For most of his life, Ethan Johnson had dreamed of the day he would compete in the Winter Olympics as a member of the Nordic combined ski team.
Considering that, it might seem odd that Johnson was sitting at the top of a ski jump in Park City, Utah, late last winter in the middle of a competition trying to get mountain biking off his mind.
"It wasn't a good day for jumping," Johnson recalls. "It was really warm and I had been fighting the conditions all day. I think that's when it really hit me and all I wanted to do was jump on my bike and go ride."
In that moment, it became clear to Johnson that he was making the right choice.
For more than a year, he had battled with the idea of giving up Nordic combined and pursuing mountain biking full time. While most of his Nordic combined teammates look at biking as a way to stay in shape during the off-season, Johnson has taken a more seriously slant on the sport in recent years.
He had fallen in love with the idea of racing mountain bikes after watching a Town Challenge race more than six years ago.
"That was the first time I saw off-road biking; the next season I was racing in the Town Challenge series," Johnson said.
The past several years Johnson has split his time between the two sports, skiing in the winter and pedaling his way to the top in the summer.
"I got into it slowly and just kept working at it," Johnson said.
He decided to give up Nordic Combined at the start of last winter and got a big boost earlier this year when he was named to the Balance Bar/Devo race team -- maybe the top junior mountain bike racing teams in the country.
"If you're a junior this is the team to be on," Johnson said.
Johnson said being named to the team has already helped him hook up with national sponsors such as Giant bikes and Cane Creek wheels.
"Equipment is expensive," Johnson said. "It's a big help when you can get that stuff and not have to pay for it."
Since John Kemp founded the team in 1994, Team Devo has consistently produced some of the top racers in the United States. Johnson is hoping to gain more attention this season as a member of the team.
"I've already had seven races this season," Johnson said.
He finished 11th in the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, Calif., four weeks ago in the junior X division and already is looking forward to racing in Big Bear at another major national race June 16.
Johnson plans to take part in the National Race Series, which includes five major events this summer.
The top finishers will qualify for the World Championships or the World Junior Championships.
Johnson knows it will take one of his best seasons to make it to Lugano, Switzerland, and get a shot at his first junior championship.
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