Katrina Strand has taken her work with young mountain bike racers to another level.
The longtime racer has shifted her focus to coaching in recent years, working with the Whistler Secondary School team among other initiatives.
This year, she teamed with sponsors Commencal and Fox Racing to launch her rider development team with three riders aged 13 to 16 as well as a rider and assistant coach.
"It's been part of my plan for a few years now. It's been an idea I've had for awhile and the reason it took awhile to go through with it is because I need the right company to align with those goals, which is easier said than done," she said. "I wanted to provide some up-and-coming, deserving young athletes (an opportunity) and I wanted to come back in as a coach, a mentor and a friend. It's an extension of the current programs and concepts I run throughout the Sea to Sky corridor."
Two riders, Felix Abraham and Ruben Guibert, hit their first B.C. Enduro race of the year this weekend, taking third and sixth respectively in the U21 men's division.
"We had some really good training and obviously that helped them out," she said. "They had all their ducks in a row and rode really, really well.
"I know Ruben had a little bit of a mishap on one of the stages, otherwise he probably would have been somewhere right beside Felix. If you look stage-by-stage, they were back and forth the entire race."
The other two team members are Abraham's brother, Neve, who sat out the race with a minor injury, and Spencer White, who serves as an assistant in addition to being a rider.
Strand stressed the team's focus isn't on achieving results. Rather, she wants the riders to deeply analyze how they're racing and, from there, the results will come.
"They're hard workers. They're determined. They're focused. They're so passionate about riding bikes and as a result, they're also very good mountain bikers, but it's not results that will determine if it was a success. It's if I feel that they've moved ahead further with their strategies and ideas behind races," she said. "It's not a simple formula because it's not black and white, but even already, some of the stuff that they've learned over the first race it's clear that they're making progress with how the race mind works, how they approach a race weekend and how they train.
"It's really important, especially at their age, for them not to be so focused on winning, winning, winning."
In addition to taking part in the B.C. Enduro Series, Strand said the riders would also race in the Sea to Sky Enduro Series.