What is your name?
What league are you a part of, and how are you involved?
SoCal, and I help coach the Beaumont HS team, and was designated at the team photographer for the races.
How long have you been doing that?
This will be our third year as a team, and I’ve been there since the first race at Paris–the first year we started as a team.
How many riders are on Beaumont?
This year, we’re looking at just under 30. We started as a big team. Our first season we had 19 riders. There were a bunch of kids just pushing to get a team.
How did you get involved at Beaumont?
My wife’s stepson was a freshman, and he wanted to be part of something at school, but none of the traditional sports fit him. It came up that they were going to start a team, and he said “Hey, I’ve done a little bit of BMX, so I’d like to try it out.” And then his sister actually rode for the middle school club. So really, I got involved through my wife and her kids. She and I have been helping out coaching on the weekends. And now it turns out I’m the young coach on the team! I’m 36, and my son is only 8, so hopefully he’ll want to pursue this as well.
Does your son come out to the events?
Yeah, he’s been to probably 6 or 7 races. We go ride on weekends when I’ve got him–it’s just about having fun. For example, the first time I took him to a race, everyone loved having him there, but he was sad not to have a jersey. I paint, so I cut a stencil of our team logo–a cougar–and sprayed it on a shirt for him. We didn’t have any t-shirts made in kid’s sizes, but we wanted him to feel part of the team.
So tell me the backstory of the image you took:
That was Gabriel Mathews, who was a junior last year. The race was Castiac Lake. Basically I pre ride the course with the kids the day before, and try to help them with any parts they might find difficult. I’ve got a little more downhill experience than a lot of the kids, so whenever I can help with that, I do.
In the photo, they were coming off the big downhill at Castiac, and I knew this would be a really fast point in the course–maybe even a little bit of airtime. So I positioned myself where I could see the kids coming down the hill into the last drop into the flats. I knew it would be a fast passing area right afterwards, and I could move between a few different spots.
Gabriel happened to be coming up hot on the back of another rider from Foothill. So there’s a little bit of air in the picture–but totally in control! He ended up making the pass on the fire road right after that picture was taken. These kids charge so hard, and they put so much effort into this. It’s really rewarding to see.
In your words, how does this image reflect the experience of the team?
For Gabriel, I believe that was his best finish to date. I think that was our third race last season. He’s a former wrestler, and he actually quit wrestling to ride mountain bikes. It’s cool to see the progression and the hard-charge out of the kids.
What’s your favorite part of being involved in the #morekidsonbikes movement?
Just being able to share the photos with the kids, and to show them how awesome it [mountain biking] really is. It’s a lot of hard work, but in the end it’s fun and a great life experience. The hashtag for me is just about getting it out there to more people. I’ve had a couple of people ask me about this, and they weren’t aware that there’s interscholastic mountain biking.
For our team, it’s a bunch of kids who wouldn’t be involved in the high school if not for mountain biking. They’re not football players, they’re not baseball players… but mountain biking fits. You’re part of a team, but that team doesn’t have much to do with how you perform on race day. Your result is up to you–how you ride, and how much effort you put in.
How did you get started riding bikes yourself?
I actually rode BMX as a kid, and then dirt bikes through my years in the Marine Corps. I met a few people who rode mountain bikes through the local shop where I live. A few of my Marine Corps buddies–we all bought downhill bikes. It was more thrasher riding at the time: find the steepest hill we could find and see if we could ride it.
Then one of the guys from the local bike shop invited me to go on the Santa Ana River ride, and he put me on a cross country bike. I was a little out of my league, but I enjoyed every bit of it. But then it was a little bit of a break after that until I got involved with the high school team. A lot of the buddies I was riding with moved away and I got out of the Marine Corps, so I just rode my dirt bike a little more.
Then I rode this old 35 lb freeride bike from 2001 during the first season I rode with the HS team. It was a little brutal but I made it work. But now we’re on better bikes, so it’s a lot more fun! I’ll always like more of the freeride stuff, but knowing that I have to ride with the kids helps keep me a little more calm. And it’s less abuse on my body as I get older!
Last question: what can NICA do to improve?
Ummmm… that’s a rough one! Matt [SoCal League Director] is pretty seasoned in this, and is bringing up Brandon well. They do a great job. The one thing is where States is going to be–we like to plan ahead to see how far we’ll have to travel. But other than that, the race venues have been really great [thinking]… I might have to email you on that one!
Sounds good–the door is always open. Thanks for your time, Daniel!
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