“Our course is based at Stark's Hill, where we have cross-country trails during the winter,” Wilson said. “We use some of the cross-country trails for the start to allow for riders to be broken up before they head into the single track. Starks has very little warmup time; you go right up and quickly down. The single-track portions are a mix of switchback, steep climbs, quick descent riding over rock features and through tight trees.”
Fryeburg has had a mountain biking team for about 10 years, and Wilson has coached the team for two years.
“I have been riding trails ever since I can remember, and I enjoy riding all disciplines,” he said. “Biking is not only an excellent way of traveling through your surroundings, but a great way of transportation and fitness.
“Mountain biking, in general, has progressed with technology and gear,” Wilson added. “All my experience has been riding growing up with bikes getting better and being able to ride more difficult terrain with more ease. It’s a test of endurance, skill and confidence, which you grow by getting comfortable riding all different terrain.”
Fryeburg currently has seven prospective riders.
“In the past, we haven’t had a pre-season,” Wilson said, “and this year I have made an optional one with hopes to get the riders thinking about riding. The team is different than other organized sports. We allow walk-ons throughout the season. Our focus is on growing a lifelong activity, riding and then racing, in that order.”
Wilson said most of the students who join the mountain biking team have ridden bikes, but not trails.
“Riding on pavement or dirt roads is a lot different than riding over roots, rocks, different surfaces — and all that in different weather conditions,” he said. “We hope to at least have athletes who have been on a bike, but we take any level of rider. This is a team, but we are special in the fact that we don’t follow standard principles of organized sports. A lot of it is based on the individuals’ needs and goals, and promoting an activity they can do outside of school.”
The Raiders have a total of eight races, the first one being on Sept. 20. Most races have about 150 participants, and league-wide events have over 300.
“Races are a good indicator of how the riders are ‘racing,’” Wilson said. “Riding versus racing improvement is much different. I base how well they did by if they improved their riding skills, are able to confidently ride more terrain and are enjoying mountain biking. Based on that, we had a successful season last year. The team was able to take advantage of being able to ride all over the valley and explore new trails. Racing, they improved throughout the season by fitness, endurance and strength.”
Wilson said his overall coaching philosophy is to “improve your riding skills to be able to ride confidently and enjoy riding.
“I hope that all riders gain an appreciation for biking, where they live and ride,” he said. “Fryeburg is located in proximity to a lot of local riding opportunities. Hopefully, they take their experience riding locally and grow as a rider to appreciate other places to ride, too.”