Sears, Landis excited to compete at national championships in Granby
Eric Landis thought his racing days were behind him.
A few years after giving up motocross racing, he started mountain biking with his family and found an avenue for racing again.
Landis, Noah Sears, Blake Treadway and Ross Schnell are among several Western Slope residents racing in the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships that begin today at Sol Vista Resort in Granby.
Landis, who was born and raised in Grand Junction and graduated from Grand Junction High School, raced motocross for 10 years before a wrist injury ended that career.
After a couple of years, Landis decided to try racing again, this time on a mountain bike.
He quickly found success in Mountain-cross events and switched to the downhill time trials discipline last year. Mountain-cross is downhill racing in a BMX-style format.
“The skills transferred,” he said of his motocross racing. “When I raced, I won some races and moved up in class. This last step of turning pro was quite difficult. The rules are far more strict than changing categories.”
Landis was under the impression that by winning his category, he would be eligible to turn pro, but was denied. He had to be faster than any of the Category 1 racers, regardless of age, to turn pro.
“Mentally it was difficult to compete at that level,” Landis said. “This last winter, I went and trained with a specific mountain bike trainer, James Wilson, and I came out of the offseason and was able to be the fastest Category 1 on the mountain.”
That happened the first downhill race of the season in June.
Since then, he placed in the top 20 three times.
Landis, who races for Transition Bikes, is competing in the Men’s Pro downhill discipline Sunday, his 31st birthday. He won the Category 1 Mountain Cross national championship last year.
“You don’t know all the other guys, but if anybody can go that fast, so can I,” Landis said. “I try not to let it intimidate me.”
Each mountain biker gets one run in the downhill time trial event, but they get several practice runs a couple of days before the event.
“The difference between an expert (Category 1) and a pro is basically fitness,” Landis said. “I work with James on a frequent basis for six months and I have a little more fitness than (last year).”
Sears, 27, is a Colorado native, but lived in Dallas for several years. He moved to Fruita five years ago and also trains with Wilson.
He started racing about four years ago in cross-country events and switched to downhill last year.
He qualified for his first national championship last weekend at Snowmass, where he placed 10th. The top 15 at the event qualified.
“I got more and more into it,” said Sears, who races for Knolly Bikes and Serenity Acupuncture. “It’s fun. It’s a rush.”