IGNITING A PASSION FOR MOUNTAIN BIKING – FACT 6 of 50
If you ask any Vermont outdoor enthusiast they’re bound to agree that mountain biking is one of the most popular outdoor sports the state has to offer residents and visitors alike. The ever-expanding network of trails is suited for beginners who are just learning the sport, experts who are seeking the most technical routes and biggest drops, and riders of all levels in between. Trail maps are easily accessible, trails are generally well marked, and locally in the Mad River Valley, there is a wide selection of trails to choose from. This wasn’t always the case.
As we look back on the history of mountain biking at GMVS, the tales told of exploring Valley trails are reflective of how far the sport has come in a handful of years. In the early 1990s bike technology was far from what it is today and the selection of trails in the Valley was limited to three primary routes: Chain Gang just up the hill from the GMVS campus, Dana Hill / Cyclone behind American Flatbread, and Denny-Land in what is now the Wu Ledge Town Forest area. Even into the early 2000s mountain biking was an evolving sport. Alum Sandy Vietze ‘11 recounts his experience riding while at GMVS, “For better or worse, biking was pretty gnarly in the Valley and while a lot of kids were turned off, I found it was a great challenge.”
Sandy’s memory of ‘gnarly’ terrain is a common thread in the stories told by alumni who explored the trails in the early years of mountain biking at GMVS, as are the unexpected adventures and mishaps. GMVS alum Andrew McNealus ‘08 shared a vivid memory of riding when he was a GMVS athlete out with his coach, Adam Julius, “We were out for a ride and got lost, we were late for dinner, and it was getting dark when we finally popped out on this rock on the Mad River across from Lareau Park by Flatbread. The only way home, without turning around, was to cross the numbing river water flowing from the snow melting in the mountains.” The experience remains fresh for Andrew as he continues, “It was always an adventure with Adam leading. He always said that he knew the trail and then never really seemed to actually know the route.”
Since 1993, Adam Julius has been passionate about getting GMVS athletes on bikes and riding trails. “Today, the trails are exponentially better than the early days of riding and offer a greater variety to choose from, which gives GMVS coaches an opportunity to teach kids and build confidence on easier terrain before moving onto more technical trails,” notes Adam.
GMVS has inspired many athletes to try the sport, and in some cases even line up on the starting line at local races. Interest in racing ebbs and flows, but 2018 was a big year when 12 GMVS riders entered the A Vermont Youth Cycling Series at Cochran’s Ski Area and the team won first place in Division 2. The team was composed of the following student-athletes: Lydia Riddell, Trey Jones, Alejandro Miquel, Elena Gober, Ava Pavlik, Sebastian Segre, Tomas Barata, Gavin Dewey, Luke Keating, Dillon Rowles, Gavin Wirth, and Will Patton. (Results)
While ski racing is the primary focus at GMVS, mountain biking has been integral to training throughout recent years. A few were less enthused about the ‘gnarly’ terrain and haven’t returned to the sport, but for many, GMVS ignited a passion for mountain biking that has remained strong. Today, GMVS alumni are racing with college cycling teams, working for bike companies, and many are sharing their passion with friends and family as it becomes part of their lifestyle.