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29(er) Questions: Mitch Ropelato

MTB - Pinkbike Interview

Dan Severson / Pinkbike

What have you been up to lately? How has the off-season been treating you?
Off season has been good, just hanging with the Benedict household, putting in motos every weekend, keeping up on my fitness and getting the bikes all dialed so we go into this season prepared and ready to go. Ya know, the usual stuff.

How did your weekend out at Fontana, Ca. go? How serious do you take the race out there?
It was a decent weekend out there. Some rain rolled in just in time for race day which gave the course a nice water down. And if you've ever been to Fontana, you'd know that that made the day a whole lot better. I take it pretty seriously; even if it's not the most ideal race course, it's still a race.

Your victory on the 29er last year at the Pro GRT in Fontana and seeding time in Pietermaritzburg, caused a major uproar on the web. What is your take on all the drama?
Did it ever! I was not expecting that. I like it though, it gets everyone fired up on the sport and gets them talking about it which I think is good; whether they're saying good things or bad things doesn't matter as long as they're talking about it. The more people we get talking about it, the more sport grows and that's what it's all about. At the end of the day though, wheel size doesn't matter. All I want to do is go have fun on my bicycle as I'm sure everyone else does too. I'm not having fun unless I'm going fast and the 29er allows me to go as fast as I want, so that's why I choose to ride it!

Is it a true DH course if you can ride it on a 29er?
Of course it is, you could ride a 29er down Val Di Sole or any of the tracks on the World Cup circuit if you wanted to. I'm not saying it would be the most enjoyable at some, but you could do it. That's why each race we have different setups on our bikes. Some races it's a couple of clicks or valving on the suspension, others it's shorter travel and bigger wheels. So it doesn't mean that it's not a true DH course; it just means you're running whichever setup you think is the fastest.

What tracks do you plan on riding it on this year?
Right now the plan is to go back to South Africa on the 29er and mulligan my run from last year. See if we can get some redemption.

How is your race schedule this year? Anything new going on?
This year is shaping up to be a good one. I'll be doing my first full World Cup season so that will be pretty exciting.

What event do you look forward to most?
We always have this race at our local mountain in Utah which is a blast to go to. So I'm always excited for that race. As always though, I'm excited for all the events we'll go to this year. They're all good fun.

How was your experience at the Taxco Urban DH race last year? How was the course and crowds?
Oh man, that race was a ton of fun. Monster Energy does amazing work with that event every year, and each year the crowds get bigger and crazier than the last and so does the course. Always excited to go to that one.

Do you see yourself doing more of those races, or is the risk level too high?
I think my one-a-year will do for now. I might regret saying this, but I feel like those races are as gnarly as Rampage. I mean getting down those Rampage courses isn't too bad once you get the hang of it. Now winning Rampage on the other hand is where you ride that fine line between exploding yourself and riding off into the sunset like a boss. That's also how those urban courses feel at speed, except when you hit the ground, you're hitting cobble stone.

You are known primarily as a DH racer, but you seem to enjoy all types of riding. Do you have a favorite type of terrain, or bike preference for everyday fun?
I think for everyday fun I gotta go with my stumpy 29er, it's by far the most fun and playful bike in my collection. As for terrain, ideally I'd like it to be loam goodness, but I'm down for anything if it's going downhill.

If you could have your own event to do anything you want, (ex. Bearclaw Invitational) what would it be like?
Well my favorite event ever was this one that SRAM and Sol Vista crew put on called the "Triple Dip". You do three runs on three different trails and one of them is chainless. They combine all your times to figure out the winner. As a twist though your mechanic gets timed on pit stops in-between runs and they add that time to your overall time.

How is the riding in Utah, where you live?
I would say that the riding in Utah is some of the best riding in the world. I feel like I've ridden on a lot of amazing terrain and it doesn't get much better than what we have to ride in the summertime in Utah.

Let's talk a bit about your part in "Arrival". How did you get involved in that?
Well Specialized called me up one day and asked me if I had any interest in being a part of the new Coastal Crew film. I said, "Heck yes! Where do I sign up?" They then put me in touch with Norbs, and the rest is rock 'n' roll history.

What was the filming process like?
It's actually a pretty chill process. Usually we just found a section of trail or a jump that we thought would look sick, then we sessioned it until we got a "nug" shot or until my legs couldn't take the hiking anymore.

Which segment in the film is your favorite?
Gotta say Kenny Smith's part. Mostly because I saw some of the stuff he rode in person and it scared me looking at it, so watching him ride it was pretty amazing. Mad props!

If you're up in the club with your lady, is it okay to get another girls number?
Call me a bit old school but I'm going to have to say "NO" on that one.

Did Norbs ever get robbed while out on the town partying?
Not that I know of. I think he learned his lesson after competing at Rampage. So, are you an official member of the Coastal Crew now?
I'm not sure I think you gotta live on the sunshine coast to be legit right?

Let's do a couple simple questions to wrap this up... Who's got the best whip?
That one's hard, too many dudes with sick whips nowadays. Scrub whip goes to Eliot Jackson hands down. And I think Brendan Fairclough's whips are pretty freaking sick.

Favorite trail in Whistler?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think there are only two trails at Whistler. Crank it up and A-Line.

One word to describe Rampage?

Rampage MVP…
I think that title goes to Cam Zink for flipping that drop at Rampage. Gave DGAF a whole new meaning that day!

Best & worst thing about Fontana?
The best thing is the turn out. So many people show up and I think that's pretty cool. The worst thing is sprinting the wall during a race run.

Which do you prefer: Race kit or jeans and tee?
Race Kit.

Song that's got you hooked?
Rap God - Eminem.

Favorite meal?
French Toast from Coco's. I'd never turn that down.

Coffee or tea?

Best travel buddy?
Brad Benedict.

Last good quote you heard...
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" - Edward Hickson.

Thanks goes out to...
The list is too long... I want to thank Mom & Dad, The Benedict Household, Blair Akerland, Specialized, Monster Energy, SRAM, Troy Lee Designs, Renthal, Cafe Rio, Bingham Cyclery, The Bike Shoppe, and Friends & Family. Thanks for all the support!
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Related Photos

  • Mitch Ropelato, Photo: Dan Severson
  • Mitch Ropelato, Photo: Dan Severson
  • Mitch Ropelato, Photo: Dan Severson
  • Mitch Ropelato, Photo: Dan Severson
  • Mitch Ropelato, Photo: Dan Severson
  • Mitch Ropelato, Photo: Dan Severson
  • Mitch Ropelato, Photo: Dan Severson
  • Mitch Ropelato, Photo: Dan Severson
  • Mitch Ropelato, Photo: Dan Severson
  • Mitch Ropelato, Photo: Dan Severson
  • Mitch Ropelato, Photo: Dan Severson
  • Mitch Ropelato, Photo: Dan Severson
  • Mitch Ropelato, Photo: Dan Severson

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