BY BILL PHILLIPS
Prince George athletes know all too well the challenges of having a home base in the North.
Long hours on the road away from home and learning without the benefit of training opportunities found elsewhere.
Spencer Coletti knows the story all too well.
The competitive mountain biker spends 12 to 15 weeks on the road every year but is very appreciative of the support he gets from his hometown.
“It takes a little bit more effort, being this far north, but it’s worth it,” he says. “Everyone who is from Prince George or Williams Lake is in the same boat.”
He has been racing mountain bikes for the past three years, mostly around B.C. but is venturing to the U.S. and eastern Canada more.
He started mountain biking when he was about seven or eight years old. Then when he was about 12 or 13 years old, one of the staff members at Ruckus Board Shop started dating his sister.
“He worked here and was always bugging me to get a nicer bike and go riding a bit more,” he says. “I started riding a bit more and got my first real mountain bike for my birthday when I was 13. As soon as I got that bike, I rode a bike every day with zero breaks. It’s something I fell in love with. When I turned 15 the owner of Ruckus hired me and got me an awesome deal on a new bike. From then I’ve ridden more competitively ever since.”
In 2017 he competed as a junior in a provincial series that held his overall ranking as first overall for most of the season, until he moved to a higher category. Near the end of the 2017 season, when he upgraded to a Junior Expert category (17-18 men’s), he had a 10th and a 14th result in the two races. Those results made it possible to upgrade into the Men’s Elite/Pro category for 2018. In his first year in the Pro Category, his best result has been a 14th.
Last month he competed at the Crankworx Whistler 2018 Event and from there he went to races in Kelowna and then Mount Washington.
Next year he plans to attend a big race in California and then head to Quebec for another race there then back to B.C. for three Canada Cup and a national event here and probably a dozen other racers around B.C.
However, the season is over for this year, which means hitting the gym. There is a lot of dryland training. Prince George just doesn’t have the facilities, such as a chairlift access hill, to get some of the experience needed.
“We don’t have the training facilities for the sport, that a lot of other places do, so you spend a lot of time in the gym, dryland training for six to eight months. When the race season comes, I definitely fade away from the gym.”
During the season there is a lot of travelling, mostly to the Kootenays and to Whistler. Sun Peaks is the closest hill that offers chairlift access.
Coletti’s goal is to achieve a top-10 ranking in a Canada Cup. That is where the opportunity to get sponsors and make it a career lies. Right now he’s sitting 24th overall in the professional men’s category.
“There’s lots of room to improve,” he says. “You need to get top-12 in Canada and then you can start going to World Cups, which isn’t far off. You get those points, that’s when you can start making it a career.”
Sponsorship is very important. Ruckus helps him out every year with his bike, a company out of Nelson helps him with energy bars. The Brink Group of Companies has added him to its group of sponsored athletes as well.
“Any sponsorship helps,” he says. “It makes the difference as to whether you’re at the race next week or not.”
And there are expenses. His bike retails for about $12,000. And flying down a hill at break-neck speeds, there are crashes. Crashes that can wreak havoc on that $12,000 bike. However, the mountain biking community always pulls together.
“Mountain biking is a very friendly sport,” says Coletti. “Every time you break your bike, there’s someone there who will help you fix it. It’s definitely a super neat environment to be around.”
Prince George is also a great place to mountain bike. With places like Pidherny, Otway, Forests for the World, the university, Cranbrook Hill and others, there are no shortages of great trails.
“There is a super large variety,” says Colette. “There are hundreds and hundreds of kilometres for entry level to advanced riding. There’s lots of flow, lots of wood features. People come from all around B.C. to ride Prince George.”