Ryan you had a season ending injury in 2015? Tell us a little bit about how that happened, how you rehabbed, and how you prepared yourself to get back into shape for the upcoming season.
It was February 28th in 2015 and I had decided to go down to Brian Head in Utah for a mini rail-jam/slopestyle event just to have some fun and break up the "serious" contests. Rail-jam qualifiers have started, music is playing and all of my friends are just having a fun rail session. I dropped in to do a simple trick I had done 100 times, landed a little bit funny, but unfortunately my binding didn't pop off. Snap!...There goes my ACL and my season. I was absolutely devastated. I was also in full denial trying to get up to walk it off while jumping side to side. I even went outside and buried my knee in the snow for periods of time that night just to get rid of some swelling in hopes it was just a "tweaked knee". As soon as I accepted that my ski season/summer were basically taken away from me I was pretty depressed. I got surgery ASAP which happened to be on a Friday the 13th in March. Once I woke up after the operation I realized being sad about this injury did absolutely no good. From that point on it was game time. I realized I could not take any shortcuts if I wanted to come back stronger and more confident than ever. Every exercise my amazing PT Jess Tidswell gave me, I would do one extra. The gym was my second home for 8 months. My buddy Nate Miceli and I would go to the gym 4-5 days per week trying to get our bodies in top shape for the upcoming season. Rehabbing an ACL is extremely difficult because you never know what is going to be too much but at the same time you want to make sure you're doing enough. Without the constant support from my parents and my girlfriend mixed with the motivation from my PT Jess, trainer Brandon Talbot and gym buddy Nate, my recovery would have been much harder. Once the season rolled up my hard work paid off. My first day on snow felt like I had never gotten off and it was the most rewarding feeling ever.
This summer of 2016 you started racing in the Cat 1 category of downhill MTB. When did you first start riding MTB, and was it initially a cross training sport to help you prepare for the ski season?
I have been riding mountain bikes with my Dad since I was about 5 years old. We rode local trails and messed around riding old construction sites for years. When I was about 10 he took me downhilling for the first time at Waterville Valley in New Hampshire. We would make biking trips 3-4 times a summer up to Sunday River to ride some downhill and I fell in love. Unfortunately it was too hard to ride anymore than that because we lived 2 1/2 hours away from the closest downhill. Moving to Utah at age 14 really sparked my passion for the sport since I was only 5 minutes from the mountains. I would ride 3-4 days a week and initially it was just a fun thing to do in the off-season while I waited for skiing to roll around again. At the end of my first summer in Utah some kids told me I was pretty fast and I should enter the local race that was coming up. I figured it would just be another day on my bike so why not right? I completely shocked myself and ended up taking the win over some highly decorated riders by 7 seconds. From that point on I decided to pursue racing and it's been a sweet ride since then.
Tell us a little bit about your MTB Downhill season and some of the accomplishments that you have had.
So this season was definitely a little wild. The first race was at Sundance and when I went to register it was already full, so that was a great start to the season to be behind on the points list already. After that I went on a family vacation and had a race at Nordic Valley two days after I got back. I had basically no time on my bike to practice, but I ended up getting second place even with fully blowing an essential corner. That was an awesome confidence boost for me. Next on the list was Pomerelle which was a two race weekend. The first day I had another full blowout that put me in 4th place by less than a second and the 2nd day I had a pretty smooth run that put me in 3rd. The finale of the series was in Brian Head (where I suffered my injury) so I was a little nervous going into this one. The track was a gnarly loose track that took some technical skill. I absolutely loved riding it and once race time came around I felt super ready. I felt really slow during my run, but when I got to the bottom they announced that I had won my cat by 6 seconds. The feeling that took over my body in that moment was surreal. I was beyond stoked to end the season on such a strong win on the hardest track of the year. At awards that afternoon I realized that I was potentially in the running for state champ since I had such a strong result in the race. When they started announcing the podium for states I had no idea what to expect, but since I won by such a large margin it put me in first place for the state by ONE point. I seriously can't explain how happy I was to take the top spot for the day and the entire series by only one point right at the last second.
What did it feel like to take so much time off and come back and win the title in the Utah Downhill biking state championship in Cat 1?
Unreal. There is really no other way to describe it. Not being on my bike for a year and a half then making a last second comeback to take the championship at the place that took me out of the game. Simply unreal.
Now that your skill level has increased in downhill MTB, will you continue to keep pushing yourself and competing more national events?
Yes definitely! Next year I'm going to race pro in the Utah Downhill Series and hopefully do some larger national/international events like ProGRT's and Crankworx. I also really love the freeride/big mountain side of biking because it's so similar to skiing. I want to put out some video segments riding natural lines and sending some crazy jumps.
What do you have planned for the 2016, 2017 ski season? Do you have any contest plans/travel plans lined up?
This season is going to be so busy! I had a pretty mediocre comeback ski season last year due to being a little timid from my injury but this year I am going to send. I am planning on doing the whole Rev Tour circuit, Aspen Open, some contests in Canada and Europe, and who knows maybe even a Grand Prix or a World Cup if things all fall into place properly.
Who would you like to thank?
First and foremost, my parents. They have sacrificed so much to allow me to chase my dreams of being a professional skier/biker and without them I have no idea what I would be doing. Monster Army, Craft, Karhu, and POC have stuck with me through thick and thin showing nothing but amazing support since I was a little 14 year old grom and it means the world to me. Saga Outerwear helped me gain some extra style points on the mountain this past season so thank-you to them. This past summer I made a few new partnerships that played an enormous role in the success of my season so huge thank you to ENO Hammocks for giving me a comfy place to sleep at all of my races instead of a hotel and Bingham Cyclery/Specialized for hooking me up with a SICK bike to race on. Also, thank you to my girlfriend for non-stop support and motivation throughout my entire injury and comeback.
Monster Army: http://www.monsterarmy.com/members/ryanmcelmon/