On any given summer weekend, you can find Sho-Air/Specialized's Tad Elliott mixing it up with the pros at national-level cross country mountain bike races. The 21-year-old Durango, Colorado resident has been working his way up the ranks and is looking forward to the upcoming US National Championships in Granby, Colorado in the middle of July.
In the winter, it's a time for a whole different sport for Elliott, who grew up cross country skiing and racing with his dad. The young rider has attracted attention in both sports.
"I had a really good winter when I won the 50km national championships in cross country skiing," he said of the 2009-2010 ski season. "I went to the Under 23 worlds and there was a shot at the Winter Olympics. The criteria was a little hazy, and I thought maybe I would go with my results, but the coaches chose not to select me.
"That was ok, I knew it was a long shot," he said. "So I just finished up the season and then hopped on a bike." That's when Elliott joined the Sho-Air/Specialized mountain bike team.
Elliott races all distances on skis from 10km to 50km which covers durations of 30 minutes to two hours.
"The transition between sports isn't bad," he said. "I ride a bit in the winter because it's fun and it keeps me fit. I hope to continue both sports and maybe at some point I'll have to pick one."
In cycling, Elliott has one more year of under 23 racing left after this one, and he's hoping to make the most of it. He knows the competition will be tough in Granby at mountain bike nationals.
"Rob Squire is going really fast. Stephen Ettinger and Russell Finsterwald are, too," he said, naming his likely competition.
Last year, he had to sit out nationals, which were also held in Granby, after he broke his shoulder the week before. "I was riding with the Wells' brothers and they were going way faster than me. I was trying to keep up and tossed myself on the ground."
Elliott got into mountain bike racing when he was 14. "I started in beginner, then did a few races and moved to sport, then did a few more races and moved to expert and got my clock cleaned. Then I went pro with the Under 23 US National Team." His twin brother also competes on his bike, but sticks to gravity racing.
So far this year, the short track at the Massanutten HooHa!, the final Triple Crown race, has been Elliott's best yet result. He finished fourth.
After doing some European World Cups, Elliott is hoping to hit a few more World Cups later this summer, especially the one in Windham, New York.
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.