As Gunn prepares for the upcoming spring sports season, the community will turn its attention to sports like track-and-field, baseball, golf, lacrosse, tennis and softball. However, there is another sport that attracts student athletes. Competitive biking may not get the fanfare of other more popular sports, but it too deserves to be recognized for the intense preparation that goes into it.
Three students who are deeply interested in competitive biking are sophomore Sal Giovannotto and juniors Grant Fong and Harry Lee. All three do different types of competitive biking; Giovannotto is a freeride mountain biker, Fong races in cyclocross and Lee competes in track cycling. Although the three bikers take part in competive cycling, their disciplines all differ in style.
Giovannotto takes part in a category of competitive biking that differs from his counterparts. His sport, freeride mountain biking, is a discipline of mountain biking that is closely related to downhill cycling and dirt jumping. It focuses on tricks, style and technical trail features. “Freeride is much more of a ‘succeed-or- fail’ sport,” Giovannotto said. “You can’t ‘kind-of’ land a trick. You either try it and land it or don’t try it at all.” Giovannotto believes that competitive cycling involves a significant time commitment and can be physically demanding. He practices for twelve hours a week after school. This upcoming year, Giovannotto will be riding on the
Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour. Although the event list hasn’t come out for 2014 yet, Giovannotto will most likely participate in seven competitions in the U.S. and Europe combined.
Fong’s sport, cyclocross, is a category in competitive biking that may be unfamiliar to most students. A cyclocross athlete uses his road bike to ride on mountain bike courses, maneuvering his bike around divots and hills. The biker races around a one to two mile course for three to five laps that has all types of terrain, like dirt, asphalt and sand. “The most unique part about cyclocross is that there are portions of the course you can’t ride, so you have to dismount from your bike and carry it over these obstacles,” Fong said. He describes competitive biking as a physically demanding sport, needing lots of dedication needed to succeed. “During the race season I train for about four hours a week,” Fong said. “The great thing about cyclocross is that the races are about 30 to 60 minutes long and I can usually fit a practice race after school.” This year, Fong has raced eight times.
Lee competes in one of the most difficult competitive cycling events in the world. Track cycling races usually take place in a velodrome, a specially–built banked track. Track bikes differ from road or mountain bikes; they are lighter and they lack derailleurs (gears) and brakes. Without brakes, concentration is key for one to master this cycling event. “I love the amount of coordination that goes into track cycling,” Lee said. “Our reflexes have to be extra fast just to accommodate for the smaller spaces between bikes. The speeds that we bike at are much faster than regular endurance racers, which makes races all the more thrilling.” While track bike races can be over in less than a minute, the daily preparation that goes into each race is intense and physically demanding. “I train two to four hours a day, for six days of the week,” Lee said. “I don’t just go to the velodrome and take part in structured sessions; I lift weights, go on rides around the city or practice my track cycling at an outdoor track.”
As the spring season begins and boys’ and girls’ winter sports come to an end, Giovannotto, Fong and Lee will continue their year-long season. These three cyclists hope to continue their love of competitive biking for the foreseeable future. “I see myself riding through life, whether I remain on the Freeride Mountain Bike Tour or not,” Giovannotto said. “New kids will begin to take part in cycling and the older generation won’t stop. It’s not really a sport for us anymore. It’s really just a part of our lifestyle.”