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AIRprentice 2011 Report

Part 1

Words by Cam McRae.
July 14th, 2011

Like Donald Trump’s version of our reality TV show, AIRprentice is really a job interview. The problem is that job interviews don’t work very well. There are applicants who give great interview but then fail to perform, as well as prime candidates who fail at interviews. Research suggests the best way to sift through applicants is to look at their previous work and to have them perform before they are hired.

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  If you can’t find the Bulldog at Silver Star just look up. Photo ~ Paris Gore

We’ve also come to realize that we need a particular kind of athlete. We want a rider who can share his or her experiences with our audience, be a good teammate and follow through on plans and commitments. The reality is that this person may not be the ‘best’ rider. Obviously we want a talented and committed athlete as well – and sometimes the stars align and we get both. Paul Stevens – who got our second spot on AIRprentice last year – is a perfect example of that.

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  Part of the winner’s prize package. A Specialized Demo 8 equipped with parts from SRAM, Rock Shox, Avid, Truvativ, Maxxis, DT Swiss and Chromag and a similarly decorated Specialized P3. On top of that the winner receives a Contour HD GPS POV cam, shoes from Five Ten, gloves from Dakine, protection from Race Face, tools and lube from Pedros, Eyewear from Adidas Eyewear, jerseys and tees from Mountain Equipment Coop and helmets from Urge.Photo ~ Paris Gore

The challenge is that most of the riders we invite to AIRprentice don’t have much of a track record. If they did they would already have a list of sponsors and we aren’t in the business of poaching. Diamonds in the rough are great – as long as you can polish them up. Because of all of this, and a short time frame, AIRprentice can be a nerve racking ride – and this year was no exception.

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  Doug Sharpe, a Silver Star local and trail crew member, gets aquainted with the rest of the crew. Photo ~ Paris Gore

Like I said above, the best way to find out if someone can do the job is to get them to do the job – which is the way we now run AIRprentice. It’s a film and video shoot which can mean hard work, monotony and patience. When you are riding with 8 killers who are pushing hard there’s also a large helping of fun – but being a pro rider can sometimes be very hard work with very little glamour. ‘Can you do that one more time’ after hearing it eight times already, can be a real ball buster. But riders like Matt Hunter, who joined us again this year, know that the perfect shot doesn’t usually happen on the first take. This year we also asked all of the riders to write up a blog using the photos they worked to get on Saturday afternoon. Every year we learn something new and this was a great addition to the comp. (we did this last year but only because we were rained out on Sunday morning).

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  First thing Saturday morning the boys dressed in their green tees. Left to right:  top row – Spencer Graf, Jon Remple and Stephen Matthews. Middle row – Kyle Quesnel, Ben Friesen and Brad Mills. Bottom row – Ollie Jones, Skye Schillhammer and Doug Sharpe. Photos ~ Dan Barham

We met most of the riders on Friday evening at the Bulldog – where Oskar and his crew served up some great snacks and pints. Later on we discovered that Oskar is also a world class tender of bar so there’s no better place for a cocktail as well. After we were beered and nourished we laid out the schedule for the riders. Saturday was to be a couple of warm up runs, riding with nsmb team riders, then some time at the Oakley dirt jump vault and then on to Prostar – the line Cam Sorenson and Silver Star’s passionate team of builders put together for us last year. Prostar has grown to include several more moves and soon it will extend even further down the mountain. For riders who like to go big it’s one of the best lines anywhere. After lunch at The Saloon we send the riders out in small groups with a photographer to find out what sort of bangers they could come up with. Sunday again was to start with some warm up laps and then the race down Dag’s Downhill. Action packed to say the least.

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  Itching to get at Silver Star’s berms, the riders watch as the next generation rolls by. Photo ~ Dan Barham

Early on it became apparent that we had great crew of riders in terms of trail skills but things were slow to get going at the vault. Some of the riders were on big bikes and others just weren’t dirt jumpers but nobody was spinning or whipping. I wouldn’t say we were worried but underwhelmed could describe our mood – with a few exceptions. Ben Friesen and Brad Mills impressed us here along with a few others but we weren’t gobsmacked the way we were by Matt Montandon last year or Shrew the year before.

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  After a couple of warm up laps we headed to the Oakley Vault via Rock Star. Photo ~ Jerry Willows.

Luckily Prostar changed everything. There were spins – including Ollie Jones turning his DH bike around – tailwhips and lots of creativity and style. These riders shined on the big lines which suited us just fine. The AIRprenti were having so much fun they didn’t want to stop for lunch.

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  Matt Montandon was happy to lead the charge at the vault – despite his severed ACL. Photo ~ Jerry Willows.

Lots of elements have kept us returning to Silver Star for the past three years but the riding as at the top of the list. Every year there seem to be more berms, better airs and the whole mountain seemed faster in 2011. Double Dog – one of my favourite trails – added a bunch of berms in the woods and going fast in tight trees gets my mojo firing. Some berms and doubles were added to World Cup as well making a wickedly fun line sinfully more so.

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  Ollie Jones appeared to be a loose canon – both by reputation and from his video submission. He lived up to that billing with balls out riding. Photo ~ Dan Barham.

The weather gods cursed and then blessed us. We arrived Thursday night to get an early start on some runs for Friday. Unfortunately March returned briefly and the word from the top was that it was snowing pretty good. It was pretty chilly in the village as well but I’ve been here enough times to know that things can change pretty fast. After lunch things were looking pretty good and the weather improved for the rest of the day so that by last ride up, a little before 5:00 things were drying out nicely and conditions were approaching optimal. By Saturday morning the trails were tacky like toffee but firm and solid – without a puff of dust to be seen.

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  Team and AIRprenti convene before one of Silver Star’s big views. Photo ~ Paris Gore

Towards the end of the first day of AIRprentice we start to form some opinions and the chairlift conversation with nsmb team riders usually boils down to ‘who are your top four?’ As we talk about it we slowly whittle it down and hope that by Sunday afternoon we have the finalists sorted out.

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  On the way to Prostar there are a few opportunities to get rad. Photo ~ Jerry Willows

We were once again lucky to have five skilled lensmen along for the trip this year. Dan Barham has attended AIRprentice before and we were very pleased to have him back in 2011. Our team is blessed with a couple of skilled shooter including Mason Mashon – who recently had a two-age spread published in bike magazine and Jerry Willows whose eye continues to improve. Paris Gore contacted me before the event and he nailed some bangers over the course of the weekend. The final shooter was Toby Cowley, who just showed up out of the blue. 

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
   Ben Friesen showed an impressive ability to trick in diverse situations. Photo ~ Jerry Willows.

In the afternoon the riders hooked up with one of the shooters and worked to get the best images they could. I’ll roll out some of those images in part two. Stay tuned as well for the AIRprentice 2011 video – destined to be the best yet thanks to the hard work of Matt Dennison and his loyal sidekick Jason Lucas.

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  Despite a nasty shoulder injury Jon Rempel performed but didn’t complain. Photo ~ Jerry Willows.

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  Ollie Jones spun the first step up on Prostar but his second attempt on number two resulted in a lost shoe. Photo ~ Dan Barham

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  An AIRprentice candidate has never been badly banged up during the comp bu here has been a bit of second year curse for AIRprentice riders. Neil Meier burst his spleen the year after he won and Benton Hennig went down hard enough to forget where he was on his first AIRprentice as a team member. This year Paul Stevens was the caboose on a train through Prostar and after 20+ feet in the air he landed on Matt Montandon’s rear wheel. As you can see it appeared to be a nasty predicament. Photo ~ Jerry Willows

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  Looks like a crime scene. Somehow Matt managed to keep it upright despite the unexpected piggy back and Paul managed to escape injury as well. We had dodged the sophomore curse – or so we thought… Photo ~ Jerry Willows

airprentice, specialized demo 8, 2012 demo, rock shox, sram, chromag truvativ, avid, maxxis, dt, dt swiss
  After lunch in the Saloon on Saturday (fantastic food and awesome service – thanks Danielle and Stephanie) we set the riders free with one of the five photographers who had joined us. Photo ~ Dan Barham.


Stay tuned for part II. Say anything you’d like here…