Bangert catching downhill momentum
Vail CO, Colorado
Ever since he started racing, Cole Bangert’s career has been going downhill.
This season, Bangert is flying down in a fury, and couldn’t be much happier.
Bangert, the downhill mountain biker who spends summers in Twin Lakes, recently won the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships and followed up with his first win in a National Off-Road Bicycle Association event.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Bangert said of the national title.
Heading into the July 22 national championships in Mt. Snow, Vt., Bangert was already feeling good from a third-place finish at a Mountain States Cup downhill in Snowmass the week before.
“I was third behind two international riders … who are both in the top 10 in the world,” Bangert said. “I was pretty close to their times and felt so good on my run that it gave me a lot of confidence and it was a good booster for the (national championships).”
The weekend after Mt. Snow, a relaxed Bangert added his first NORBA win to his quickly growing resume that also includes an automatic spot on the U.S. team for the World Mountain Bike Championships, awarded to the national champion.
“I guess it’s like when you get a snowball going ” it just keeps going,” Bangert said of his confidence. “I was having so much fun riding and was riding faster.”
Bangert’s qualifying run at the national championships were anything but fast, however.
“I flatted on the first rock,” Bangert said. “I wanted to go for it in qualifying. I think I was seeded the third or fourth American and was hoping for a podium. When I qualify well, I usually do well.”
After he flatted, Bangert didn’t worry about his time, and continued down the track, looking at lines and watching his friends ride.
“In the long run, it ended up being better,” Bangert said of his flat. “In the finals, the slower qualifier goes first. I ended up going really early. I was warming up by myself and I went and got it over with.”
Three minutes and 56 seconds after he started, Bangert felt really good about his run.
“When I crossed the line, I knew I was on the podium pretty much because I had one of the best runs, if not my best downhill run ever. It was a good time to have it,” Bangert said. “Another guy, Cody Warren ” a one-time national champion ” he came down pretty early because he crashed in qualifying, and when I saw I beat him, I thought I was in a pretty good position.”
But Bangert had a long time to wait in the hot seat to see if he’d end up on top.
“When it got into the top five guys I got pretty nervous,” Bangert said.
Luke Strobel came within two seconds of Bangert, and as the final racer ” Duncan Riffle ” came down the course, Bangert listened and watched closely.
“The announcer started counting down the seconds when we were supposed to see Duncan coming out of the woods (a bit before the finish) to see if he was on pace or not,” Bangert said. “When we didn’t see Duncan, everyone went crazy.”
Bangert’s parents were on hand, although his dad Darryl ” who owned Lakota Guides for 30 years ” was up on the course and didn’t find out he won until he ran down to the bottom.
In 2000, Bangert started racing as a junior, and began competing in the national series in 2002, still as a junior. After a solid season, Bangert moved up to the semi-pro division in 2004, where he stayed for only one year before turning pro.
“This has been my best (pro) year so far,” Bangert said. “I trained really hard this winter.”
Bangert spent a lot of the winter in Australia training with family friend and one of the World Cup downhill racers, Tracey Hannah. In the spring, Bangert came back to Colorado and trained with Hannah’s brother Mik, a top male rider.
“The combination of training with her and him ” I got really fit and it was second-nature on my bike,” Bangert said.
Most of the time, Bangert trains on cross country mountain bike paths, getting his legs and lungs in shape.
“People don’t realize how fit you have to be in downhill,” Bangert said. “It’s pretty much like running the mile.
“You can’t be anaerobic because you have to be pretty precise hitting jumps.”
For Bangert, a downhill race is pure excitement.
“Everything else in the world fades away for those five minutes,” he said. “All you are thinking about is the next turn or rock that’s about to hit your font tire and for those five minutes, it’s unreal.”
After the NORBA finals in Snowmass next weekend, Bangert will be training for the World Championships in New Zealand in early September and a World Cup Finals the following weekend in Slovenia.
Despite his recent wins, Bangert is still not ranked internationally because none of the races were sanctioned under the International Cycling Union.
“As far as facts on paper, I’m not there, but my riding is there,” said Bangert, who is enjoying what has thus far been a career year. “I’m quite happy. My parents seem to think I’m ahead of where I should be because … if you look at the top guys in the world, they’ve been racing professionally longer than I’ve known about it.
Those top guys were the ones Bangert watched before he joined the junior ranks.
“I’m riding with my heroes now. It’s pretty cool,” he said.
This winter, Bangert will be living outside of Elizabeth with his best friend from high school, Brandon Heidermann, on eight acres of land where the two plan to build a motocross track.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.