Brighton cyclist Spitler off to national mountain bike meet

Brighton grad Jerry Spitler will compete in USA Cycling's national college mountain bike meet this weekend at Missoula, Montana. He is carpooling with members of the Michigan Tech team for the 24-hour drive to and from the meet. (Photos by Scott Crady)
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Jerry Spitler had reason to celebrate and worry after qualifying for a national mountain biking meet earlier this month.

He was in, but how would he get there? And, before that, how would he pay for the trip?

First, Spitler, a freshman at Northern Michigan who hails from Brighton, decided to come up with the money.

“I’m very good at selling,” the marketing major did.

And he was, lining up 10 sponsors to help pay for the trip to the USA Cycling National Collegiate Mountain Biking Championships in Missoula, Montana, which runs Friday through Sunday.

Getting there was the next hurdle, and a phone call from an unexpected source was key.

It turned out that Max Ellingson, the president of Michigan Tech’s mountain biking club had qualified but was unable to attend.

Jerry Spitler makes a jump during a recent race. Spitzer lined up sponsors to help pay for his trip to the USA Cycling national mountain biking meet, and hopes to eventually go pro.

“He said, ‘I’d rather have someone competing rather than have that spot go to waste,” Spitzer said.

And so the offer was extended from Northern’s biggest rival.

They departed Tuesday for Missoula, about a 24-hour drive from Michigan Tech, for the competition at Marshall Mountain.

“They accepted me with open arms,” Spitler said. “The ride out there will be interesting as well as the ride back. We’re both different schools, so it’s going to be different… it’s going to be interesting and we’re very happy they extended their arms to help a different teammate. It’s going to be interesting.”

Spitler got his start in the sport at Mt. Brighton, where a mountain bike track has been installed on one of the hills since 2013.

“I placed on the podium time after time and realized I could go somewhere with this,” Spitler said. “I expanded my horizons tremendously. I reached out to companies (for sponsorships), reached out to schools, got up here at Northern Michigan and joined their team. I never thought in a million years it would happen, but it happened.”

Spitler is enough of a competitor to be pumped for the challenge, but realist enough to treat this weekend as a competition that’s one of many.

“I look at it as I’m a freshman and I have three more years of riding,” he said in a phone conversation last week. “I hope to progress year after year after year. There are multiple years to make it there, and there’s always all winter to train. So I’m going to go there with the most positive mindset, put my best ride down and see what I can do. That’s what I did at regionals. I’m pretty sure I can do that at nationals.”

Spitler got started in mountain biking via dirt biking as a kid.

“I started dirt-biking in my family’s back yard,” he said. “I came from a dirt-biking background and I wanted to try pedal-biking. It felt even better than a dirt bike.”

Among his sponsors are Brighton Ford, of which his father, Scott, is a part owner, and with Banner Factory Michigan of Brighton.

His continued success leads Jerry Spitler to believe he can go pro after college.

“I have a shot at this, and I feel like I can go somewhere,” he said. “That’s my plan for the next couple of years.”