Former U.S. Olympic mountain biker and Exeter native Adam Craig is now working to promote the sport at Sugarloaf Mountain in western Maine. Part of his job is to spearhead the creation of rugged, natural enduro and downhill race courses on the slope. Credit: Courtesy of Craig Milliman

Many of Adam Craig’s formative athletic moments were spent at Sugarloaf Mountain.

But while skiing may have introduced the Exeter native to the trails on Maine’s second-tallest peak, his experiences as a teenage mountain biker — testing himself at the resort’s Widowmaker Challenge races during the mid-1990s — eventually propelled him to Olympic heights.

More than two decades later, Craig’s memories of those early experiences will serve as a foundation of sorts for his new job as Sugarloaf’s mountain bike race and event sales manager.

“I raced up there a bunch, and that was one of the first places I noticed that I could keep up with some of the pro guys,” said Craig, a 19-time USA Cycling mountain bike national champion who represented the United States at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

“Some of my earliest racing memories are from up there. It was great to have that culture then and it’s great to have that culture re-emerging now.”

The 39-year-old Craig, who most recently has lived in the mountain biking mecca of Bend, Oregon, will promote the sport at Sugarloaf. He’ll work with organizers to attract races and other events to the mountain.

He’ll also take a hands-on approach in creating enduro and downhill race courses at Sugarloaf. He’ll help guide the development of the resort’s forthcoming lift-accessed mountain bike park with trails for all ability levels, which is part of Sugarloaf’s 2030 development plan.

“What Sugarloaf has going for it is the same thing it has going for it in the winter,” Craig said. “It’s the second-tallest mountain in Maine and there’s just good terrain so we can make good long runs that for New England standards can give people a good, exciting ride.”

Craig, the former top-ranked American on the International Cycling Union’s World Cup circuit, competed around the globe on top downhill and slalom race courses for more than a decade.

After illness curtailed his bid for a trip to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, he turned his attention to enduro racing. The newer mountain biking discipline features timed stages ridden amid more rugged trail conditions. In his first year, Craig finished ninth in the 2013 Enduro World Series championships.

Craig retired from competitive racing in 2017 but has maintained close ties with the sport.

He has continued a relationship with Giant Bicycles that began in 2003, serving as an ambassador in product development, marketing initiatives, and providing advocacy and support for the mountain bike community.

Former U.S. Olympic mountain biker and Exeter native Adam Craig is now working to promote the sport at Sugarloaf Mountain in western Maine. Part of his job is to spearhead the creation of rugged, natural enduro and downhill race courses on the slope. Credit: Courtesy of Craig Milliman

Craig also joined the board of the Oregon Timber Trail Alliance, a nonprofit mountain bike advocacy group that is developing a 670-mile backcountry route across public lands in Oregon.

“I’ve been basically as busy as when I was racing, just in a different part of the biking community,” he said.

In 2018 and 2019, he was an event consultant and North American representative for the Enduro World Series. It was in that capacity, at a race at Burke Mountain, Vermont, when he learned of Sugarloaf’s interest in establishing a mountain biking program.

He’s eager to join forces with Sugarloaf and complementary interests such as the Town of Carrabassett and Carrabassett Region chapter of the New England Mountain Biking Association to enhance the sport’s presence in western Maine. Those entities will host the 10th anniversary of the Carrabassett Backcountry Challenge endurance races on July 17.

Craig’s work in the short term will include preparing trails for one event already scheduled at Sugarloaf this year, the MAXXIS Eastern States Cup downhill and enduro series races set for Sept. 11-12.

Craig will help create challenging courses for competitors from throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states.

“There is a lot of work to be done, certainly, but there is some enthusiasm for that work,” he said. “It will be fun to have a regional event come by and show some people what we’ve been working on.”

Sugarloaf’s long-term goal is to create a system of trails that appeals to all ages and classes, perhaps even including Craig’s successors at the world’s top levels of the sport.

“As the bike park develops in the coming years it will be more excavated for friendlier trails, but as far as race infrastructure we’re optimistic we’re going to be able to make fun race courses without too much back-breaking labor,” he said.

“It will be good to build on both the foundation of endurance events here and the newer gravity events and try to build to some more national and ultimately, hopefully, world-class events in the future, but we’re not in any rush.”

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...