart-phone. There is nothing more brainstorming for a Sport-fluent "intellectual" than pondering the questions like: "what do you think is the future of the sport" or "who deserves to win the Rampage". I like DH the way it is, I hope the safety goes to highest possible levels and it is the riders who are the only ones entitled to say how stuff should be done since it is them putting their own health on the line. I personally have no intention to watch guys getting minced and race being stopped every few minutes because some poor fkr hurt himself. Crash compilation from Lourdes from last year and Raggot's "final speech" were gut wrenching enough.
  • 16 0
 also note that he is sponsored by Red Bull... If he says that about an event that carries his sponsors name, I can only assume he is 100% serious about it.
  • 3 1
 Hardline does seem a bit excessive. If it were a purely rider driven event, where they all got together and built the course without corporate involvement, I think maybe it would be a bit more like how we all picture it. I can't help but think Redbull has a hand in trying to push it further and further past any bounds of sanity.
  • 2 0
 It seems like a lot of people feel the race is more aimed towards the freeride crowd than the ones who race DH for a living. Its understandable because most racers seem to have a different mentality/approach to mtbing than some of the psychos out there like the Athertons.
  • 4 0
 @WAKIdesigns - The last bit you say is bang on. I don't want to watch a 2-3 hour crash reel when I boot up Red Bull TV for the WC circuit; I want to see nail-bitingly close times from the top athletes making it down a fast, technical track. DH is a great sport as it is. Hardline and Rampage push the limits, sure, and we enjoy watching them. But they are different disciplines to DH as far as I am concerned, and they give me all the crashes and hyper-extreme riding I need without DH becoming like that too.
  • 5 0
 Making Hardline the "future of it" would only create a huge gap between the pros and the amador riders who are the real audience of Downhill. It would kill Downhill as a sport and turn it into a show for curious eventual people who don't practice and don't care about MTB in general and only want to watch an entertaining carnage on a sunny Sunday.
  • 9 0
 I've known Marcelo since he was around 17 and first came to Whistler. Since that time he has been 100% focused on racing and getting faster. He is one of the most if not the most down to earth, humble, nice pro's in the whole sport and always has the biggest damn smile on his face. He is someone every young rider should be looking up to. The guy truly loves to ride bikes.
  • 8 0
 Such a humble dude, a true professional sportsman. Why shouldn't he take his discipline more serious, it just shows hard work pays off! Viva el cerdo!!!
  • 1 0
 LoL es Lechón no cerdo. Pero que bien que sepas su Nick Name
  • 1 0
 ¿cuál es su verdadero nombre de usuario , entonces?
  • 7 0
 Seems like such a chill down to earth dude. Wish him the best of luck in the upcoming season!
  • 1 0
 agree, great interview
  • 7 0
 really looking forward to see this guy race, best of luck Marcelo
  • 4 0
 What this guy has achieved coming from South America is truly inspiring! All my venezuelan and colombian mates, and me, cheer for him during races!
  • 4 0
 Hey Marcelo, keep the great work as a Elite rider and being such a cool guy ! You make us proud and happy.
  • 4 0
 Great interview, balancing college and carreer in sports is such a hard thing to do. And he did it. Props to you Marcello.
  • 5 0
 Met the man today!! Such a rad dude!!
  • 3 0
 Got a signed poster too haha
  • 3 0
 animo marcelo! paz en colombia!
  • 2 0
 Marcelo, dale a fondo, este es el año! Saludos de Ecuador!
  • 1 0
 Dale con todo, saludos de Ecuador. EL monta.
  • 2 0
 no!no way!haha!

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