MTB – MAG – Alright Luca, get us up to speed and fill us in a bit. How old are you? Who do you race for? How long have you been racing?
Luca – Hey MTB-MAG, I’m 18 years old. I race for: Intense Cycles, Troy Lee Designs, Deity Components, DVO Suspension, Shred Optics, iMountainBike, Five-Ten, Maxima Bike, and Ryno Power. I’ve been racing since I was 12, so I just finished by 6th season.
MTB – MAG – So, your family is from Italy and you’ve been able to travel back there now and again to get some riding in. That gave you a pretty unique perspective on riding and racing from a very young age. In your opinion, has that given you an advantage? Do you like the riding better here in California? Or in Italy?
Luca – Yeah, I travel to Italy every summer to visit family and vacation. I usually try to organize it so I can catch a race or two while I’m there. Last year I raced the Val Di Sole World Cup and this year I went to Meribel for the World Cup Finals. I feel it has definitely given me an advantage. Since I was 12, I have brought my bike with me every year and spent most my time riding at Pila and Cervinia. The riding out there is awesome – for the variety of trail, lack of crowds and price of lift tickets it’s the best riding in the world.
MTB – MAG – So this year you claimed your first National Championship title in Dual Slalom. You edged out the king of Slalom, Kyle Strait fair and square on your 6” trail bike. DH is your focus, but the last couple of years you’ve come into your own at DS as well. Tell us about that weekend a bit.
Luca – I grew up racing BMX, so slalom has always been natural to me since it uses a similar skill set. I have always loved racing dual, ever since my first race at the Sea Otter Classic in Cat 2 it has just progressed from there. National Champs this year was a pretty insane race. I was not necessarily going there to win, I just wanted to be out racing slalom and having a good time. After qualifying 4th, I just wanted to get a top 3 but one thing led to another and I found myself in the final against Kyle Strait. He beat me in the first heat by just a few tenths of a second and I knew I had more speed on the other lane. So, going into the last heat when we switched lanes I knew I just had to lay it all out on the line, keep it smooth and pinned to make up the differential and was really excited to be able to make it happen.
MTB – MAG – What changes would you like to see in the racing here stateside? Not just on a National level, but also on a local one as well.
Luca – I think Donny at Southridge USA has been doing a great job having a local series up at Fontana each winter. It gives us a good chance to get a few races in before the National and World Cup races start up. However, since the end of the NORBA’s there has been pretty drastic decline in downhill racing in the states and now with the rise of Enduro, there is even less of a push for it. I have always raced downhill and never plan on transferring over to Enduro. I really hope to see some of the US brands step up and sponsor some more of the Pro GRT’s and fund them so we are able to have UCI sanctioned races that give out points, which in the end would make it easier to race World Cups. If we could get US racing back to what I hear it was when it was almost impossible to walk through the pits at Big Bear because of the amount of spectators and riders…then I would be stoked.
MTB – MAG – Who is your favorite racer?
Luca – I’d have to go with Aaron Gwin, when he has a fully pinned run there is no one more fun to watch ride a bike.
MTB – MAG – What is your favorite place to ride?
Luca – Pila, Italy
MTB – MAG – So, most people might not know this, but you’re also quite skilled behind a lens. You recently showed us a few pictures you cracked off at Meribel and had some bangers in there. Do you have any plans to dive deeper into photography? Would you mind if we shared that sweet pan of Remi Thirion?
Luca – Of course! I’m not really sure where I want to take it at this point. I honestly don’t really enjoy shooting mountain biking much, but if decide to dive deeper into photography I would focus most my time on portraits and landscapes. I really enjoy photography and it’s great to bring my camera along to races and get to photograph all the cool places mountain biking brings you.
MTB – MAG – You just finished high school and we overheard you say you’re going to take a year off and figure some things out and focus on racing a bit before diving into college. Do you have any long term goals or plans? Or are you just shooting from the hip?
Luca – I’m uncertain at this point. All I know is that I want to keep riding my bike and taking photos. If I can find a way to make it happen and still have a roof over my head I’ll be happy.
MTB – MAG – This year you hit a couple of World Cups in North America as well as Meribel. You didn’t have the best of luck. In the US, you’re one of the fastest racers, but those WC kids are insanely fast. Was this a bit of a rude awakening for you?
Luca – Yeah for sure. I did a few races as a junior last year but the competition is not nearly as competitive as the men’s class. I didn’t qualify for any of them this year but I was pretty close at all of the ones I went to. It was great to get some more experience on them because without it you’re never going to be able to hang with those dudes. I know what I need to do over the off season to qualify and its just working on putting it all together. I feel that I am not necessarily riding sections all that much slower than the top guys its just matter of being able to link everything up and maintaining good speed all the way down the track.
MTB – MAG – So, last we knew you were spending some time training with Gwin and working with RynoPower. Do you intend to continue on and ramp up the training over the off season to come into 2015 swinging? What are some of your plans and goals?
Luca – Yeah I’ve actually now transferred to the Rockwell Gym in Murrieta. I am still working with the same trainer – Ben Clark, and am very pleased with how my training has been going. This year, since I’ll be taking some time away from school, I’ll be able to commit to training 100% and build as much strength as possible to get everything all dialed in for 2015.
MTB – MAG – Right on! Thanks for taking the time to chat and shoot with us. Best of luck with the off season and with 2015.
Luca – Thanks! Looking forward to it already.