Schnell hopes to make it big in biking world
Ross Schnell rode his way to seven junior BMX Colorado State Championships as a kid. He switched to mountain biking and grabbed a spot on the Under-23s U.S. National team. He raced his way to a Collegiate Mountain Bike National Cross Country Championship in 2002. He peddled his way to another collegiate championship, this time in the Omnium category, which encompasses all races, in 2003.But for Schnell, a 25-year-old Glenwood local, the best may be yet to come. “I am going to make biking more of a priority next year,” Schnell said.The past three years he has been riding in regional races as a member of the Tokyo Joe’s racing team. Schnell joined the team after talking with the director of the team, Pete Swanson.”I have had my eye on Ross for a while,” Swanson said. “He is the kind of new focus we have. He is one of many up-and-coming riders we have.” Tokyo Joe’s is a “Colorado-born, fast, healthy Japanese food restaurant,” according to Swanson, and has 13 Denver locations. Five years ago it started to sponsor its own cycling team, a group made up of 35 Colorado racers that vary in age, gender and ability. It is divided into two teams: regional and elite. Schnell is on the elite squad. “The elite team is kind of a developmental team,” Swanson said. “They take very gifted athletes who just need a little bit more help.”Schnell has raced in 10-15 competitions a year as a member of the team. His last race came in September, when Schnell qualified for his first National Off-Road Biking Association Pro Men’s National Championship. Schnell traveled to California where he raced in three competitions: short track, cross country and the super D (a new race that is a mix between cross country and downhill). He took eighth in the short track and sixth in the super D, a race he has started competing in more and more.”It is really more of a downhill race, but they throw in some climbs,” Schnell said. “Instead of taking five minutes like a downhill course, it takes 15-20.”Schnell had some technical difficulties in the cross country race and was unable to finish. Although it wasn’t the ending he was hoping for, Schnell still prefers cross country races above all.”I have raced it all – downhill, dual (slalom), super D, short track. I think still probably cross country is my favorite, because it is such a challenge and not just the event – all of the preparation that goes into it,” Schnell said. “When you win, I think it is a bigger accomplishment.”Getting sponsorshipsWith paying for bikes, entrance fees, traveling, maintenance and more, being a mountain biker is not cheap. Luckily, Schnell has had good sponsorship opportunities.”Elite racers get all their equipment and uniforms paid for, basically the whole nine yards. We get pretty much everything,” Schnell said. “We get a food card. It is great because they have really good food. I wish I lived closer and could eat there more.”As a developmental team, Tokyo Joe’s goal is for elite riders to stay on the team for a few years, and then move on and up. And that might be exactly what Schnell does in the near future.”Ross may be on a different team next year,” Swanson said. “He has developed and been a phenomenal racer for us, and if he moves on I would be thrilled for him.”Schnell has been talking to Trek, one of the biggest mountain bike companies in the world. Although he has enjoyed his time with Tokyo Joe’s, Trek made him a formal sponsorship offer.”I talked to the Trek team manager, and that is probably the route I am going to take next year,” Schnell said. “That would entail three or four bikes, travel and entry fees and everything. It’s not 100 percent, but it pretty much is.”Although he may be moving on, Schnell has enjoyed his time with Tokyo Joe’s.”It is a good team, a good program. It is a fun atmosphere, all the people on the team are great.”The path aheadThe past three years Schnell hasn’t raced as much as he would want as he tried to fit biking into his trying-to-graduate-and-work-schedule.This year will be different, according to Schnell. He graduated from Mesa State with a degree in radiology and is now working at Vail Valley Hospital.”I have been working full-time at the hospital and racing part time, so I hope that can change,” Schnell said.The deal with Trek would help Schnell achieve his goal of competing in all the national tournaments and all the World Cups, as opposed to the regional ones he has been stuck with recently.”Trek would send me to the Bahamas for the first World Cup in April to a couple more in May that are scattered all over Europe,” Schnell said. “I will be back in full force.”Until then, Schnell will be working and training to prepare. He loves living in this area and believes there is great riding all over the valley. During the summer, he rides all over Carbondale, Basalt and Aspen, but in the winter, he cross country skies to stay in shape. As far as getting some time in on his bike in the offseason, Schnell will attend training camps in Southern California and Arizona in January and February. Then, as soon as the April hits, Schnell will be competing to become one of the top mountain bikers in the country, may be even the world.”I really miss biking more. I am really looking forward to traveling the world and riding my bike and having fun,” Schnell said. “I am going to make biking more of a priority.”
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