A group of young riders in the heart of Georgia are starting the new year off right! With race season right around the corner, some of the best and brightest already have their feet on the pedals and their minds on the trails.
2019 has brought lots of new and exciting changes to Summit Bike Club, not the least of which is the chance to welcome this new Atlanta, GA chapter into our Summit Family. This is truly a fantastic program with so much potential. The Mountain Bike community, while it may be small here compared to some other states, is rapidly growing in popularity with the local youth. It is a tight-knit and supportive group of riders young and old excited to have the opportunity to develop their skills.
The excitement and passion for the sport amongst youth is reflected in the expansion of the NICA community, which has grown rapidly here since its inception in 2014, expecting well over 1000 riders for 2019.
Within this expanding group of athletes, there were some who began looking to develop their skills at a higher level, and searching for opportunities to race nationally. Paul Davidson’s son was one of these racers.
Paul, who would later help to found the Summit GA chapter, explained that through their searching, they realized there were no real Devo Teams in Georgia that would fulfill his son’s goals as a cyclist. Outside of the young NICA league, there were few opportunities for Juniors to participate in any sort of structured mountain biking program. “There was nothing for the kids who want to do it year-round”, Paul said. As he began reaching out, he quickly learned that his son was not alone, and there were plenty of parents and kids looking to expand into a larger scope of programming.
Brandy Mazurek, our new chapter lead, was one of those parents. Her son got into NICA racing 1 1/2 years ago and they’ve been in love with the sport ever since. “We learned quickly that there did not seem to be any junior development teams in our area or nearby. We had several friends that were also very talented riders and wanting to take their racing to another level.”
Then, in 2018, Paul came in contact with Summit Riders at MTB Nationals.
Through a series of communications, we decided we would be a great fit to help provide the structure the young GA athletes were looking for. And the Summit Georgia Devo team was born.
Paul explained that some of their key goals in forming the partnership were to “support the kids, not just by giving them the physical training, but everything they need to know: nutrition, skills, race strategy… everything they need to be successful in the sport.”
Through our new coach certification, National Athlete Development Systems, and educational content, Summit’s structure provides opportunities for the kids to extend their education beyond the bike, and pursue excellence in all areas of life and sport. In addition, the Georgia program plans to provide additional opportunities for the kids to learn from some of the sports’ best and brightest, including clinics with visiting pro riders, and the guidance of Head Coach Joshua Muzyka, joining the team from his position at Truett McConnell University.
Brandy is excited about the prospect of “getting a great team together that will help current and future junior riders explore a new level of mountain biking”. Through exciting opportunities beyond the basic local race scene, Summit hopes to expand that horizon of possibility and allow the Georgia riders to come together and reach new heights. As Paul says, Mountain Biking truly is the epitome of a team sport. “When you’re biking,” he says, “No kid is left on the bench. There is a way for everyone to participate.”
The Mountain Biking culture in Georgia has a strong heritage: “People have always done it down here…” Paul says, “but the junior appeal is really growing the sport and bringing it to the forefront.” The Summit Georgia Devo team has taken advantage of that youth momentum to create a system that fosters youth engagement and mentorship. The program has incorporated what they call “ride assistants”–a number of Varsity High School Seniors who are taking on a more advanced roll in practices , reaping the benefits of club participation, while using their experience to support the development of younger athletes. We are excited to have Josh Soper, Will Davidson, Foster Hutchings, and Brennah Griggs on board. To learn more about these athletes, as well as the other juniors on the team, visit Summit Georgia’s FB page.
This is the first time a Summit team has been structured in this way and we are excited to see the benefits to all involved. “They can be such a great influence”, Paul says of the Ride Assistants, “Often, kids wouldn’t be comfortable asking a coach a question, but with someone closer to their own age, they wouldn’t hesitate. And the younger kids look up to them… they are role models.”
With such a strong base of promising young riders and mentors, the future of the sport is strong in Georgia. There are many exciting possibilities for growth and benefit to the community, and the local organizations see this, and are eager to support and invest in the development of youth cycling.
The area is lucky to have a trail system, built through a partnership with Fox and Road Atlanta, which was developed exclusively for juniors’ use. The team also has the support of a growing list of local partners, including Red Shift, Prima Tappa, Nalley Roofing, Chainbusters, and more. Through these partnerships, Summit hopes to continue to grow the community and create a strong culture of lifelong cyclists.
Paul says that this is what Mountain Biking has become for him. With his wife and son both involved, he finds “it is a great way to spend time with family.” For him, it is more than a sport, “It becomes kind of a lifestyle choice. One thing leads to another…you start eating healthier, you want to get outside more, and the next thing you know…” He trails off, but the implication is obvious. Next thing you know, it becomes a part of who you are.
The program has come together and grown more quickly than anyone could have anticipated. But the dedication of our Georgia team has built the strong foundation for what is shaping up to be a fantastic season. “It’s hard work,” Paul says, “but this is what we asked for. And when you set out to accomplish things, you find a way to make it happen.”
This passion and joy is one that he hopes to spread to all the young riders, and that Summit hopes to cultivate by giving these athletes the tools and structure they need to succeed in achieving their cycling dreams.
Welcome, Georgia, we’re excited to #growMTB with you!
Brandy, who “happily jumped on board” as soon as talks of forming a chapter were in the works, has become instrumental in promoting the program and its growth. She is extremely active on the team’s social media, and takes special time to spotlight each of the riders, sharing their stories and a little bit about who they are on and off the bike. To get to know each of our 21 Georgia Athletes, as well as keep up to date on their events and training, check them out on Instagram and Facebook. Also, stay tuned for regular updates on Summit Bike Club’s Social Media, and learn more about the Program on our website.