Every year at the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships, Boulder native and University of Colorado student Joey Schusler shows up and flies down the hill faster than anyone else.
This year marked Schusler's fourth consecutive win in the downhill race, and as a bonus, he also won the dual slalom. The rest of his team had a stellar nationals on the snowy courses at Angel Fire, N.M., too. They came in second overall, and CU women Deirdre York and Claire Bensard came in second and third in the women's omnium. Schusler's teammate and roommate Michael Larsen took third in the downhill and shared the podium with his friend.
Once the racing was over, we caught up with Schusler to find out why he wasn't too worried about crashing in his final run, growing up biking in Boulder and what he rides around town. Here's what he had to say:
How long have you been mountain biking?
I've been mountain biking since I was 4, and I've been racing since I was 13. I grew up doing SMBA (Singletrack Mountain Bike Adventures), and that's the only reason I'm racing today is because of SMBA. Matt Tomasko just gave me my first downhill bike...
That was when I was 13. I haven't really missed a race since, it's been pretty much full-on since then.
Was there pressure to win number four at Angel Fire?
There was definitely a lot of pressure for the downhill. If I told some of the pro racers I race with that I was super nervous for collegiate, they'd just laugh. But after three years in a row, and...ice all the way down the mountain? It was hard to make it down that mountain without crashing in general.
I crashed at the bottom. I definitely lost some time there. But I knew it was an eight-minute track, so it wasn't a huge deal. If I could make an extra second every minute down the track, I knew I could make up time...
Crashing just pissed me off and made me pedal and hit the turns and take more risks.
Could you have imagined then that you'd be on the top of the downhill podium four years in a row?
Pretty much since I was 17 or 18, my goal wasn't to win collegiate races. My goal was to be like top 20 or 30 in the world in World Cup races. So I've always had this approach to collegiate racing as, just go and win. It's just a fun thing to do at the end of my season.
You won another event this year at nationals, not just the downhill?
Usually, dual slalom is a secondary event for me, I don't think too much about it, I don't go to nationals to win dual slalom. But once the racing gets going, if I can get into the zone of it, then it's game on for sure.
Where do you train?
My parents have some property up in the mountains, so I train up there. And I train on a lot of the cross-country trails in Boulder. In the summer, you're always traveling, you're always somewhere different.
For downhill, there's not a whole lot in Boulder that's legal. That's a real bummer, considering there's a huge scene in Boulder for downhilling.
If they built us one legal trail in Boulder, it would be the greatest thing ever.
Do you ride a bike to campus?
Yeah, I pretty much ride my bike everywhere, all over Boulder. I bought a cheap bike for $25 at the Sports Recycler, because Yeti (his sponsor) doesn't make a bike I'd dare park on campus.
What's next for you?
I graduate next fall, but I don't want to do it five years in a row. I don't think it's fair. My parents and the guys at Yeti are like, it wouldn't be fair.
I got my four years, so it's all good.