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Spanning the globe

By Brian Hamilton

Sports Editor

Graeme Pitts has done plenty of traveling to compete in mountain bike racing recently, including 2008 stops in Plattekill, N.Y. and Angel Fire, N.M.



But the biggest trip for the 17-year-old Nevada City native comes later this week, when he’ll fly to the World Championships in Italy.

Pitts learned last week that he had earned a spot on USA Cycling’s junior men’s downhill squad, which will race in Val di Sole, Italy on June 17-22.




“I’m pretty excited to be able to go to an exciting place, meet new people and then beat them,” Pitts said. “It’s interesting traveling to bike races like this. You learn to deal with the locale and the people there, but you still have to be able to do well on race day.

“The stopwatch never lies. You either do well or you don’t.”

Pitts has done very well for himself and his Dark Horse Racing team and Unreal Cycles this year. After five races so far this year, he currently ranks first in California and second nationally in the junior expert division. Pitts said he’s been racing for three years and has been riding downhill bikes – “which are dirt bikes without engines,” he says – for the past four. He agreed that the top downhill riders are either seriously gutsy or perhaps a little bit crazy.

“I’d say a little bit of both at this point,” he said, with a laugh.

Pitts, who said his homeschooling has afforded him the time he needs to train, also said he does have a backup plan if his mountain biking career turns out to be short-lived. He’s already taking class at Sierra College, studying design and drafting through software programs such as AutoCAD. If he’s not able to stay in the saddle for long, he hopes to help design bikes for those who are.

Val di Sole, where the championships will be held, is north of Milan in the Lake Region of Italy. The mountain is about 10,600 feet in elevation, which is similar to the last race Pitts did at Angel Fire, N.M. To prepare for riding at that altitude, Pitts camped and trained for more than a week near Donner Summit at 7,700 feet, so he can look forward to a repeat of that regimen to get his lungs ready for Italy.

“The biggest thing I see in this is that it will give me a tremendous experience and will help me improve on my skills,” he said. “I like going to faraway places and coping with the circumstances at the events, too.

“Also, we’ll get really cool outfits – skin suits – that we get to keep.”

Competing internationally does have its price, however, and at this point – although he has received substantial support through sponsors, including his team – the actual cost of traveling to the competition falls to him and his family. Anyone interested in assisting Pitts in this cause, may contact him via e-mail at madforce13@aol.com.

Still on the horizon after the trip to Italy is the July 20 U.S. National Championships in Snowshoe, Vt. And, depending on how things go abroad, Pitts said he might also be competing one week earlier in Windham, N.Y.

ooo

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


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