It’s no secret that mountain bikes are expensive, especially for a teenage boy who grows like a weed. For Luca Robillard, 14, and his mom Annie, who live in Truckee, a June trip to Coffeebar turned into the opportunity of a lifetime when the single mom and her son ran into professional mountain biker Katerina Nash.
Annie had worked on the Mountain Bike World Cup Tour for more than 10 years, so she and Nash had mutual friends. At Coffeebar in Truckee, the three got to talking about, what else, mountain biking. Luca, who was riding his mom’s old bike at the time, had been bit by the biking bug last year when he first started competing in the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) mountain bike league for Truckee. Like teenage boys do, Luca grew out of his bike in just one season and was in desperate need for a new one as he was already signed up for the 2017 season. Nash, a decorated athlete who has competed in the Olympics five times, twice as a Nordic skier and three times as a mountain biker, had a solution — the $10,000 Orbea Oiz she raced on in the 2016 Rio Olympics, on which she placed fifth.
“I wanted this super fancy bike to be used and not sit in the garage or hang in a bike shop,” Nash said of the bicycle collecting dust in her Truckee garage. “I had a great ride on that bike in Rio and wanted to hold on to it. Since I’m still a sponsored athlete and under contract, I wasn’t really able to ride my Olympic bike due to some new sponsorship. So my Olympic bike was sadly sitting in the garage and not being used.”
Luca gladly accepted the bike — which boasts electronic shifting and suspension that can be locked out remotely, and weighs only 23 pounds thanks to its carbon frame — and so began his second season competing in mountain biking, this year on a much fancier steed.
“She gave me the bike and said ‘No pressure, just have fun with it,’” Luca shared.
As fate would have it, at the first race of Luca’s season he saw Nash, who was a special guest at the competition, just before he started the pre-ride. The two were able to scope the course together and Luca explained that Nash gave him suggestions about how to approach the course, and more importantly, about how to approach the course on his new bike, which he nicknamed “The Beast.”
In his first season racing, Luca didn’t do well. This year, however, with the help of The Beast, he placed third in every race he has competed in. His last race is Oct. 15 and he hopes to end the season with a first place finish.“The bike not only makes me faster, but it makes me more excited to get out on the trail and be competitive,” he said.
To complement his summer of mountain biking, Luca worked at Paco’s Bike and Ski, an outdoor retailer and repair shop in Truckee. He was mainly cleaning bikes and occasionally helping out with repair work, but he says he learned a lot about bikes and was able to do minor maintenance on his Orbea Oiz.
In the end, Nash believes that mountain biking should, first and foremost, be about having fun.
“I’m very happy to hear Luca rode my bike and got to enjoy it,” Nash said. “He can even do a wheelie. I can’t, so my fancy bike gets to do more things, and, most importantly, gets to ride around Tahoe instead of hanging on some kind of display.”
Since Luca is still a growing boy he will outgrow Nash’s bike by next season. But thankfully, she is ready and willing to pass The Beast on to another deserving kid.
“I think Luca will be too tall for it next year, but I would like to offer my bike to another NICA racer,” Nash said. “Maybe a girl this time around.”