In July of 2003, Travis Bondâ€™s grandfather, B.A. Engle, was diagnosed with Hodgkinâ€™s Disease. He passed away within the month after suffering a massive heart attack.
But before he did, he imparted a message. Although he was weakened, against the nursesâ€™ orders, he told Travis â€˜to keep racing fun.â€™
Two years later, he finds himself following his grandfatherâ€™s wishes in addition to becoming one of the top downhill mountain bike riders in the world.
Travis, who started downhill biking at the end of 2002, has along the way set many goals. At only 17, heâ€™s achieved many of them.
â€œIt was a goal (representing the U.S.). I just figured I would take it race by race. If I was at that level, then it was good, but I was just really racing and having a good time,â€ he said.
On August 31st, he will find himself in Livigno Italy, riding in the Union Cycliste Internationale World Championship.
For a rider to qualify for the world championship one has to win a national race and have a top three or be leading in the points standings after the first three races.
Bond did automatically qualify by recording a first-place finish and a top three ride.
â€œItâ€™s a goal Iâ€™ve been working for the past few years and itâ€™s an honor and relief to get to that point,â€ he said.
Before heading to Italy, Bond will participate in two NORBA (National Off Road Bicycle Association) racesâ€”the first one taking place at the Snowshoe Resort in West Virginia and the second at the Mt. Snow Resort in Vermont.
â€œThe point series is at stake, but itâ€™s more to get ready for the world championships,â€ Bond said. â€œWith all my races, I put forth my best effort, he added.
A typical ride takes place at a ski resort in a heavily-wooded area or rock garden section. With speeds reaching 55 mph, a race can last anywhere from 2-5 minutes.
Just for the record Bondâ€™s best time came in Aspen, Colorado finishing the course in 2:41.
To say downhill biking is dangerous would be a severe understatement, but Bond relies on his strong faith in Christ to keep him safe.
â€œMy faith just gives me more confidence, as far as not getting injured and just racing to the best of my ability.â€
Believe it or not, Bond feels most of the adrenaline he feels comes from the competition of racing against other riders, not just the extreme nature of the sport.
â€œThe adrenaline is more from the race itselfâ€”the competition of it all,â€ he said.
Although the Bond family currently lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, they still call Denverâ€™s Westport area home.
â€œThat will always be home. Iâ€™ve grown up with them my entire life,â€ Bond said of his North Lincoln classmates. â€œI wanted to go to high school and graduate with them, but it didnâ€™t work out that way,â€ he added.
Everything happens for a reason
After riding motocross for four years, Bond injured his lower back. Little did he know his rehab (downhill biking) would become a passion and possibly a career.
As one of the top junior (18-and-under) riders in NORBA, Bond is already sponsored by Oakley. Unfortunately, since heâ€™s under 18 he canâ€™t receive any royalties from them just yet.
That will more than likely change next year when he will turn pro and join Greg Minnar, a South African world champion, on tour.
Now, the pro-circuit will have to wait. A world championship ride, NORBA points title and National Championship are all within Bondâ€™s grasps.
â€œA lot of the guys, Iâ€™ve never even ridden with, so Iâ€™m just going to try to put together a solid run,â€ Bond said of the upcoming world championship.
And even though heâ€™ll be in Europe, thereâ€™ll be plenty of fans from Denver cheering him onâ€”a fact Bond appreciates.
â€œItâ€™s just an added confidence. I just go out there to enjoy myself and their support just helps,â€ the McCallie School senior said.
Travisâ€™ mother Diana is proud to be his mom, but not because heâ€™s a great downhill biker. That is secondary.
â€œWeâ€™re (Jeff and I) happy with the accomplishments because heâ€™s reached goals he set for himself,â€ she said.
â€œThis brings me joy and happiness to see him reach his goals of being on the U.S. team and representing his country at the World Championships,â€ Diana said.
No matter how Travis does in Italy, itâ€™s an opportunity he relishes.
â€œIâ€™ll be riding with a lot of guys that Iâ€™ve looked up to before, so that will be exciting.â€
Travis Bond would like to thank his sponsors: Oakley, Jason Arsonson; Morewood Bikes USA, Richard Beytagh; Fox Shocks, Mark Fitzsimmons and Red Bull.
Don and Marion Bond, his grandparents live in Denver. Camilla Engle, his grandmother lives in Vale.
by John Mark Brooks