Gravity team rolling again
Steamboat Gravity Team flying high this summer
The Steamboat Gravity Team is open to riders from junior high through high school. For more information, contact Matt Karzen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Captain of the Boat returns
The Captain of the Boat downhill mountain bike series returns Thursday to Steamboat Bike Park on Mount Werner.
What: Local downhill mountain bike race series
When: 6 p.m. Thursday, then July 16, July 30, Aug. 13 and Aug. 27
Where: Registration is available at the Steamboat Bike Shop at the base of Steamboat Ski Area from 3 to 5 p.m. on the day of the race.
Cost: $40 for the whole series or $10 per event. A park pass will also be required and starts at $27.
For more information check out http://bike.steamboat.com/downhill-race-series.aspx
Steamboat Springs — It’s better as a team.
There isn’t anything about downhill mountain biking that lends itself particularly to requiring a group of friends to participate. This is no baseball team, obviously, and there aren’t any pegs on the back of the bikes.
But members of the newly reformed Steamboat Springs Gravity Team said riding is better with a team, and that’s what’s drawn them together.
A youth downhill team has come and gone from Steamboat Spring several times in recent years, but the latest iteration is riding hard this summer, and its riders are hung up on sticking together.
“It’s about friendship,” said Rio Graab, a 17-year-old rider on the team. “We’re building friendships that will probably last forever. It’s a lot different than someone you just meet in school.”
There’s been some sort of Steamboat Gravity Team for much of the last decade, mostly associated with Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. There hasn’t been for the last several years, however, and when Matt Karzen, the club’s organizer and head coach, arrived in Steamboat Springs from Georgia with his family in tow, there were plenty of great, new trails to ride but no team to ride them with.
“It’s fun to ride by yourself or with a couple buddies,” Karzen said, “but it’s more fun to ride with a group.”
Karzen graduated from what was then Lowell Whiteman School in 1984. Life eventually took him him to Athens, Georgia, where he got more into mountain biking, built a small local trail began organizing races and camps for youth.
“The curse” brought him back to Steamboat in 2014, and he and son Sam Karzen spent their first summer in town riding Mount Werner’s trails together.
In the fall, they started asking around and signing up friends for an actual team.
“We all rode together all summer last year, and in the fall, we reached out to all the kids, and asked if they’d be interested in a team,” Karzen said. “They were, and we have about 15 kids total.”
The athletes hail from all sorts of sporting backgrounds, but they all have a love of downhilling in common — that gene that allows them to roll through almost anything.
“I clipped a few trees and fell off a few bridges on Spring Creek,” said Ryan Hoffman, 12, laughing about a few of the bumps and bruises he has absorbed in the sport.
Karzen did contact Steamboat Ski Area, and bike park manager Trevyn Newpher helped arrange a sponsorship with Royal Racing that included steep discounts on safety equipment such as helmets and pads.
There were still plenty of skinned knees, scabbed elbows and dusty jerseys during a pair of training days last week. There were also plenty of bright smiles to go along with big jumps from on-course obstacles.
“I had never been coached on a bike,” said Patrick Dillon, 16. “When Sam and his dad Matt moved to town and wanted to start the team, I thought it was perfect, to have a crew to ride with and to get coaching.”
Last week, the crew got some tips from an expert, Ben Hobbs, a pro and friend of Karzen’s from Athens.
“We work on line choice, braking less and braking in the right spots,” Hobbs said. “We’re just working on getting down a course faster and carrying your momentum down the hill without having to work as hard.
“I love it. I’m tired of seeing kids play video games. I’d rather they get outside and mountain bike.”
They’re getting that chance, and they’ll get more as the summer goes along.
The team competed last weekend in its first competition, traveling to the Big Mountain Enduro race in Aspen. It shined, with Graab placing fifth in the juniors field.
Plenty more events await, including Steamboat’s Captain of the Boat series, which starts Thursday in Steamboat Springs, then runs July 16, July 30, Aug. 13 and Aug. 27.
It will hit a few portions of the Trestle Bike Park summer series in Winter Park but is really looked ahead to the Enduro-X race in Steamboat in August — an event the team is focusing its summer efforts to build toward.
“It’s the home race, home track and everyone wants to do well there,” Karzen said.
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