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Got a Minute? 60 seconds with Ian Supple

August 4, 2015 02:58 PM

Suppler_on_bike_(2)Toby Smith talks to Ian Supple about playing tennis and racing mountain bikes

Some accomplished athletes manage to move from one sport to another with relative ease.  Others go back and forth between the sports, working to do their best in both but eventually deciding which sport was best for them.  Such is the case for Ian Supple.  On July 19, Ian Supple, 25, racing for the Heart & Soul team, won the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships downhill race in his age and skill division at Mammoth Lakes, California. Just a few years before, Supple was playing Division I tennis.  
When did the tennis begin for you? 
I first picked up a racket in the eighth grade.  My father had tried to get me to play when I was 4 or 5, but I resisted. I might be playing Wimbledon if I had begun that early. [laughs].
Your father, Woody Supple, was a fine tennis player. He won two state singles titles playing for Albuquerque Academy in the 1970s.
He was very good.  He went on to the University of Arizona where he played No. 1 for all four years.  Then he briefly played professionally.
Is Woody still playing?  
Not much. He builds custom homes. Supple Homes is his business. I’m helping him out part-time this summer.
So when did biking take hold?  
First came dirt bike racing when I was about 10 years old.  I used to race BMX in the North Valley and then later on the track east of where the Isotopes play.  I was doing this the same time I was playing tennis.  I started motocross after that, mostly out at Moriarty.
I remember when you played for La Cueva.
I was serious about tennis in high school. My first two years at La Cueva my coach was Larry Ollason.  My last two years, Dick Johnson.  Both Larry and Dick preached practice hard.  I wasn’t always the most talented player, but I was quick on the court and I had a strong work ethic. I do that in mountain bike racing.  I try to work harder than everyone else.
How did you do as a high school player?
While at La Cueva we won four consecutive team championships.  In my senior year I won a doubles title with Chris Dunn. I think I won about 120 matches and lost maybe seven during those years.Bart Scott was the assistant men’s coach at UNM then and he noticed me as a junior.  So I walked on at UNM my first year. I wasn’t interested in going to anywhere else.
Did you do any biking while you were in college?
[Laughs].  Against the wishes of Alan Dils (then head coach of the UNM men’s team) I rode my dirt bike.  I don’t think he liked that, but I had been riding since I was 10 and I wanted to continue.  I played two years for UNM and earned a letter.  I graduated in 2012 with a degree in psychology.
When did you do your first mountain biking?  
In 2011, my junior year at college, I got my first bike from Tony, at Fat Tire Cycle.  I really liked mountain biking.  I felt comfortable.  I had grown up with dirt bikes and mountain biking seemed right for me.  My tennis at UNM was really over that fall.
When did you start racing?
Not long after I got the bike. I entered my first race at Angel Fire, in 2011.  It was the Chili Challenge and I finished 11th out of 30 people in my age division and skill level, which was basically Beginner. I loved the adrenaline rush and the feeling of being totally engaged and focused on what you are doing. Soon I got hold of Chris Boice, a professional Albuquerque rider, who helped to coach me. He’s of the fastest mountain bike racers ever to come out of New Mexico.
I take it you’re not a beginner any more.
No, I now am Category I, which is ages 25-29.  The Pro level comes after that.  
Tell me about your national championship race?
This past June, I raced in the Chili Challenge and lost by three seconds.  So I thought I might have a good chance at nationals. The year before I thought I had a good chance of winning, but I ended up crashing pretty badly.  Crashes come with mountain bike racing.
So back to California for nationals you went.  
That’s right. There were 17 people entered in Category I. All of us had qualified beforehand.
Do you all race down the mountain at once?
No, no.  You run at staggered starts, 30 seconds between each rider.  There are course marshals out there to see that two riders are not close to each other.  So, essentially, you are racing alone. It’s really intense and stressful because you get just that one chance.  Before a race, you walk the course and look for lines to take.  At Mammoth. I did it in 3:53.09.  The course is about a mile and a half.  I won by about four seconds.
Ian_Supple_(2)Did you earn money?
No, there’s no money in mountain bike racing except in the Pro level.  I did receive a Stars & Stripes racing jersey and a medal.  I have a lot of great sponsors now, which makes it easier for me to race and to train.
You mentioned crashes.  Are there a lot?  
People get injured, but deaths, I think, are rare.  There’s always a great medical staff and ambulances on hand at races. You’re pretty well protected.  You wear a helmet, neck brace, knee pads and gloves.
How about you? Have you ever crashed?  
I’ve had some spills. At Angel Fire last September I broke my collarbone, my hand and got a concussion. I was taken to Taos in ambulance and spent a night in a hospital there. For the next seven weeks I didn’t get on a bike. It took six weeks for my collarbone to heal.  
What do your parents think about you racing?
My mom has a hard time watching me.  In fact, racing scares both mom and dad.  
When you’re not on your biking racing, do you do any training?
I do cardio work. I go to the UNM football stadium and run the steps.  I did the same thing when I was playing tennis for the Lobos. It’s always exhausting.   
What’s in the future for you besides more mountain bike races?   
I want to be a firefighter. I’m going back to school, to CNM, this fall to earn my EMT license.  I hope to try out for the fire department and you need that license.
When was the last time you played tennis?
That’s a hard one.  I think about a year ago. Just for fun.
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