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The High Post

The student news site of Greater Latrobe High School

The High Post

The student news site of Greater Latrobe High School

The High Post

In the Laurel Mountains with Josie Garofalo

Mountain biker Josie Garofalo details her experiences with biking competitively.
(photo submitted by Josie Garofalo)

When someone mentions biking, most people think of a casual ride around town, but riding bikes can be a highly competitive sport.  Josie Garofalo is 16 and mountain bikes for Laural Highlands Composite Team.  She began biking when she was 8. “I was honestly scared of doing it,” said Josie.  Her stepdad, who has been biking for 25 years, was the person who introduced her to mountain biking.  Josie is the only one who does it competitively. 

 “My parents first bought my brother and me a bike to share in case we both wanted to learn, but I was the only one who stuck with it.  My first bike was a SCOTT.”  She started biking on flatter trails to get used to the different techniques. She joined her first team, Pittsburgh East Composite Team when she was 11.  “It was the only one around me at the time, and it was pretty small my first year.  There was only one other girl on the team, a junior at the time, and she encouraged me.”  At first, Josie wasn’t super competitive with it and generally focused on just having fun. 

In the past year, Josie moved to the Laurel Highlands Composite Team.  “They were closer to my house so it was saving a lot of time with traveling.”  This year she is also doing the West Virginia Series. 

Training is important for any sport, it keeps you in shape and enhances your performance. “I try to go to hot yoga once or twice a week, I weightlift once a week, I run once or twice a week, and then I bike at least three times a week.  When the weather gets nicer I’ll bike more.  If I’m training endurance I’ll go for more miles, around 20-30.  But when I’m doing intervals I go for fewer miles, around 6-10.  With intervals, you go as hard as you can for 30 seconds and then back off for a minute,” said Josie.   

A typical race can be anywhere from 7-16 miles depending on the type of race.  The races typically last all weekend due to all the divisions and categories.  “Typically I’ll drive down the night before or the day of depending on how close it is.  If we go the day before we’ll camp on the race grounds or stay in a hotel.”  

Divisions and categories are based on grade level up to freshman year and then on skill level.  A rider only races against the people in their category, though there may be people from other categories on the trail at the time.   “On a typical race weekend you wake up, put your plate on, and warm up.” A plate goes on a rider’s bike and is their number for the season.  It has a chip that marks a rider’s time and what place they came in.  “I warm up starting thirty minutes before I need to stage.”  First, though, the bike is checked by mechanics.  Every team brings personal mechanics.  “If a team doesn’t have a mechanic, a lot of the teams are friendly so they’ll just bring their bike over to someone who does have a mechanic.”  This ensures the bike is in good condition and all the parts work properly.  “Staging is just getting everyone in their correct heat, wave, and row.  There can be 35 people at a time in a staging area.” A rider’s placement is determined by previous standing.  Riders go through a shoot and then onto the trail where they will begin the actual race. 

 Around 20 different teams are at a race.  The “pit zone” is where all the teams get a bit of space to put up a team tent and a bike stand for the mechanics.  “It’s lively and you can feel nervousness and excitement in the air,” said Josie.  The rider has to find the balance between going fast enough to do well and going slow enough to stay in control of the bike.  “The bad crashes happen when you go too fast and lose check of your speed.”  

Mountain bikes can be made from four materials: steel, titanium, aluminum, or carbon fiber.  Aluminum is usually for beginner bikes. “My bike is a Juliana, it’s made of carbon,” says Josie.  Carbon is the lightest, and most durable, but it’s pretty expensive.  Mountain bikes also have front and back suspension, while regular bikes only have front suspension.  “With a mountain bike, you can also get your gears customized.”  

Raystown is Josie’s favorite place to bike.  “It’s my favorite place to bike because it is super fast and the downhills are so much fun.”  Last year she got in a bad crash that left her with a serious concussion.  “It rained the night before and was still really wet when we went out in the morning.”  The team was on mile 18, heading towards the other side of the park when they came up to a bridge they had to cross.  “My coach ended up getting ahead of me as we were going across the bridge. Normally there will be chicken wire down so you have some sort of traction but there wasn’t any on this day.  I was going across the bridge and I thought I was off it.  My cleats came off, I flipped and I hit the ground hard.  I didn’t think I hit my head, my helmet looked completely fine, but I did,” said Josie.

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About the Contributor
Grace Torrillo
Grace Torrillo, Staff Writer
Grace Torrillo is a sophomore and this is her first year on staff for the High Post.  She doesn't have a specific focus for this year but looks forward to improving her writing.  She took this class because she likes photography and wanted to experiment with writing.  In her spare time, she enjoys reading, her current favorite book is The Perks of Being a Wallflower because of its ability to portray life through the eyes of a troubled teenager in a haunting yet uplifting way.  Grace is always listening to music and doesn’t have a favorite genre or artist.  What she listens to depends on her mood of the day.  Her other interests include traveling and while she's been to many places with her family, she hopes to one day go to Ireland.  She’s not sure what she wants to do when she is older but she does plan on going to college.  Grace really wants to go to a university where she can do a semester abroad and go to England.  She really loves biology and is considering a career related to that.   

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