Extreme Speed Gravity Team is the hub where the best young gravity riders can affiliate, learn, train, share and excel in the highly unique sport of downhill & slopestyle mountain biking.
The hub of a wheel supports performance and carries the heavy loads. Extreme Speed Gravity Team was formed to keep athletes and families riding smoothly.
With the recent dissolution of formal downhill mountain biking teams in Calgary, AB and a void in the gravity biking scene locally, there is a need for an affiliation that helps the top athletes source qualified coach-based training, training camps, competition, sponsorship, and community. There is strong grassroots programming with growing enrolment in Calgary and area, however there is no clear path for those who pursue the sport more seriously at higher competitive levels.
Top athletes from Alberta have to seek out-of-province camps and coaching to ride at the levels their peers from British Columbia are performing. The location of most top coaches and camps are at mountains or parks such as Whistler, Silverstar, the North Shore of Vancouver, Coast Gravity, Kamloops or Woodward Camps in Colorado or California, USA. New ideas and the experience of a training camp setting for the athletes is a big attraction. Such travel and training have been costly yet necessary for Alberta based athletes if they wish to remain competitive or continue to grow their skills. The continued development of infrastructure, coaching and support in British Columbia – Kamloops, Vernon, Fernie, Whistler/Squamish/Pemberton, and the North Shore as well as Coast Gravity Park and Vancouver Island - makes it easy for the local BC based athletes to train, develop and socialize with riders of like or better skill than themselves. Pushing each other while having fun riding, is a key component of their lifestyle and training. There is a geographic advantage for athletes living in these areas. Alberta riders lack the abundance of opportunity due to their geography.
During race weekends, specifically in the BC Cup series, affiliation with a team is a HUGE advantage. Having other athletes to train and ride with, as well as a “home-base” to assemble for the three days, offers a sense of belonging and comradery that is also critical in the enjoyment of the sport. A "home-base" or team tent offers mechanical and training support as well as peer support for riders during training and race days. With no true team or affiliation to identify with, Alberta riders are forced to ride independently or form small groups with loose connections. They show up on their own, assemble in sparse groups and socialize primarily with their parents. It is their peers who they should be hanging with for the best social and bonding experiences during competition weekends.
Extreme Speed Gravity Team (ESGT) seeks to give these athletes and their families an affiliation that will help source and coordinate ongoing training, coaching and training camps for the majority of the year. ESGT will seek out facilities for training and develop improved access for its team members. It is neither possible, nor plausible for ALL top youth athletes and their families to re-locate (temporarily or permanently) to BC where the infrastructure is. In order to offer the same opportunities for growth and success, ESGT can assist in improving access, supporting travel, creating affiliation and building a sense of community for its members.
During race and competition weekends, ESGT will provide a physical and obvious presence, from tent/headquarters and resources, to apparel and events for its athletes and member families. As well, ESGT will engage all competitors at events – through hosting parties, activities, or giveaways. A strong, inclusive bike community is a healthy one. ESGT will set a priority to care for the best interests of its members, but also foster the importance of belonging to a community of like-minded athletes focused on participating in an extreme sport with inherent risks and thrills. A shared pride in this sport elevates all who participate.
"If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together" (African proverb). We want to help our athletes to go fast and to go far – getting the best out of themselves and giving the best to their families, friends and community.
ESGT’s presence at events will provide team athletes with a sense of belonging and affiliation, while gaining interest and intrigue from other athletes, teams and clubs. Belonging will be something to be proud of and others who might seek such affiliation will be attracted to learn more.
Carrying the heavy loads
Top performing Albertan youth athletes, specifically, in the downhill and slopestyle (gravity) disciplines of mountain biking have limited or no formal training centers, support organizations, qualified coaching or consistent race/competitions in their home province, or less than two hours driving distance. The “mecca” of this sport is Whistler and the closest formal competitions or race circuits are based in BC (the BC Cup Race Series) and NW USA (the NW CUP). These passionate athletes and their families must travel extensively to access all levels of support and opportunity for their continued success.
There are many factors that limit the access to organizations and facilities in Alberta, but the key is that resolution to these issues will simply take longer than the cycle of development from youth to World Cup and/or professional athlete status for a number of young athletes who are poised to rise to those levels over the next three to five years.
There are roughly eight to ten athletes ranging in age from age twelve to seventeen in Alberta (Calgary area) today, who rank in the top five or ten athletes in the sport in Western Canada (likely in all of Canada). Based on their annual performance in the BC Cup and Crankworx at Whistler, BC. The BC Cup race series and Crankworx world class events are the biggest stages that young athletes in biking gravity sports are featured and compete. There are many opportunities in the USA, California and the Pacific Northwest, but the top youth athletes in the world go to Crankworx to compete and test their skills. It is a good snapshot of the sport and the riders competing – at the very least for Canada. Crankworx has events across the globe, and recently added its fourth stop. Locations include New Zealand, France, Austria (new in 2017!) and of course Whistler. This growth signifies future expert and professional class opportunities fro riders around the globe.
Beyond the obvious extensive cost of bikes, protective gear, equipment and ongoing mechanical repairs (almost daily), Alberta based riders and their families face an incredible cost in time on the road travelling between races and training locations. Everything from lift tickets and race registrations, to transportation (and fuel), accommodation, and nutrition add up throughout a race season and training year. Events and races are typically held in mountain based resorts and accommodations range from hotels to tents. The weather can be extreme – beating hot sun, to down pouring rain…and on occasion a surprise snowfall (fortunately a rare occurrence). Clothing and other gear that is appropriate for all weather sports is a necessity.
Extreme Speed Gravity Team (ESGT) looks to carry some of the load for families and athletes. ESGT will build a direct link for athletes and their families to the resources, equipment and financial support they need to train and compete at the highest level. We will seek ways to help families lower the cost of travel, we will pursue and negotiate coaching and training camps for the team for skill development and enjoyment. ESGT will explore all opportunities known and create new ones for help tackle all areas of concern travelling Alberta based riders.
To draw from another biking discipline, there is strength in numbers and the power of the peloton is great. The scalability, the affordability and the efficiencies that can be found in a team are exponentially better for athletes and families, than going it alone. By supporting families in removing or reducing the inherent frictions involved in this sport for Alberta based athletes, our hub of support will allow riders to ride and families to enjoy not fret over their chosen sport.
A typical 10 race season for DH athletes will cost a family anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 depending on location of events and whether a new bike must be purchased in a given year. This excludes the cost of a technician or regular professional coach. The five to six year march for athletes from “grom” to “world cup” can be an investment of up to $200,000. That investment and commitment can be a barrier to entry, or a hindrance in performance where training or competitions must be passed up due to family finances. It has sometimes, even been the last straw limitation for a family – where an athlete must quit or choose to ride recreationally due to budget constraints. ESGT seeks to explore every avenue available to provide financial support and increased access in as many ways as possible. ESGT will do this through direct financial input, equipment and resource sponsorship, cost savings due to bulk transactions and team numbers, volunteering, etc.
The spokes of a wheel are critical for performance. They connect the hub to the rim and must be secure for the wheel to work. The alignment of hub and wheel represent aligned interests. Strong spokes, interwoven from different angles allow wheels to be light, transmitting torque from the hub to the wheel for maximum performance.
There are three categories of “spokes” in our wheel at ESGT. The first “spokes” are critical to supporting performance, and they are the coaches and trainers. These people guide, drive and support athletes in their riding. From important training and unique guidance needed to learn to grow and become better riders, to the technical knowledge needed to excel.
High quality coaching is scarce in Alberta. The market trends for sports and facilities and lack of organizational support and infrastructure locally has resulted in top quality coaches or athletes-turned-coaches either moving to work and train in BC mountain communities or to simply give up their passion in return for better pay and consistent work in different fields. For the short term this requires athletes to travel to the top coaches, or pay a premium for those scarce local professionals. Quality coaches cost money and keeping a quality coach in reach requires fair and appropriate compensation and incentives. The best coaches in this sport will actually do this for free because they are so incredibly passionate about the sport; however, “free” gives way to “need-to-pay-my-bills” and coaches must choose or allocate their time to allow them a better lifestyle. ESGT recognizes that there is a need to support athletes to travel to reach the best coaches, or to fund coaches to come to them. Either way, it is a commitment that must be made to grow.
Technicians or mechanics are the second type of spokes in our wheel. One thing is for sure in DH and slopestyle mountain biking….stuff breaks….all the time! A weekend on the hill or a week at a training camp can be frustrating and costly for athletes and parents. Sometimes it seems there is a constant march to the tech shop to repair one thing or another. Most times it is small nuisance things but sometimes it is a big deal. Either way, during competitions and race training ALL repairs are urgent. The quicker the better: to get the rider back up and riding. Every rider should be expected to know how to do the repairs and maintenance work on their own bikes. On fun rides, long rides, remote rides and some training sessions, there is no one to help them and they must make repairs as they go - sometimes in the middle of a remote forest or on a mountain side. However, during competitions in training runs and racing, mechanical issues are both distracting and time consuming. They are also a liability. A quick amateur fix is not an appropriate approach when racers are riding at tremendous speeds down treacherous terrain or hucking a big trick into the air. The first and most important concern is safety, as a mechanical failure can cause severe injury or even death. The next concern is that mechanical failure during an important race can be the difference between the podium and a DNF. Lastly, no parent should be faced with making a financial decision in the middle of a race to fix a major problem or not. It is not fair to all the energy, hours and travel dedicated by the family or athlete to get to that very moment. All steps that can be taken to ensure that bikes are race ready should be taken. ESGT aims to ensure that a qualified professional technician is ALWAYS available exclusively for its team during competitions. Like our hub, the technician is there to support performance. They are needed to keep the machines running.
The third key “spokes” in our wheel are our sponsors and partners. Our partners and sponsors are absolutely critical to keeping the team running. Our athletes and families understand this and choose to be ambassadors and outspoken advocates for our partners and sponsors. Under a team banner and affiliation ESGT will have a high visibility. With pride in belonging, our families and athletes will visibly demonstrate their affiliation through the clothing, the bikes, and the equipment they wear and utilize. They will be gracious and appreciative of the support, while communicating the virtues of our partners. Our sponsors and partners will be there in many different ways allowing our families to be there for athlete support, while removing fear or anxiety of budgets, procurement or other related stressors. Our sponsors will be there for our athletes to reduce concerns about equipment and gear or getting to another event – so they can simply ride at the best of their physical ability and perform at their optimum mental capacity. Success on the mountain leads to leadership off the mountain in the community.
ESGT’s inclusive approach will extend the goodwill of our team to the community of bikers we share the mountain and courses with every event or training session – each month, weekend and day. We will encourage support and assistance wherever possible as well as invite others to be a part of ESGT events. Additionally, ESGT team members and their families will recognize their role in fostering new riders to participate in this exciting and challenging sport. ESGT team members will be respected and admired in the community for their politeness, their fun, their expertise and their gratitude. They will serve as leaders and will be mentored as such for their lives in biking as well as their lives beyond the sport.
With such an incredible saturation of riders, companies and sponsors in BC and the key areas such as Whistler and Squamish, brands looking to expand their reach through affiliation with a race team can access the Alberta market through representation by our local athletes, as well as our travel across interior BC and the Pacific Northwest during our training camps and competitions. With the ever visible and accessible amazing talent and success of professional athletes in Whistler, it is clear the growing enrolment and activity in this sport is a direct result. In 2014 enrolment in the Crankworx, Kidsworx, Under 12, B-line downhill race was just 80 kids, in 2016 it was 195! The young base of kids for the future of the sport is growing rapidly in BC. We know for certain that local racers and “star” athletes – excite young riders and give them something to aspire to. It would be a dream to one day have a handful of athletes from Alberta who kids in the same province and city want to have their picture taken with, to aspire to, to talk to and to learn from.
With the establishment of ESGT, we expect others to follow in kind over time. We expect and hope for competing clubs. The more support, access and availability of such groups will allow the sport to develop and flourish. We hope this idea catches on.
Teams and good leadership develop athletes into good citizens and professionals. These qualities are enviable from a marketing standpoint. ESGT's team athletes will embody this.
Giving back to the community
Every year, ESGT will arrange, run and coordinate a charitable event designed to live up to our emerging top young athlete, Coen Skrypnek’s vision that “every kid should own and ride a bike”. We will hold such events to educate and train kids with limited resources how to ride bikes in a gravity and slopestyle setting. We will promote giveaways of equipment and bikes and lift tickets. We will partner with organizations who support kids and sport and the surrounding community.
The RIM & TIRE
Our parents are the rim and the athletes are the tires – they are where the rubber hits the dirt!
Families’ tireless support and unwavering dedication allow their children to achieve success and realize their dreams. None of this happens without the support of family. Our parents range from active mountain biking parents to newbies to athletes from team sports who are just trying to figure all of this out. But what they all have in common is their dedication to their kids and to their success. They also have all made a financial commitment to see their athletes through this sport to whatever lies beyond. We all hope our kids have success and in some cases, our vacations, dreams, purchases, even retirement planning takes a back seat to funding the sport. ESGT believes parents and families deserve to have the best chance to reduce the impact of the costs and challenges of this sport on their lives.
By removing some of the costs, ESGT can help families focus on success. They can focus on their relationships and they do not have to sacrifice everything to see this through. Sometimes careers end sooner than expected due to injury or other factors or they are delayed and success is realized later than typical. Fear of that uncertainty should not keep the dedicated athletes and their families from committing to their passion and future success. With the help of our hub and the participation and support of our spokes, the ESGT wheel will rip up the dirt and lay some tracks in ways never thought possible.
Our gifted athletes: where the rubber hits the dirt.
Simply put, gravity sport athletes are a different breed. They embrace the adrenaline of racing and jumping their bikes at incredible speeds. They live off the sheer joy of being on their bikes. This “individual” sport is also an incredibly close knit team of athletes. The athletes care for one another, look out for each other and respect their competitors’’ willingness to risk themselves in pursuit of that perfect line or fastest time. There is an incredible etiquette to their behavior and direct mentoring that is visible and impactful almost daily. Very few other sports in any disciplines offer direct mentoring by older athletes to the younger ones – this progression sport is unique in that way.
A DH racer, or slopestyle biker, are not familiar athlete designations on the school yard. The sport is something that happens away from the city and can be intimidating to the uninitiated. Our athletes don’t have many peers in their schools or social circles who race. They find their connections with their racing peers and teams. There is great strength and commitment for teenagers to remain dedicated to the sport, while some of their friends and classmates are doing so many other things during their weekends in the summer. Our athletes are strong, confident and talented. They are courageous, friendly and fun. ESGT will do everything it can to support and promote them. ESGT will give them an affiliation to be proud of. ESGT will help in the mentorship and growth of these fine young men and women.