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Eric Carter to Manage Specialized Gravity Team

MTB - Pinkbike Interview

  • Eric Carter, Photo: Ryan Cleek
  • Eric Carter, Photo: Ryan Cleek
  • Eric Carter, Photo: Dan Severson
Richard Cunningham / Pinkbike

It is official. Eric Carter will lead the Specialized Gravity team that includes Aaron Gwin, Troy Brosnan and Mitch Ropelato. Carter was up at Specialized's headquarters in Morgan Hill, California, to interview for the position, ride with the boys there and to begin to sort out the details for what should be a wild season of World Cup downhill racing. The former National and World Champion is well respected for his work ethic, his ability to analyze race courses and riding technique, and most of all, for his unshakable pleasant demeanor. Carter fills the slot left by Specialized Mad Catz team manager Sean Heimdal who recently resigned. We caught up with Eric at the airport on his way home for this exclusive interview.

Morgan Hill is a long way from Temecula. What were the factors that led up to this position?
When Sean Heimdal resigned as team manager, Specialized started looking for a replacement right away. I am good friends with Ryan Cleek (Global marketing at Specialized) and he was the one who first put my name in the hat. My brother-in-law Rich Houseman manages the Specialized development team and he also put my name in. I guess that they thought I could be a good candidate for the job, because Geoff Rogers, the Global Sports Manager there started asking around and Stikman (Troy Lee Designs) put in a good word for me too.

Rumor has it that you have been up there for a week of meetings. Were the team members on hand as well?
Aaron Gwin was up there for this trip, but it was an overlap. He was visiting to check out his bikes and give input about that stuff. Gwin sat in on some of the meetings. Mitch Ropelato was there, but he lives in Morgan Hill, so he’s always visiting.

You know most of the team on a personal basis, can you tell us what their consensus was?
I didn’t talk to those guys. I know that I was checked out and approved by those guys to make sure that they were confident that I could do what was necessary to put together a competitive racing team. Geoff talked to them. I held back on that, because I didn’t want everyone to get excited and then have the deal not happen.

What is your specific job title?
World Cup Gravity Team Manager.

The World Cup Circus will have you travelling again. How did you break the news to your family?
My wife Laura was good about it. She was a road team manager for Schwinn, so she knows what the job requires - and she knows I am not taking the job to hang out in Las Vegas. Compared to a nine-to-five job, that only gives me a few hours each day to be with the family, there is an off season with racing, which is pretty good. Ethan is ten and Cole is seven, so we will be looking forward to spending that quality time with the boys.

Do you envision a particular plan for the team, or will you be taking it as it comes?
Yeah, obviously. I was briefed there that companies don’t normally instigate change, so that is why I was brought in. Obviously we need to do things differently this year. I’ve done this. I know what it takes to race at the World Cup level and about the pressures that are on the athletes. Truth be told, all World Cup racers have trouble with their self-confidence. They are going into a corner all out and if they aren’t confident, they will crash. Steve Smith found his confidence last year, and Aaron struggled. Mitch Repelato, Troy Brosnan and Gwin all bring something to the team. They gel really well together, but I have to figure out the recipe that makes each member’s energy feed on the others, so all of us can improve. I learned that from GT – they were a good team and I watched how Doug Martin and Wally ran their programs. Hopefully, I can remember all those things and use them.

Obviously the goal is to win races. That said, will the team be focusing on key venues this season?
I have a lot of things that I want to do, but I’m keeping them close to my chest. I know we can do well, so I made a list of goals and put it into an envelope. I’ll look at it when the season is over and see how we did.

Is World Cup racing different now than it was when you were racing?
Technology has changed, the athlete’s performance has changed, riding technique has changed, but people and their mindset are the same. The things I learned about camaraderie, drive and creating a supportive atmosphere will help my people reach their goals.

Will you drop out of your Southern California Enduro series?
No. We are still promoting the enduro series. There may be one or two events that I won’t be able to attend, but we have sponsorship commitments and a lot of racers who are fired up to race. Specialized is one of our key sponsors. We aren’t making any money on it, but it is great to see the smiling faces on the racers. Robert and I will keep doing it as long as we are breaking even.

Any final thoughts or shout-outs?
Thanks to Hyper. I’m leaving that position and that was an incredible learning process. I learned how to make bikes, work with factories and now I understand how many people touch a bike as it comes through the process. I am grateful for Rich Houseman, Ryan Cleek, and Stik for thinking of me among all those who were considered. Specialized is a big operation, I’d like to thank them for bringing me in and having faith that we can achieve our goals.

And of course, I have to thank my family and my mom for supporting me all these years. They’ve always had my back when it came to chasing these dreams in the bike industry. My path has always been different, with all the crazy travel and work schedules that come with this bicycling wonderfulness and it would not be possible to do all that without the support from my family.
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  • Eric Carter, Photo: Ryan Cleek
  • Eric Carter, Photo: Ryan Cleek
  • Eric Carter, Photo: Dan Severson

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