REDDING, Conn. – Redding’s Richie Rude sits on top of the world in the cycling world these days. He mastered downhill racing to do it.
Rude, 18, won the junior world championship in downhill mountain bike racing last month in South Africa. After finishing second last year, the Joel Barlow High School senior was determined to win his final race in the junior world competition.
“It was definitely one of my big goals this year,’’ he said before heading to Norway and Austria for another international competition. “It’s the world championships, and I was really looking to win it. That was goal all year. I would’ve been pretty angry if I didn’t win it.”
Riders from France, Great Britain, Switzerland and Australia followed in the four spots behind Rude, who won by more than five seconds. The courses Rude rides generally require 3 to 5 minutes, and are about 10 feet wide. The results are determined by time. The sport is similar to downhill skiing, where shaving seconds by holding tight lines on turns is essential.
“The biggest thing for me is I try to stay calm,’’ Rude said. “I don’t get too nervous. That’s one thing that really seems to help me compared to other riders. I put a lot of work into it. I do a lot of cross country riding to become fit for it, and shorter interval training to work on technique and speed.”
Rude rode in his first cross country mountain bike race when he was 8 years old. He switched to downhill riding when he was 13. “It’s a good challenge, to get the down the hill as fast as you can,’’ Rude said.
He got a lot of advice early in his career from his father, Richard, a triathlete. “Since he rode, I picked a lot up from him and I just took it from there,’’ the younger Rude said. “He gave me a lot of advice, especially early in my career.”
The young rider has blossomed on the downhill circuit, and now has 16 sponsors and a host of other supporters that help him travel the world in his cycling pursuits.
“When you’re young, you don’t think about mountain biking taking you all over the world,’’ Rude said. “When you think about, it’s surprising I’ve gotten this far.”
Rude’s career against junior competition is coming to a close, but he is looking forward to riding next year against elite competition.
“I just hope to keep improving,’’ Rude said. “I’d like to get ranked in the top 20 in the world when I get to the elite level. I think that’s something to strive for.”