My journey through this whole thing has been long and arduous. It has also been extremely rewarding, powerful, fulfilling and beautiful. And even with these ups and downs I don't know that I would change a thing.
On September 1, 2007 I crashed at the Jeep KOM mountain bike finals in Vail, Colorado and was now a paraplegic. Vail has a bit of history for me. It's where I raced my first Mountain Bike World Championships as a Jr. and even though I didn't set the world on fire it fuelled a fire in me to work harder to achieve my goals. It turned out to be a very rewarding professional mtn. bike career lasting 13 years.
I'd been racing MTB as a junior and after turning 18 I moved to Durango, Colorado in 1995 to be a full time pro mountain biker. In 1995 I won a Junior Downhill Title while racing for Haro Bikes and the first team to take a chance on me. That next year I moved into the stacked pro women's field!
In 1996 I raced for the new Rotec team. It was one of those character building years with a completely new bike design but we pulled through with some decent results. Towards the end of that season I suffered my first of three broken clavicles and needed time to heal up. My sporadic results that year were difficult, but while nursing my busted collarbone I interviewed with another team and got the job.
In 1997 I signed with the Mt. Dew/Specialized Team. We had a solid team with some heavy hitters. That first season with the team was mind blowing especially for a 22 year old. In 1999 I extended my contract with the team and had some of my best World Cup DH finishes of my career. I stopped worrying about results and focused on the fun and the results followed. I was placing in the top three at NORBA DH events, won a World Cup Dual event, and finished up with a gold, silver, and two bronze at the X-Games. Specialized ended up dropping their DH team at the end of that year and we were all looking for new homes.
A couple months later I got a call from Team Yeti. Yeti has a rich history in the sport and has helped catapult the careers of several riders. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to ride for such an amazing tribe. I struggled a bit with results that year but was able to come away with my first US Dual Slalom National Title.
After 2 years with the Yeti/Pearl Izumi team I signed with Giant Bicycles. We had a great team and a great atmosphere which is a big piece of the puzzle needed to succeed. In 2006, I won the US National Downhill title not realizing it would be my last. In 2007, I chose to stick to 4-cross and semi-retired the downhill bike. I was thinking too much of the risk and not the thrill and that's a sign you need to take a step back. This had me thinking what next?
Circle back around to Vail, Colorado and September 1st, 2007 during the Jeep KOM finals in Vail, Colorado. I had qualified fastest on our most difficult track of the series. It was fast and had a tricky rhythm section where timing needed to be precise. I remember that day vividly because it was the day I broke my neck and back. I crashed in the semi-finals I landing on my head breaking C7 in my neck and T12 in my low back.
The next few years were kind of a blur. I did a few months of rehab at Craig Hospital in Denver and then headed back home to California. I continued with physical therapy at Project Walk in Carlsbad and started meeting other young people with an amazing energy and we all continued to push each other in physio every day.
In 2010 I headed north to Canada and fell in love instantly. At that time some friends started a fundraiser to purchase a Sport-On Explorer adaptive MTB to get me back on the mountain. In a matter of months I had my first aMTB! This bike has allowed me to feel my independence again and that is my freedom.
Sports is my life so having the equipment to do the things I love helps give me my identity back. It's now been 11 years since my injury and I'm married, live in Canada, have two dogs, I mountain bike, I play for the Canadian National Basketball Team, and play tennis when I can. I couldn't have dreamed where my life would have led me. Some of it good and some of it bad but all of it needed!
Thanks for reading and I hope these bikes can open up a world of independence for you like they did me.
Photo: Niall Pinder
Reps across Canada
Elladee has been a racer, rep, instructor and advocate in the mountain bike industry for over 25 years, and has, over the past several years, worked extensively with adaptive riders and organizations on trail access and inclusivity within outdoor spaces. She’s worked with several bike industry brands such as Shimano, Pearl Izumi, Nutcase helmets, 661, and Swagman and continues to pursue personal adventures aboard her mountain bike.
She loves getting people of all abilities out riding trails and has a wealth of knowledge regarding adaptive mountain biking.
She calls North Vancouver, BC home and lives with her partner Tara and their rescued furbabies Miya and Gomita.
SPORT-ON REP ONTARIO, QUEBEC, NEW BRUNSWICK, NOVA SCOTIA, AND NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Jake Thomas has lived his life chasing adventure as a competitive waterskier, downhill skier, and mountain biker. He has spent 30 + years coaching various sports and brings real world experience to his tactics. In 1997 fresh out of film school he started Riley Lake Productions which is a television and film production company born from years of action sport filmmaking. In the winter of 2017 he suffered a spinal cord injury during a motorsports accident and became a paraplegic. Not letting this injury get him down, he started skiing again and was rostered to the Canadian Adaptive Water Ski team
placing 2nd in trick and slalom a the 2018 Canadian Nationals only a year and a half after his injury. During this same year, he helped assemble Canada’s first all hand cycle 6 man team to compete in the 24 Hour Summer Solstice mountain bike race where he would test his strength and the durability of his Sport-on Explorer III hand cycle. When he’s not busy with work or chasing his 4 children around, he is usually spotted on the mountain bike trails of Northern Ontario where he continues to push the limits and inspire those around him to never give up. He is a great brand ambassador for Sport-On hand cycles and Tara Llanes Industries helping to grow the brand in Ontario and Quebec.