Mountain bike season has come to Summit County early this year, and locals are ready to take to the trails with the Summit Mountain Challenge mountain bike series kicking off with the Frsico Roundup the first week of June.
"I think the common misperception is that the series is only for the pro/elite-type riders, but the bulk of the field is what I would consider a sport-level rider - the everyday working man or woman, who is looking for a good effort on a Wednesday and, most importantly, a good social scene afterwards," said Jeff Westcott of Maverick Sports Promotions.
The Summit Mountain Challenge is a seven-part series with races every other Wednesday evening throughout the summer. The series takes riders to all corners of Summit County, showcasing some of the best trails in the High County.
"Certainly there is a competitive aspect that takes care of itself, but the scene afterwards is where you see people hanging out, making plans for a social ride. It's a good time, great way to meet people and a great way to learn the trail network," Westcott said.
As series director, Westcott spends most of his spring busy nailing down permits and race routes with the various land agencies that host the events. Last year, they added a new race, the Soda Creek Scramble. In 2012 riders can expect the same venues, with slightly modified routes.
"There are a lot of people in the community that help the Forest Service manage its several million acres. Without the partners, it wouldn't happen. This time of year is my opportunity to organize and prepare, so when it comes time to race, it's like I'm hosting a party," Westcott said.
Every race, whether new or old, is a work in progress, and Westcott is eager to hear the riders' feedback to constantly improve the routes.
"The feedback from the Soda Creek Scramble was very positive. It has a real backcountry feel," Westcott said. "We had a couple course-layout logistics that were hard to anticipate since it was a new venue, but we're going to make a couple little tweaks with the start times to take care of the mixing that went on."
The Keystone River Run Rally (Aug. 22) will possibly be modified for the upcoming season to include an uphill/downhill double time trial - they'll time the hill climb, the descent and then combine the two together for three scored races.
Another consideration for the 2012 summer is changing the direction of the Pennsylvania Gulch Grind - running it on the exact same terrain, but in the opposite direction.
Like many other locals, Westcott is both a skier and mountain biker. So when he says the dry conditions are going to make the riding better this year, he says it with mixed emotion.
"It's going to be better because things are drying sooner. So from a trail-impact point of view, it's going to be great," Westcott said. "It's better that the trails will dry up before the masses get out there and start poking into those wet, muddy areas that they shouldn't be considering this time of year. That's always the battle this time of year because people are anxious to go ride."
Registration is now open for the Mountain Bike Junior League, which has cultivated several pro-level mountain bikers over the years. League rides takes place Monday nights throughout the summer. Registration also includes entry into the first six races of Summit Mountain Challenge, as well as a team jersey.
Participation provides an opportunity to spend more time together as a family in a healthy, fun activity and an opportunity to meet and mingle with other league parents and kids at each race and group ride.
Every group ride contains an educational component: preparedness, history, bike maintenance, riding techniques, trail etiquette and sportsmanship.