In the laid-back world of professional mountain biking, Charles "Chucky" Aaron stands out in a crowd: At bicycle trade shows, he's the guy in the double-breasted suit, a shine on his shoes. . . and no visible pierced body parts or tattoos.
"At the Anaheim [Calif.] bike show, I went up to this Italian manufacturer's booth and introduced myself," recalled Aaron, who was recently named director of the Ross/Jeep/Barracuda pro mountain-bike race teams.
"The guy said, 'No way, you're not Chucky Aaron!' Next to me was another team manager with an earring and wearing bermuda shorts. But the Italian guy spent more time talking with me."
The moral: Even in a hip, West Coast-oriented sport such as mountain biking, neatness pays.
"I'm not against tattoos and earrings. But if you're asking for money from potential sponsors, it's like going in front of a judge -- you have to look professional," Aaron said.
"And I hate wearing a suit!"
Meet Chucky Aaron, 26, a power player in professional bike racing. Yet only four years ago, the Pikesville resident was a part-time sales clerk in a Towson bike shop, training and racing his bike 20 hours or more each week and nurturing a dream of finding a niche in the world of professional cycling.
He has found one -- but not on the racing circuit. as, say, the latest Greg LeMond or John Tomac, legendary road and mountain bike racers. Instead, Aaron's new job with Ross, a Long Island (N.Y.) bike manufacturer, is on the management side of professional cycling.
In his new position, Aaron will supervise a budget of nearly $1 million and manage a stable of talented pro racers, doing it all out of his Pikesville apartment.
Which in the world of off-road cycling is as unusual as wearing a suit to a bicycle trade show.
"Most racing team directors are located out west," pointed out said Phil Riggio, a Baltimore pro mountain-bike racer and promoter of the Maryland Mountain Bike Series. "It says a lot for Chucky. Ross chose the best guy, regardless of the location."
As team director for the Ross and Barracuda squads (Jeep, as the title sponsor, provides funding and race-support vehicles), Aaron will hire racers and coaches, find more sponsors, and set up race schedules for his pro teams, which compete on the World Cup circuit in the United States and abroad. The teams boast impressive rosters.
Riders on the 1996 teams include German downhill ace Juergen Beneke, who was World Cup downhill champion in 1993, runner-up in 1994 and earns a six-figure salary. U.S. racers Laurie Brandt and Peter Swenson are contenders for slots on U.S. women's and men's squads that will go for the gold in the first mountain-bike cross-country event at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
When Ross asked Aaron to move to Colorado to be closer to the majority of the teams' racers, Aaron argued against the move. After all, Baltimore is not that far from the Ross factory on Long Island and is close to other East Coast cities. "I stuck to my guns," said Aaron, who came to Baltimore from Minneapolis in 1992.
"Baltimore is a great city," he said. "The best thing that ever happened to me was moving to Baltimore."
Pub Date: 3/05/96