It’s no secret that mountain biking in the brown pow is good for skiers cruising the white pow.
Overall, mountain biking’s a great workout for all parts of the body — heart, lungs, core, legs and arms. Plus, biking hones skills like balance, eye-body coordination and reflexes.
To help its young skiers prepare for the upcoming ski season, Attitash Race Team took to the Bartlett resort’s trails this past summer and fall. Led by Bartlett coaches Jeremiah Beach and Bowie Bowers along with RJ Gray, the athletes also raced in last month’s time trial The Howler, a new event signaling the return of the iconic Summer Race Series.
They also spent time with local World Cup mountain bike racer and academy ski coach Peter Ostroski.
“This was a unique year with the COVID situation,” said Beach during email and phone interviews. “Most of our athletes have a full schedule of soccer, lacrosse, football, etc. Without those options we decided to introduce them to mountain biking.”
The team’s athletes range from elementary school-aged racers to those in high school, with most hailing from southern New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine.
“Mountain biking is a full body sport from head to toe and simulates ski racing,” said Bowers. “It also teaches kids patience and understanding. They could continually practice, like in a rock garden, going over and over.”
Operated under the Attitash Alpine Education Foundation, the team’s been around for more than a generation, sharpening the growth of young alpine ski racers in the valley. Its skiers participate in local, state, and regional, races, and some have gone on to NCAA, national and Olympic racing.
To develop skills, about 15 team members rode on the Thorne Hill side (cross-country) and tougher Attitash side. The same number with some new faces took to Cranmore to ride with Ostroski during an introduction to downhill and endurance riding.
“The diversity is good because it lets newer riders gain confidence and more advanced riders some more technical challenges working on balance, strength and cardio fitness,” said Beach, the owner of Pro Tune in Jackson.
The boys and girls also gained insight into what it takes to compete at an elite international level by riding with Ostroski.
“You could see their eyes light up when he taught them how to corner, transfer weight and the technical stuff. The kids could relate to him and he to them,” said Bowers.
Beach said Pete connected well with the athletes.
“It’s a great reminder to all of them that anything is possible,” Beach said. “Pete started right here in the valley as a ski racer at Wildcat and a bike racer in the Summer Race Series.”
That series, a valley institution for many a summer, has been on hiatus of late. It was resurrected by Beach, long a race organizer, in October with a race at Rogers Crossing called The Howler.
The race attracted about 80 entrants, including several Attitash Race Team riders.
“The Howler was created to reintroduce the Summer Race Series after its hiatus,” said Beach. “The series has always focused on providing opportunities for junior athletes, so it all came together with the lack of other organized racing for the school aged racers.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, they had a limited field and used a time trial format to promote social distancing.
“We also provided a modified course for the younger racers, none of them wanted to race the ‘modified’ course and all raced the full adult course,” said Beach. “I think that says it all as far as what it provided in regards to young riders knowing their abilities and choosing to be challenged. We were especially happy to see all the Berlin Gorham team athletes compete.”
(The race series is scheduled to be back next summer with various race formats at different venues.)
The coaches would like to see the team continue mountain biking in the off-season, perhaps traveling to regional races as a way to keep the team cohesive and are thinking of putting a mountain biking component to a fall fundraiser. The team also has some top young riders like Newburyport, Mass., member Beckett Rathbone, 12, who is sponsored by Riverside Cycling and won a virtual ride contest this summer by pedaling 234 miles in one week.
Plus, it’s a way to attract the families, many with seasonal homes, to the valley in summer.
But for now, the bikes are put away, and dryland training begins.