Photo by Ted Anderton
On Sunday, Ian Gielar finished third in the pro XC race at the Pats Peak Mountain Bike Festival in Henniker, New Hampshire. The two-hour race was part of the Root 66 Series and a state championship event.
“I got a good start and went into the woods in 6th or 7th,” Gielar said. “It was a really tough course—a little slick with technical climbing and descending. I was super surprised with how consistent my lap times were. I felt strong and felt like I could save a little bit for the harder obstacles. The training that Al helps me with is paying off.”
Gielar, 23, is one of the newest members of the JAM Fund development team. He lives with his dad in rural Gilsum, New Hampshire and says there’s not much around. But the town is home to Badger Balm, the company that makes lip balm, sunscreen and insect repellant.
“It’s really desolate,” he said. “I don’t understand why they’re here. It’s in the woods, and they’re shipping all this stuff.”
In those woods, Gielar found mountain biking. When he was a senior in high school, his younger brother Cody showed him one of those Red Bull downhill videos.
“We thought it was so awesome,” he said. “We had bikes with knobby tires and we started riding them in the woods and thought that was like downhill. We would build jumps out of doors. It was free. It was fun. Looking back, it was pretty crazy to do it on a bike with flat pedals and no suspension.”
Gielar got serious about cycling when he entered college at Rochester Institute of Technology.
“I grew up in a low income family, so I couldn’t do much stuff,” Gielar said. “So when I got to college, so much opened up for me. I worked as a tutor so I could race.”
Gielar became president of the school’s cycling club and ran it for three years. But he needed a better bike than the one he had in high school.
“I got scholarships to college, some of them were small and they send you a check,” he said. “I figured I would need a campus bike, so I bought another mountain bike with the scholarship money, which was pretty awesome.”
Then he discovered cyclocross.
“There were kids on the RIT team into cross and they were pretty good Cat 2’s racing elite,” he said. “So I built up a cross bike and raced it on the road in the spring. I thought it was the best bang for my buck so I could race cross in the fall.”
Gielar raced road, cyclocross and mountain bikes for RIT. His first foray at a national championship came in 2013 at the Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships at Beech Mountain, North Carolina.
“I got eliminated,” he said. “I couldn’t come close to those guys. But the next year, I got 13th and this year I got top five.”
He competed in Collegiate Road and Cyclocross National Championships as well. But his collegiate racing days are over for now. In May, Gielar graduated from RIT with a B.S. in mechanical engineering.
Gielar’s passion for mountain biking grew in the summer 2011, after his father took him to a World Cup mountain bike race in Windham, New York.
“There were real racers, and it was cool,” he said. “And they said I should try racing. For some reason I was interested in cross-country, maybe because the Norco guys were cross-country racers. I thought it was cool under your own power you had to be fit and a good bike handler without taking lifts. It was kind of like a dream of mine to race the World Cup there some day”
And that dream soon came true. In August 2014, Gielar was selected to race with the U.S. National Team at the Windham World Cup.
“I had some good results in collegiate mountain bike nationals, so I petitioned to USA Cycling’s Mark Gullickson who puts together the off-road national team,” Gielar said. “And so you fill out this form and put results on there and hope for the best. And he emailed me right away and said he had a spot for Windham. So I raced it and got eaten alive.”
At the time, Gielar did not have a coach.
“I couldn’t possibly afford to pay someone, but I was really interested in training,” he said. “I would ask people what they did for training and was so confused because everyone did different things. As far as trying to figure it out, I just went as hard as I could all the time. It was kinda dumb. But now with Al at JAM, the time I put into cycling is way more effective.”
Last summer, Gielar was awarded a JAM Fund Grant.
“That was a huge help,” he said. “I was racing elite for cross and each weekend would be 100 dollars, so it was great to have that money.”
Gielar says he was interested in JAM ever since meeting the team three years ago.
“I was so interested in JAM ever since 2013 at the Cycle-Smart International where I saw Jeremy Durrin race, and he was on JAM,” Gielar said. “And it was cool to see all the stuff they were doing, and Jeremy Powers’ Behind the Barriers. I started talking to Al at races and he emailed me in July about the grant, and I was excited.”
Gielar raced last winter in Cycle-Smart International, Cobbs Hill, the NBX Grand Prix and Cross Nationals, but his early season riding was sidelined by illness.
“I was swimming with my dog and I woke up the next day and couldn’t walk, my leg was so painful,” he said. “I went to school because I had to and drove to Rochester. The campus medical center sent me to the hospital emergency room, and I ended up with some weird staff infection. It kept coming back. I had to spend two days in the hospital and they gave me IV antibiotics. But the antibiotics had a big effect on me. I had to take them for a couple months, and I was slower. They were able to treat it, but it effected my racing a lot. It wasn’t a good time.”
Gielar recovered enough to finish out cross season, but this year, he says he’s even more focused.
“I’m excited to switch to cross in August. I really enjoy cross racing. I’m pretty light and don’t make a ton of power, but I’m going to work on that and be as good as I can for cross this year.”
In May, Gielar was selected to the JAM Fund development team.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better for my level of racing,” he said. “It’s hard to find anything like this level of support. Being able to travel to races like Canada Cup, it’s cool to have people who are interested in the same thing and we ride the course together and I learn a lot from everybody.”
Gielar and Trent Blackburn are the two new additions to the JAM Fund development team this year. Chris Neisen and Case Butler are also on that squad. The elite team racers are Scott Smith, Jack Kisseberth, Rhys May and Natalie Tapias.
You can ride with all of the JAM Fund team members at the Grand Fundo on July 16.
For more information
contact Vicky Sama, JAM Media Coordinator