2021 is the first year aMTB DH is included as a series category at Dunbar Summer Series. We’re catching up with the riders to find out how their week on the mountains and in the races are going.
Surrey, B.C.’s Ethan Krueger comes into Dunbar Summer Series as one of the more experienced adaptive mountain bikers. That experience has shown, with two silver medals in two Canada Cup races already this week.
While the racing is obviously a goal, Kruger says that watching all the riders push each other to step up on the demanding, technical courses has been a big part of the experience. That, and even just being in the same place, riding with a group on similar bikes, is one of the big positives of Dunbar Summer Series.
Krueger also explains how an aMTB tailgunner, in his case his brother, “Tailgunner Nate,” works to help a rider go faster, not just help out when things go sideways.
Canadian MTB: Lets start with today. How was your race here at Panorama?
Ethan Krueger: I thought my race today was good be honest. My goal was to get a good run with no major mistakes. I had one little slip up, but it overall it was pretty good.
How about that first race in Fernie? How did that go?
Fernie was kind of an eye opener. It was my first DH race in an a-bike category. I didn’t really know what to expect going in. The goal was the same: to get a good clean lap in, and learn the course as best I could. I kept it a bit conservative on race day, just to get a clean lap and a solid time.
There’s several, very different bike set ups here. What are you riding?
I’m riding a Sport-On Handcycles Explorer 3. It’s their anniversary edition, so it’s the latest version.
This one was built off the original Explorer3 that myself and a few other riders have been riding the last few years. It’s been adjusted for some components and design issues that came up once we started getting consistently into downhill runs and courses.
There are a lot of structural changes for this anniversary model, just to make it tough enough for multiple downhill runs and races. So far it’s held up pretty good, I’m impressed.
One of the differences between bikes is in riding position. You use a more forward position.
Yeah, it’s a “prone” position, kind of half-traditional race position. It’s really just personal preference. To me, it’s more like riding a bike, because of that position. It’s familiar to me, coming from a mountain bike background. So it felt comfortable right off the bat. I made that decision pretty quickly, and I’ve stuck with it.
This week, the aMTB DH events are included in the larger Dh race series. How important is it having the races be part of a something like Dunbar/BC Cup ?
Honestly, the first word that comes to mind is “validating.” It’s really nice being incorporated as an active class, collecting points as part of the series. That’s something that hasn’t been organized to this level, up to this point. There’s been one-off events, but as far as a series, where you’re collecting points, travelling around with the race circus and trying to survive a week and a half of tough racing, this is the first.
Being in the same start gate and finish as the pro riders, with a couple different parts, its so validating. It brings it up to the gnarly level of being a Canadian DH series course. It’s no longer the pat-on-the-back, sideshow sort of event, but actual inclusion. There’s a few differences in the course but, as it is, the limit right now is bike width, not rider ability.
The second point, and this is just as rad, is that fact that as an adaptive rider, when you going to bike parks or any riding area, you’re usually the only one there. You’re the white rhino, there’s maybe one other adaptive rider at most. I’ve never had the opportunity to ride with this many bikes in one place, at any one time, in my lifetime. It’s really cool being able to see the diversity of riding, and riding styles, and for us to learn from each other.
So how much of this week is racing with the other adaptive riders, and how much are you riding, lets say against each other?
It’s been super cool for me. The skill level of riders coming into this was quite diverse. It ranged from people who have been doing this a while to people who sat in a bike for the first time a month ago. Sierra’s first ride was actually a month ago, and she’s going down this gnarly course now. That’s insane.
Honestly, seeing the improvement in riders is awesome. We’re seeing people going from seeing sections for the first time and just getting through to, after comparing notes and working lines out, flowing the same section.
Seeing everyone work out the course has been super cool. Util the start beeps go, then competition takes over for about five minutes, ha.
There are very different bikes here, but we’ve ended up going down the same course at the same pace. With the differences in bikes styles, we’re still seeing such close times. It’s really cool to see that it comes down to the rider, not the bike.
Your tailgunner – the rider that follows aMTB racers – this week is your brother. What’s the relationship between tailgunner and racer?
“Tailgunner Nate,” as he’s going by that this series.
My brother and I have been pretty close since we were kids. He’s actually quite valuable when it comes top rerunning courses with me. He gives me a lot of input with everything I can’t see, what the back tires’ doing, and some line choice things. He’s also a mountain biker, so he’s got an eye for lines. I trust his input, especially when it comes to the back half of my bike that, you know, I can’t see. So it’s a good team relationship we have on the trail, for sure. It really helps.