- Associated Press - Saturday, March 15, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Jason Sager’s first mountain bike race was kind of a disaster.

Sager, then an LSU student, took off from a “standstill to a maximum effort” like everyone else lined up for the start.

“And 10 minutes later there I was, hunched over my bike, dry-heaving in the woods,” said Sager. “I knew nothing about pacing yourself or what that felt like.”

Now a veteran professional mountain bike racer and team manager, the 39-year-old Sager travels the world to take on the sport’s toughest, longest races.

But it was that first race in Mobile, Ala., nearly 20 years ago that hooked him.

“It was kind of cool because of this battle both with yourself and the bike and with other people, too,” he said.

Growing up a skateboarder in Baton Rouge, Sager bought a mountain bike for transportation when he started classes at LSU. Then he heard of mountain bike trails on Hooper Road in north Baton Rouge and started riding. He enjoyed the technical aspects, learning skills and testing them on new obstacles.

And he loved the speed.

Riding and racing, he sped ahead of friends and competitors.

“Genetically it was always there,” Sager said. “I just never chose to use it. I wasn’t interested in traditional high school sports where you could discover it.”

He rose quickly through the ranks of southeastern U.S. competition and placed well in national collegiate races.

“He was always the fast kid, the really fast kid,” said Joshua Rosby, a Baton Rouge-based mountain bike racer whom Sager coached.

Growing as a racer was difficult in Baton Rouge.

“You had to be pretty motivated to live in Louisiana because the cycling scenes were all pretty far away,” he said.

After college, Sager moved to Austin, Texas, to train and compete in professional races. For five years he focused solely on racing and earned top-10 and top-20 spots in the national professional race series.

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