July 5, 2008
It takes a Team of people to develop athletes, students and citizens of the world. Parents, otherwise known as "staff," can be the ultimate team-mates and the Pastore family is a great example of that - Michael Engleman of USWCDP.
Another spectator on the mountainside, I awaited the arrival of the junior expert girls at Crested Butte's Mountain States Cup race. Adjusting my camera and checking my watch frequently, I noticed other random spectators, some of who were less focused and much smaller, but full of energy and excitement. Memories suddenly flooded my mind of when our whole family was here together watching a mountain bike race. My husband, Mark and I anxious to go for a family ride, but our patience tested us to watch just one more racer, one more event, at the begging requests of our seven and eight year-old children. Rising dust and cheers zapped me back to the present as my 15 year-old daughter, Alicia Rose, pedalled up the dirt road beginning her 20-mile cross-country race.
We had driven from our home in Washington State to Crested Butte, Colorado, camping and biking all the way. We set a base camp above Gothic, in the national forest for two weeks while exploring Crested Butte and it's many trails, searching for our new home in Colorado, with two dogs and two children, ages three and four. The following year, we sold our remodeled home, bought a truck and trailer and headed south. We have lived in Durango, Colorado, for almost eleven years now and have continued camping and biking trips to Moab and Crested Butte annually. The growth and progress of our children, their biking skills and our family fun has been an amazing treasure and the journey continues still.
Every year, each child got a little bigger, as did each bike, each ride. Racing entered the scene four years ago. We still return to many of the same and favourite areas to camp and ride, but race preparations and energy has brought a new twist to the trips. While Mark and I still enjoy pre-riding the course or other nearby trails, he has become the bike mechanic and I the photographer, together we watch and cheer. Since last summer, they now belong to the Durango DEVO team with biking buddies, awesome coaches, lots of community support and a real family-like network.
Last weekend, they stayed with their team in a condo. Mark and I camped alone and rode alone. "Wow, how did they ever make it up this hill?" he commented as we began a pretty steep ascent up the Strand Hill Trail, "they must have been only seven and eight!"
It was anything, a treat at the top, just getting to the top, reminders that hills go down after they go up, planning the upcoming birthday celebration, stopping for a rest, taking turns leading, making it to the next tree. We sometimes overestimated and rode when it was unbearably hot in Moab, encountered long stretches of deep sand or chose too steep, long or technical of a ride or rode "just a little further" one time too many and got caught in cold downpours and deep mud. However, no matter how much fuss, sweat and tears, we all got each other through each ride together. Furthermore, major adrenaline rushes with unforgettable stories of the adventure just ridden, excitement, increased confidence, and bonding accompanied every return to the car. This is what kept us going and always planning the next ride and camping trip.
Watching our teenagers compete in their races throughout the weekend was so exciting and gratifying. From cries to arguments to laughter, from tricycles to training wheels, used bikes to new racing bikes, we've all come far together. Though lots of our earlier family rides were challenging in more ways than one, we wouldn't trade any one of those experiences for anything... except maybe to be able to ride like they do now.
Last year, I joined Durango DEVO. Before then I was the only junior girl that raced bikes around here. It was a great change to have a girl coach and riding with a lot of girls close to my age. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun riding with DEVO and other professionals that I met through the programme. My best memory of that was going for a huge five-hour ride in the high country with my bike coach, Sarah Tescher and her friends, Shonny Vanlandingham, Kristen Danielson and Mary Monroe. This year, has been a little bit different because Sarah is now living in Argentina with her family for a year. Our new coach, Kricket Lewis, is also a professional rider and I have learned a lot and done a lot that I had never done before. One of the biggest things was going down Hogsback, a very steep decent. Our team bonding doubled due to secret training camps and fancy Sushi nights. After every ride, we go to the river and soak our legs to relax them and to have something to look forward to at the end of each ride.
I like free riding, dirt jumping, downhill racing, cross-country racing and road racing. I do road because it makes me stronger for mountain. Last weekend, I did my first DH race and I finished fourth. My friend, Sepp, and I decided to do a triple threat by racing XC on Saturday and SD and DH on Sunday. In XC I won, which gave me a thrill. In SD I finished fifth, which was my best SD place.
The race I was most nervous about was DH. After SD, Sepp, my coach, Chad, and I headed up for a quick practice. I was not so familiar with the course because I only got two practice runs in total, before the race, which is not even funny how few runs that are to prepare for a DH race. But when I went into the starting gate, certain calm came over me and I thought, 'just sprint down the mountain.' I did just that. Even though crowds of spectators crowded the course I could not hear a thing because of my focus on riding. When I finished, the announcer said, "Here comes Gino Pastore with a time of 5:18. That could be good enough for a first place." But there were three faster times than me. I was still stoked about fourth. It was a podium.
Alicia and Gino's riding skills totally amaze me. Alicia has always been a strong climber. She is light, strong and very, very determined – she gets this from her mom. Anytime I am struggling on a difficult climb, I think of the time I did hill intervals with Alicia two years ago. There is a very steep gravel rode close to our house. Alicia wanted to do four intervals to the top – it was way too much for a 13 year-old. In fact, see cried while hammering up the hill. I suggested we stop after the first interval. She said "no," and finished all four. What determination!
Alicia is now solid at descending. I no longer have to wait for her at the bottom of hills or worry about her on technical descents. In addition, if I am up front, I need to keep it moving or she is right on my wheel.
Riding with my daughter is a true pleasure, though riding with Gino is a different story. It's a pleasure too, but unless I am totally focused with my riding, I tend to come home hurt. I can stay with him on the climbs – as long as he is not in race mode. Following him downhill pushes me to the edge of my skill level. It amazes me the lines he sees and the tricks he throws as he rides. The times I have tried to stay with him, I usually end up in the dirt.
Not too long ago, Gino would throw his bike down in disgust and refuse to ride when the trail got a bit difficult. Now, I am not sure there is a trail he can't ride. The times have changed very quickly and he now has to wait for me.
I couldn't be happier that my children are in competitive sports. Both the Nordic skiing and biking communities are very supportive. At bike and ski races, everyone cheers and yells encouragement to everyone. All the help we have received from local bike shops, local pros, USWCDP, race promoters and other racers has been invaluable in helping to teach our children to develop determination, perseverance, sportsmanship and the enjoyment of sports that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.