Deep in the northern eddy of Marin County spills the oversized town of Novato, unfurling and punctuated over local geography and infrastructure – sun baked mountainous afterthoughts, a freeway, and wandering fingers of a Sulfurous marsh that lap against the back of a Costco-centric strip mall. Novato, where the traffic is thick, the Oak trees parched, the hills tyrannically steep, and the dust the sort of loose film that stings the inner walls of lungs as it enters in still, overcooked air. From this severe landscape of the scorched, Mark Weir and Ben Cruz have reared their ornery heads, unwilling to take no for an answer in an environment that crushes most mountain bikers’ dreams.
Along came Marco, the kid that didn’t stop digging in the pump track just beyond Weir’s porch. In a quiet state of peace, he just picked up a bike and went way too fast. So fast that the crowing and chiding in Weir’s backyard came to a halt. The kid could ride. The kid could ride quick… real quick… and through a few local CCX races and some unapologetic hurls down slopes at Bart’s Ranch, Mark and Ben took a keen eye to the quick guy. Complied below are some fun questions and responses from Mark Weir and Ben Cruz that give an inside look into who Marco Osborne is and how WTB discovered him. Marco is, after all, the newest member to Team WTB and quite possibly the fastest guy that nobody’s heard of in enduro racing – veterans and legends make way, along comes Marco, at a chilling pace of composed fury.
Marco taming the slop of Mt. Hood, May 2013
…What about on the trails, ever watch the guy eat it hard, ride a line like a hack, lose his footing, not be able to unclip and have a slow-mo fall – anything?
Ben Cruz: All of the above!! Mark and Jason always say they don’t like following me. I don’t like following Marco. He is flat out at all times!! His level of speed in some sections is like world cup dh but then in the next corner he goes from high speed glory, to a liability!! He has the potential to be really good in the sport and with the help of the team he will learn what it takes to be a front runner. About a month ago, he was leading me down a trail I built, probably have 500+ runs on, and we were mobbing. We got to a section where I knew I had to brake and he went for it, flat out. I passed him in a cloud of dust and he was hugging a Madrone. Funny as hell to watch though, haha.
What is it about Novato that breeds the fast guys? It seems different than the rest of Marin, or even California for that matter. Any reason for so many shredders from 94949?
Mark Weir: That's the 94947 but 9 works too. Don't know really. It's just not easy riding here. We are the forgotten part of Marin. The cultural waste land I have heard said. Well we do things different here. We like to stay disconnected, I think that makes us driven by just our circle. There is also a long line of self abuse. Maybe one would say its macho. Braking your self over your own knee is not macho, its just dumb. We do this, we don't know why.
Life’s tough in Novato, even for RC cars as Mark Weir demonstrates
Can Marco hang with the Novato tough guy lifestyle?
Mark Weir: He has the silent strength. He knows where he is good and knows what he needs to work on. Very open minded and always ready to suffer like a dog.
No, really, can he?
Mark Weir: Time tells no lies.
Is there a certain type of rider you guys look for?
Ben Cruz: Yeah, a mountain goat. Someone that climbs like hell and isn’t in it to recover on the dh. Marco is a perfect match to the team if you ask me. He is funny as hell, and knows how to have fun. Not to mention he likes fishing and beer. That’s a good teammate.
So there’s Jerome Clementz, very smooth, very calculated, he rides a section and it doesn’t even look like he’s hurt his rims one bit. Then there’s Ben Cruz, who will definitely blast down something full boar. There’s Jason Moeschler who just can’t be messed with for fitness. How does Marco compare considering the riding styles of those three?
Mark Weir: I think he has a piece of all of us. He has the tools to be better then all of us at all disciplines. He is still very green and has much to learn. That makes him a real threat. To other racers.
What’s his strongest asset as a rider – is he more of a real deal technical rider, a faster course guy, better in the air than others, a better wet weather type of rider, a real fitness junkie who can all out pedal, a finesse rider who is never hard on wheels, what does he do best?
Ben Cruz: He is a snowboarder at heart. He is so comfortable at speed and just flowing the mountain. He is definitely the best in the air on the team, since we all look like goons most of the time! Marco is “enduro.” He just goes with it and makes the trail do what he wants, doesn’t fight it, just carves like he is on powder. The guy is loose and fast and lets his bike do the talking for him.
Marco Osborne, airborne, at the 2013 Oregon Enduro in Camas
How has it been traveling to events with Marco? You learn a lot about someone when you travel with them. Does he chew his food as thoroughly as Jason Moeschler or blow up the hotel room like Ben Cruz? Any stories so far?
Mark Weir: The kid makes air. Never traveled with a guy that has proper burps when he wakes up. It's really kind gross. Like they say... Good with the bad. Great guy to have if you are looking to stoke a fire.
What was he riding before you guys set him up with a sweet Jekyll, something clapped?
Ben Cruz: He was riding Weir’s old 04 or 05 Downieville Nomad. It is beat to piss. Soo clapped. There are some nice custom College of Marin welding class welds holding on his headtube, and god only knows what other sketchy shit he had rigged on there. Two weeks ago, he let a buddy of mine borrow it in Downieville and it held up just fine. Those 38 pound pigs are indestructible.
You were at the forefront of All Mountain taking off in the US and are now at the front of Enduro gaining full acceptance and popularity in the US. Any sage wisdom you’d care to pass down to an up and comer like Marco trying to make his mark in a burgeoning race discipline?
Mark Weir: The difference is clear how to win. The prep work will not be what I call fun anymore. Working hard, making sacrifices and then winning is something that's perpetual. But it's not for everyone. Just giving the kids you think have the chance, from there it's up to them.
What’s Marco’s personality like, is he a boaster, modest, loud, life of the party, funny, quiet, social, recluse? Give us an idea of this guy.
Ben Cruz: He is a quiet guy ‘til you know him. Real hard to read what he is thinking. He isn’t loud like me or the outspoken storyteller like Weir, and isn’t anything like Moeschler. He is the missing link to the team that we have been looking for. He is really sarcastic and a pretty respectful guy. But like a true WTB kid, get a few beers in the guy and you’ll see him doing the funky chicken on the dance floor.
Ben Cruz, loud, as self-described
Marco Osborne, quiet, as Ben-described.
At Marco: How is it traveling with Team WTB? Do you end up going to races further away? Does it get old traveling long distances in a car with people? Any exciting stories from traveling with the team so far?
Marco Osborne: Traveling with the team has been a blast. Depending on who I am with, it can be a completely different story. Weir and Cruz both love getting rowdy. When I am with Jason Moeschler, I feel like we are going to church, he is so well-behaved and professional. I can never find myself getting into trouble when traveling with Jason, but with Weir and Cruz, we are always trying to get out of trouble.
This season, I ended up traveling more often and further than I ever expected. Traveling in the car all the time doesn't really bother me, as long as Jason isn't always eating his oat meal and swishing his smoothie around his mouth for better digestion. I am always stoked to get out of town and discover new trail and a new adventure. Some of the best times are had when we are not racing. Ben Cruz and I went out to the Lakes Basin near Downieville last weekend for some fishing and long rides. We explored a very secluded lake called Young America. It was a tough ride, which turned into hiking down a steep notch into Granite boulders. It was well worth the hike, catching more than 15 fish each and then watching Ben take a huge bite out of a fresh trout, destroying the guts and having fish eggs all over his face. It was an awesome trip in the Sierras hanging out with my teammate and close friends.
At Ben: Will you be schlepping this Novatan about Europe with you next year? Any plans of shaming him with the real deal Euro enduro scene? If so, do you think Marco will already be able to hang with the Euro enduro race scene, or is there stuff he’ll need to focus on before that?
Ben Cruz: I sure hope we can get him out there. First he needs a passport. His first plane flight was to Colorado last month!! He will be just fine. But maybe we need to get him some socks. Tall whites aren’t gonna cut it with the schwanky euro scene.
Any wisdom you’d want to give him about becoming a rising enduro star? Anything you learned along the way that you’d like Marco to know?
Ben Cruz: Have fun, be yourself, and don’t stop. There were times when I was broke, hungry, and thought I was gonna be a bum but ya can’t ever give up. You’re not gonna get rich racing bikes, but your quality of life will be better than you can ever imagine. When you do what you want with your life, challenge yourself and smile everyday, you’re living it. Ride your bike, drink beer, and dig trail. Do that, the trails of the world will dig themselves.
At Weir: If you could describe Marco in 3 words, what they be?
Mark Weir: Comfortable in his skin. 4 words, sorry.
Marco Osborne: I am stoked to be riding full WTB product this year, but it’s not my tire I'm worried about, it’s staying out of trouble while hanging around these dirtbags.