GJ native Schnell venturing into new territories on a bike
Ross Schnell finds himself in the unusual situation of looking for something to do.
That’s usually not a problem for him.
The Grand Junction native has become a popular and successful mountain bike racer, but sustained an avulsion fracture in his left femur in a French-Enduro Mountain Bike Cup race two weeks ago in Metabief, France.
Although the hip injury didn’t require surgery, it does require four to six weeks of healing time.
“It is very frustrating,” Schnell said. “I seem to have injuries more than most guys. It’s definitely in the heart of the season. This is what I’ve worked for all year. It’s hard to come to grips with not competing.”
Schnell was traveling at a high speed, probably close to 30 mph, when he slipped on some wet grass.
He still finished fourth in the stage despite racing with the fractured hip.
“I was probably two-thirds of the way down the run,” Schnell said. “It was after the hard stuff.
“I got back on the bike and sprinted on adrenaline. I raced three more runs with it. I thought it was a muscle injury, like a deep bruise.”
The injury happened May 22, and he still tried to race the next morning before deciding the injury could be worse than he originally thought.
When he did go to a local hospital, he told nurses to take a closer look at the injury.
Schnell, 29, was given a forearm crutch and told no activity for four to six weeks so the fracture could heal. At first that was a tough pill to swallow, but he’s getting more comfortable with using the crutch. The pain of inactivity is another matter.
“I got past that (embarrassing stage),” Schnell said. “I got through the airport OK. I got rides on the golf cart and got to get on the plane first. I’m somewhat enjoying the benefits. On the train in Milan, I had a tray of food, climbing some stairs when I spilled my drink. A kid jumped up and helped me.”
Although Schnell admits to enjoying the benefits of being waited on, it’s harder not being able to ride a bike.
It’s something he’s done his entire life.
Schnell grew up racing BMX events before graduating in 1998 from Fruita Monument High School. He won two national collegiate mountain biking titles while getting a degree in radiology at Mesa State College.
Last year, he won the prestigious Downieville Classic — known as the top event for all-around mountain biking — in his first attempt .
He won the 29-mile cross-country race and the 17-mile downhill race, setting course records in both and beating three-time defending champ Jason Moeschler.
Schnell won his first mountain bike national title last year at Brian Head, Utah, and finished fifth in the National Mountain Bike Series rankings, but he was looking to venture into new territory this year.
“The sport needs the next thing,” Schnell said. “I’ll always be a cross country guy at heart, but I was going to do a bunch of different events. I was doing the full spectrum of racing.”
That’s why he decided to try the French-Enduro Mountain Bike Cup Series along the France-Switzerland border in the Swiss Alps.
Schnell was planning to compete in the unique time-trial event for the first time, but was injured in the fourth of 10 races in the opening round.
“Going in I was more excited than I’ve been in a long time,” Schnell said. “I feel like I’m a liaison bringing this back to the states.”
Although he’ll miss the next event because of the injury, he hopes to return by the end of July.
With Schnell’s new ventures has come more notoriety.
He signed a two-year contract with Trek Bicycle Corporation, Oakley, SRAM and Crankbrothers, giving him enough sponsorship money to make a living racing, a rarity in mountain biking. SRAM and Crankbrothers manufacture bike components.
Schnell has been featured recently in several magazines, including Mountain Flyer, Velo News, this month’s edition of Mountain Bike Action and will be featured in the upcoming issue of Bike Magazine.
“The media stuff has gone crazy this year,” Schnell said. “I’m not sure why. I think people are embracing new racing.
“I was eating dinner a while back in Glenwood Springs and a waitress comes to me with a photo of me and asks me for my autograph. Hopefully, this is not my 15 minutes of fame.
“I could care less about getting press, but it enables me to get sponsors, which ultimately allows me to ride.”