Regional MTB Camp 2022

Coach’s View: Kevin Bradford-Parish’s Regional MTB Development Camp

By: Jim Rusnak  September 27, 2022

A knowledgeable staff, supportive community, and enthusiastic riders were the keys to success for this MTB camp.

Start with an experienced, knowledgeable coaching staff, throw in a supportive local community and a group of young, enthusiastic riders who support each other through thick and thin, and you’ve got yourself the core components of a great mountain bike camp.

Those were the keys to success earlier this summer at the USA Cycling Regional Mountain Bike Development Camp in Spokane, Wash. Under the experienced guidance of head coach Kevin Bradford-Parish and his wife, camp director Ashlee Weimar.

Weimar said it was the kids in the camp who made all the difference.

“The kids were really tight-knit,” Weimar said. “It was a group in which no kid was left out. They just all clicked together. There was so much laughter. The way we had camp set up, there was up time and down time. They were able to get enough of that energy out at the times we wanted them to focus, and in their downtime, they just kept each other going.”

This year marks the third mountain bike camp Bradford-Parish and Weimar have run for USA Cycling.

The purpose of these Regional Development Camps, according to Weimar, was to make them more accessible to kids and develop the junior racing community from NICA-level racers to USA Cycling National Championship competitors.

“[USA Cycling] reached out and said they wanted to make the camp happen again,” Bradford-Parish said. “We kind of just went from there and started advertising and trying to get kids to come in. We pursued the idea of doing a camp as a way to collect clients and help the junior ranks of mountain biking for the Northwest.”

The camp brought in eight cyclists between the ages of 13 and 18 from across the country. While the number of participants was lower than the last time Bradford-Parish and Weimar hosted a USA Cycling camp in 2019, they said the lower enrollment actually worked to their advantage this year.

“The last camp, we had 24 kids. This time we had eight,” Bradford-Parish said. “Twenty-four kids was a little hectic with how we were trying to run it and with how many people we had (on staff). Eight was a really doable number. It was a lot easier, because there were fewer kids and more 1-on-1, which was something I thought was beneficial to everyone—not just the kids but for us, too. We were able to connect with the kids more.”

Bradford-Parish began coaching mountain biking back in 2017. He holds a level 1 ranking in the Bicycle Instructor Certification Program and is a level 2 USA Cycling coach.

His racing pedigree goes back even further—28 years—and includes local and World Cup-level competitions. He’s been a multiple-time national champion, a multiple-time state champion and has been ranked in the top 100 riders in the world for cyclo-cross.

He says the ultimate objective of the camp was to educate these junior level kids on how to race. The camp curriculum included fundamental skills such as body position on the bike, having your fingers on the brakes and looking through corners. They also covered other topics like nutrition and recovering from workouts and races.

“I like to see kids improve on their skills,” Bradford-Parish said. “You couldn’t pay me enough to have that feeling watching someone improve on what you’re trying to teach them.”

The camp culminated with the campers racing in Spokane’s local Wednesday night race series. There, Bradford-Parish and Weimar were able to observe the kids on the course and give them real-time help as they applied the skills they learned during the week.

“I think we knew coming into the camp, we had kids that were good with fitness, but maybe they were lacking in the skills department,” Weimar said. “We really worked on their fundamental skills and then kind of advanced through steep ramps, drops, rock rolls and things that were more challenging. The community was really, really supportive of us. They made sure the kids were welcome in the community and were just really excited to see them. Our whole mountain biking community was really into this camp happening. It was pretty awesome to see.”

In the end, the camp was all about the kids. Both Bradford-Parish and Weimar said one of the best things about the group was watching them gel together and support one another.

Weimar said the campers made a video that they posted on Facebook at the end of the camp, with the youngest kid videoing the oldest kid and vice-versa. At the recent USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in Winter Park, Colo., one of the kids who attended the camp couldn’t race due to altitude sickness. But he was there at the finish line for the Junior Men’s 15-16 race, cheering on his best buddy from camp.

“It’s just amazing to see them improve,” Weimar said. “And the fact that they still support each other—I just don’t think you get that from other venues. Seeing that is the best thing that can come out of camp.”