June 12, 2023
Meet Yari Alpizar, Trail Advocate of the Year
We’re pleased to introduce the winner of the’ ‘Trail Advocate of the Year 2023’ award winner, Yaroslov Alpizar from Mallorca, Spain.
Yari was on our radar as early as January this year when he offered to help spread the the campaign to his trail crew connections throughout Spain. On top of this, he offered to translate the ‘How to guide’ for TCoYT into Spanish, so more crews could understand what the campaign was abut and get engaged. This year we saw the largest participation of Spanish crews and volunteers than any year previously, and this is largely due to Yari’s activism of the campaign in Spain!
So without further ado, we would like to introduce Yari Alpizar and the work he is currently doing in S[ain to help elevate trail builders and mountain bikers.
Yari, let’s start with who you are, where you live, what you do, and how you got into mountain biking?
A short answer on this will be hard, but here we go.
I was born in Moscow, Russia, when it was still the Soviet Union, but I was raised in Havana, Cuba. My mother is Russian, father Cuban. In 2005 I left Cuba looking for a better future and landed in Mallorca, Spain. Since then I’ve moved a bit around, lived in several countries and after 4 years in Dublin, Ireland, I’m back in Mallorca for the moment.
I’m a full time software engineer contractor that spends all his free time on anything related to mountain biking. Riding all trails possible everywhere, writing on my blog in Spanish (https://elyari.com), talking with anyone that has any question or doubts about the world of MTB.
I got into MTB right when I got to Spain back in 2005. I used an old russian bike back in Cuba to move around, as I kid I even participated in some organised road races with our local team. Then once in Spain those fat tires caught my attention and I bought a 2nd hand Specialized Hardrock, from 2002 or 2003 I believe, with elastomeres fork, V brakes and two big bar ends on the handlebars. I spent 200€ on that bike and thought “never ever in my life I’m gonna buy a bike so expensive again”… I was such a fool! From that point on, never looked back, things got more and more serious, one thing lead to the other and I ended up doing, as amateur, several MaxiAvalanche Vallnord, twice the Mega Alpe d’Huez, the Mountain of Hell, the Epic Enduro in Olargues and so much more. At the same time I started writing a blog back in 2009 of all those trips and sharing my experiences, have not stopped yet.
Earlier this year, you were one of the first people to contact IMBA about the TCoYT campaign. What sparked your interest in getting TCoYT off the ground in Spain?
As commented before, for the last 4 years I lived in Ireland and from the first day I was amazed by their nice flowy trail centre trails, something we don’t have in Spain. While travelling everywhere in the country I got to see how different from Spain is the trail building experience there, the amount of work they have done, the visibility, the recognition it has amongst locals and local authorities and how well structured is all that work, all thanks to Biking.ie and Trailbreaker crew, the main trail association and trail building crews in the country. And it always got me thinking, why don’t we have this in Spain?
Once I came back to Spain I thought “Somehow, some way, it will take tons of time and effort, but we need to replicate this experience in Spain. Not exactly the same because each country and region has its own peculiarities, but at least the basic idea. I then started with some interviews on my blog, to give the visibility all trail crews needed, social media publications, etc. I interviewed one trail crew from Valencia, Bike Trails Valencia and they mentioned they participated in last year’s TCoYT campaign and were runners up for the Outstanding Trail Crew award. From that point I just read everything I could about the campaign and immediately reached out to you guys to learn more and to know how I could get involved.
You seem to have connections with a lot of crews across Spain. How did you find yourself becoming a spokesperson of the trail crews?
Hmmm…one thing led to another, baby steps so they say. It was something that started building up with my blog and travels more than 10 years ago. At some point I was doing lots of media coverage on my own for my blog all across Spain and meeting local race organisers. At the same time I have been Spanish regional admin on Trailforks (and some other countries too), so I was helping those organisers to get their trails and race route on the platform. Most of those locals were also the local trail builders and the ones that are looking to give mountain biking more visibility in their area.
Slowly all kinda grew together. I got more visibility with the racing coverage through the blog, then at same time Trailforks started growing more and more and attracting more users and more attention from both riders and trail crews and trail associations. And being the regional admin everyone started contacting me to ask about how they could use Trailforks and my help to get more visibility. And each time I got in contact with someone I immediately proposed to them to do an interview, get them on the TCoYT campaign and add their data on Trailforks, full package in one go! And all completely volunteer of course, so everyone was onboard.
Fast Forward and suddenly I was “that guy to ask” about who is doing what, where and how we can do the same. And I’m really happy to help anyone that has those questions. But things are growing so fast that I will need to be more structured with all this work.
How do you help trail crews become better advocates/activists for their local trails?
Being honest, I don’t really have a structured way of doing this, nor a step by step process or ‘how to’. Everything has grown so fast and each trail crew has so many differences (but similar!) questions and requirements that for the moment I just more or less follow this steps:
- first talk a lot with them, have a phone call and get to know their work, what they are doing, what challenges they are facing, how they started, etc, etc
- ask them if they want to do an interview for the blog in Spanish, usually they are happy to share their story and by talking and preparing the interview I help them with more information
- during the TCoYT campaign, telling them what it is, how it can help them and help them signed into the campaign
- ask them if they are already in Trailforks and if their area is mapped or not, usually they aren’t, so spend time with them helping them to map the area, get their crew on Trailforks, explain how it works and how it can help them to get more visibility
- talk a lot about other trail crew experiences, get them in contact with others nearby that may be doing the same work, so they help each other and learn through the process
- help them spread the word on social media sharing all the interviews, sharing their work, etc, etc, etc
What are your hopes and vision for the development of mountain biking in Spain?
My hope is that we could end up having a recognized and visible trail building movement all over the country. That local government, authorities and other trail users don’t see us as outsiders. That mountain bikers and trail builders are not considered to be dangerous to the trails. Make everyone understand that trails can help local communities as much (or more!) as other users or other amenities, that they may not have golf courses or beaches, but their mountains and their trails are their treasure.
What are the biggest challenges the mountain biking community faces in Spain?
Can I copy paste the previous answer but negate everything? That’s how bad it is. I mean, there are really good efforts popping out, some of them have been around for a while, +10 years in the case of ZonaZero in the Ainsa region, there are individuals battling like Sisyphus once and once again to get something done.
I would say the biggest challenge we have is to make everyone understand, mainly local authorities and government, that investing in trails is investing in their future. Hand in hand with that and in deep relation, is making other trail users realise (even mountain bikers and bike industry in Spain) that trail building and trail maintenance is something very important for the future of our sport. Visibility is a big challenge that we also face, there is no one talking about this. Trail access is another big challenge we are facing, there are some (negative) efforts from authorities and lobbies to close trail access to mountain bikes.
Final words of wisdom to other aspiring trail advocates?
Mom, look! Someone said I’m wise!
Don’t be shy, be talkative. You will be amazed how many people are willing to share their stories, successful or not, they want their voices to be heard, be their “megaphone” so others can learn from their experiences.
Share the love for the trails, get involved, spread the word, talk with people.
If you believe there is something worth doing and no one is doing it, don’t wait for others, do it yourself and put as much effort you can on that, every tiny effort counts.