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It’s all downhill

Taylor Cuisinot has been on a bike most his life.

Being the son of a bike shop owner, he says it comes with the territory.

And after a successful career in the BMX world, Cuisinot has shifted his gears into chasing down a dream of competing as professional mountain biker.



So far, so very good.

Since moving up to the semi-pro level less than a month ago, Cuisinot is already turning heads while climbing to the top of the podium at national events. The 19-year-old Nevada Union High School graduate has already qualified to advance to the elite pro level.




To reach elite status, riders must place among the top four on two occasions. Cuisinot only needed two starts to do that, placing second in a May mountain cross event in Angel Fire, N.M. and taking first place last month in the dual slalom at the Deer Valley Nationals in Park City, Utah.

Growing up he had the advantage of having a race course on his family’s 4-acre property on Banner Mountain, offering him plenty of time – and track ” to train. Cuisinot points to his time on the bike and attributes his fast climb through the ranks of mountain biking to his background in BMX racing.

“They’re much different, but BMX gives you a lot of the skills you need for mountain biking,” he said. “It was a good foundation for mountain biking, for sure.”

Though he’s been racing for years, the move to mountain biking wasn’t without a learning curve. His medical record can attest to that.

“My first year racing I got airlifted from the Sea Otter (Classic in Monterey),” he said. “I

had a compound fracture of my right wrist, a broken left elbow, a broken right collarbone and I think they called it a dislocated jaw.”

Despite the injuries, he was back on the bike within three months.

“Why wouldn’t I?” he said.

Though she wasn’t on hand for the crash, Kim Cuisinot says she still has trouble not worrying about her son while he’s on the course. Never mind the fact, she says, that he’s reached the pro level.

“He doesn’t like it much, but I scream a lot – especially if he looks like he’s going to crash,” she said. “It’s embarrassing for him. But he was so busted up (from the crash) that I don’t think I ever could get to the point where I wouldn’t worry about it.”

Though he’s already qualified to make the move up to the elite level, Taylor Cuisinot says he’ll likely stay put as a semi-pro this summer. His father, Charlie Cuisinot, said his son arrived at that decision after speaking with Chris McGovern, a professional mountain biker, cyclocross and road racer from Nevada City.

“His advice was to basically stay where you’re at,” Charlie Cuisinot said. “He said if you’re dominating as a semi-pro get as many (top finishes) as you can to build a resume.”

Taylor Cuisinot’s racing resume has already been impressive enough to add sponsorships along the way. Although he races for Xtreme Outfitters, he was given a mountain bike by the Giant bike company that typically comes with a price tag nearing $4,000.

Though he races in several categories of “gravity” mountain biking, including the

downhill and the dual slalom, Taylor Cuisinot says he most enjoys the mountain cross. That event has riders racing downhill at high speeds while traversing a course covered with boulders and tree roots, meanwhile riding elbow to elbow with other competitors.

“I think you have to have a natural feeling for it,” Taylor said. “When you have smooth downhill run, or a smooth mountain cross run where everything went smooth with a nice flow, it just feels good.”

Starting to feel good about his chances at competing as a professional for years to come, considering he’s already beating riders well into their 20s and 30s, Taylor said he expects to keep working within the mountain biking world when he does step off the pedals for the final time.

“I want to race professional for a few years,” he said. “Then I want to go to school for engineering and, eventually, be an engineer for a bike company.”

ooo

To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail bhamilton@theunion.com or call 477-4240.


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