Propping elbows with day-old scabs on the table, 21-year-old professional mountain biker Carson Storch from Bend calmly explains, "I like being in the air."
"Oh, these," he says when asked about the scabs that look as if a tiger has clawed both of his arms. "These are actually from Mt. Bachelor," he explains. "I just washed out in a berm. They're not bad."
The born-and-raised Bendite started snowboarding as a kid, but in sixth grade started mountain biking because his friends were doing it. Since then, it has been a steady climb in a sport that is more often measured by quick hops and intense big-air tricks. For the past several years in particular, Storch has been competing in the Freeride Mountain Bike (FMB) World Series, an organization that oversees fast-moving disciplines like "Big Air" and "Big Mountain." Within FMB, Storch has consistently turned in impressive performances in a number of events, especially slopestyle, a downhill run that combines jumps and tricks.
Yet, in spite of solid rides this past year, Storch came up a bit short for an invitation to the season granddady race, Crankworx, in Whistler, which happens each year in mid-August. Based on points scored throughout the year, Crankworks invites the top 12 FMB riders. Storch was just outside that elite group, and listed as the second alternative. On the off-chance that not just one, but two riders would drop out of the race, Storch practiced in the weeks leading up to the event. And, then, on the very morning of the competition, he received a phone call letting him know that two spots had opened up as two riders had dropped out. Their absence was his gain, and after what Storch describes as a so-so performance, he climbed to eighth place overall. "It could've been better," he says modestly, "it could've been worse."
Already that strong performance has started to open even more doors for the young rider. On Sept. 2 he will head to Germany to compete in the Red Bull District Ride and is hoping for a spot at the Red Bull Rampage, an elite-level race in Utah in late September.
In recent years, slope style has begun to gain more attention. Last year was its first year in the X-Games.
Although a top player in the adrenaline-fueled sport, Storch is surprisingly calm and measured about his approach to his sport and to his career. "It's about playing your cards right," he says.
"You can risk it all on one contest," he explains. "or in my case, play it conservatively and try to be at the next one, and make a career out of it."