It’s all things bike in Breckenridge these days, from the festivities of Bike Week to various local races to the USA Pro Challenge itself, there’s no doubt that bicycles are currently the big man on campus up here in the High Country.
One of the most notable aspects of biking is its reach across all age groups, from little tykes on no-pedal Strider bikes and young hotshot athletes to older people out for a leisurely pedal, bikers come in all shapes and sizes.
Those stopping by the Blue River Plaza on Thursday or Friday morning may have noticed a gathering of bikers with two things in common — all had mountain bikes, and all were women.
Members of Team Yeti Beti, a local group of female mountain bike racers, offered a free women-only mountain bike skills course. The sessions, based on the Beti AllRide Clinic, which was held earlier in the summer in Keystone. Bikers of all levels, from beginner to advanced, were accepted.
“It’s just really cool to get women into the sport,” said Cat Ambrose, Yeti Beti team member who led the clinic.
On the first day, around 10 mountain biking hopefuls showed up, most of them at the beginner level and two having never done any type of mountain biking before. Ambrose took the participants over the basics of mountain biking — gear shifting, brakes, stance on the bike, etc.
“It was (all about) making sure all the fundamentals were there,” she said.
What she really enjoyed seeing was the range of ages of participants, which included several 20-year-olds as well as several women in their 50s and 60s.
After going over the basics, Ambrose took the women to the pump track near the Breckenridge ice rink, putting them through their paces with the obstacles. Once she was sure of their confidence, they rode up to Boreas Pass and came down Moonstone Road — the very road that the USA Pro Challenge cyclists will be making their way up during the King of the Mountain climb challenge next week.
“They all made it down,” Ambrose said with pride. “When they got to the bottom I told them, ‘great job guys, you made it down an advanced run!’”
The second day showed a rider range of ability levels, with several Summit County residents with more experienced mixed in with a few out-of-town visitors closer to the beginner and intermediate levels.
Erin Hanlon, who lives in Breckenridge, said she liked the idea of “riding with some girls, because generally it’s by myself or a bunch of guys.” Hanlon added that while she’s clear on the fundamentals of mountain biking, she attended the clinic in order to pick up some advanced tips and tricks to help her out on the trail.
From the other end of the spectrum, Shannon Thomarie is visiting from New York and has only owned her mountain bike for a short time. Although her husband rides, she said she preferred to learn the skills from women instructors.
That’s the idea behind Yeti Beti, Ambrose explained.
“A lot of women get into (mountain biking) with a significant other, and I think that women really approach sports differently than men, so its’ really nice to have an environment that’s just focused on women and how we learn, esp in a sport like mountain biking that can be really intimidating,” she said. “(We show) how to overcome that and how to just embrace that and turn that little bit of apprehension and fear into excitement and more adrenaline and really embrace it and have fun with it. I think that women teaching women does a much better job with that.”
While Friday’s advanced riders broke off with Ambrose’s teammate, Ambrose took the fledgling mountain bikers under her wing.
Along the winding Blue River bike trail, Ambrose stopped every so often along the way to relay another bit of mountain biking wisdom, from how to best hit the brakes in loose gravel to the importance of keeping one’s eyes always ahead, and not on any obstacle directly in front.
The result — the riders successfully navigated the dirt path along the river, crossing over bumpy rocks, bridges and around tight turns. Ambrose shared the role of instructor and cheerleader, encouraging riders and praising each accomplishment.
Ambrose said she thoroughly enjoys teaching the workshops and looks forward to them coming back next summer. If she can get just a few more women excited about mountain biking, then she’s done her job.
“The real goal is certainly to make lifelong mountain bikers out of this, women that really love the sport,” she said, “and also to really showcase Breckenridge and the trails and what a bike friendly community it is.”