Steamboat Springs Cory Prager knows all the tips frequently handed out to athletes, the words from coaches meant to inspire them and to help them excel.
He’s spent the bulk of his free time in recent years handing out that exact advice, coaching through Steamboat Springs’ winters as a member of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s freestyle skiing staff. He then works through the summers coaching the program he helped found, the Winter Sport’s Club summer cycling gravity team.
“So,” he explained, “it’s nice to compete for myself and just go out and have fun.”
Prager was inspired early last spring when he saw his first motorcycle race. He plotted through that summer and worked through the winter, and when he packed away the skis this spring, he was ready and eager for his first go at his new sport: motorcycle racing.
“I’m trying to focus my efforts on that,” said the downhill mountain biking aficionado, who’s raced in that sport in the past, as well.
Prager bought a used racing bike, a Honda CVR 600 RR, very similar to a bike he already owned. With the new one, however, he made alterations and tweaks for racing.
Learning the sport didn’t happen fast, and midway through his first season, Prager freely admits he’s not there yet.
He attended a Front Range racing school in March and already has competed in four weekend events in the Motorcycle Roadracing Association’s circuit, which rotates races between a track near Denver, one in Colorado Springs and another in Pueblo.
Each trip out has been an adventure and full of lessons.
“At the first race, I was nervous,” Prager said. “Going 130 miles an hour, there’s not a lot of room for error. I was just worried about the people around me and I really didn’t want to get in anyone’s way.”
That style of racing led to a finish at the back of the pack, but getting in good with the series’ other racers began to yield big results for the rookie.
They helped him learn everything, from what kind of tires to buy to how to cut a corner.
“It’s all pretty overwhelming, but with the help and support of the people in the organization it has gotten better,” Prager said. “There’s so much knowledge out there and those guys are willing to share it. I just kept my ears open.
“It’s like a close-knit family.”
Steadily, Prager’s results have improved. In five events his first weekend, he didn’t log a finish inside the top 20. But July 9 in an event in Pueblo, he managed one 20th-place showing. He was 15th in another race and cracked his first top 10, finishing 10th in a solo endurance middleweight race.
Prager is quick to thank those who have helped him, from the small collection of local sponsors he pieced together — his employer, Honey Stinger; Backcountry Provisions; and Urbane — to his friends and family, who’ve offered support, to his girlfriend, one-person pit crew Chelsea Soderberg. And he was quick to point how much he’s loving his new sport.
With new downhill mountain bike trails in Steamboat still a year away, he’s happy with how he’s spending his time.
“I like going out there and pushing myself,” he said. “I like pulling up and knowing there are 20 or 30 other guys that want to beat you, all on similar machines and knowing you’re all about to go out there and dice it up.
“I’m pretty competitive. Coaching kids all the time, this makes a great outlet for that.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com