Summit Mountain Challenge series returns for a summer of cycling insanity | SummitDaily.com

Summit Mountain Challenge series returns for a summer of cycling insanity

For local mountain bike fanatics, summer might as well begin at the starting line of the Frisco Roundup.

The Roundup, an early-season race over the spider-webbed trails at the Frisco Peninsula, starts today around 4 p.m. with registration at the Frisco Adventure Park. There are categories for men and women, juniors and veterans, single-speed masochists and never-ever beginners — just about anyone who enjoys a mid-week break from the everyday grind.

"This is a party disguised as a bike race," says Jeff Westcott, who organizes the series through his event company, Maverick Sports Promotions of Breckenridge. "Yes, there's an event, and it's as competitive as you want it to be; but, that's really just window dressing for the real culture, and that's like-minded people getting together to hang out and enjoy each other."

This season's Roundup route doesn't hold many surprises, even for folks who have been away from the series for a while. Westcott likes to keep things familiar: From the adventure park starting line, adult and youth cyclists pump up the paved bike path to the maintenance yard parking lot before taking a hard left onto M'Rezy, the first of the peninsula's relatively mellow singletrack.

From there, the race follows different courses for different categories, ranging from a 4.4-mile course over Crown Point Road and Buzzsaw for juniors to a 19.8-mile trek across Balfonz Blitz, Jody's Loop, Riechel's Retreat and Buzzsaw for adults. All courses are clearly marked and end with one hell of a ride through the green flow line at the adventure park.

But, are the trails dry after a wet and dreary May? Have no fear, Westcott says — Frisco is pitch-perfect for early in the season because it tends to dry out quicker than neighboring trails, even when Mother Nature won't cooperate. Prime conditions and fun, flowy trails make it a popular stop for cyclists from Denver, Golden and neighboring mountain towns like Salida. Upwards of 200 people are expected to compete.

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But, don't let the crowded start list scare you off. There's plenty more to come: The Roundup is the first of seven races in the beloved Summit Mountain Challenge, a summer-long race series spread across more than a hundred miles of local singletrack.

Like the series itself, the Roundup is something of Summit County institution. It's been around for 29 years — as long as the series — and makes for a relatively low-key introduction to Summit biking.

"This is all about tradition," Westcott says. "This is what we do, how we start our season."

A FAMILY AFFAIR

Breck resident Kevin Shelden is one of the Roundup faithful. He may have missed the race last year — sometimes, work gets in the way of a midweek race series — but he'll be on the Peninsula today, racing in the Expert 40-49 category. Like Westcott, he can't think of a better venue to start the racing season.

"It keeps rolling and rolling, so you can keep the pedals turning over pretty fast," Shelden says. "Most people have the weekends off, so you're heading out to do real long rides, the stuff you have to travel for. This gives you something to look forward to on hump day in the middle of the work week."

Shelden also enjoys the community aspect. The Roundup is where his eldest son, 28-year-old Taylor Shelden, started racing nearly 15 years ago. Taylor is now a professional road cyclist who lives in Denver; but, in keeping with tradition, he'll drive up today for a few laps around the Peninsula with his dad, mom and younger brother, 21-year-old Tanner.

"There's such a good local following for these races," Shelden says. "So many people have been doing this for years and years, so it's a good way to get together with friends."

The series as a whole is a stellar way for newcomers to get their first taste of bona fide racing. Today is the first of more than a dozen summer races for the 11 members of The Cycle Effect, a nonprofit that pairs in-need students with high-level cyclists.

And here's the rub: The Cycle Effect is for girls only — Summit County middle and high schoolers. Jaime Brede, head coach and program director for the Summit County branch (there's another in Eagle County), has been working weekly with her team since early March, prepping their legs, lungs and nerves for a summer of cycling.

"Unfortunately for the girls I'm a triathlete, so we're doing lots of running and lunges and squats and intervals," says Brede, who tackles the Xterra off-road triathlon series every summer. "We're doing the sort of things my coach makes me do. The nature of mountain biking is it's a very physical sport, more so than road biking. You need that core strength and arms strength just to make it through a course."

Brede won't join her team on the Roundup course — she's busy training for the Ultimate Mountain Challenge at this weekend's GoPro Mountain Games in Vail — but she'll be at the finish line to cheer them on. With the exception of two veterans, junior Aurora Lopez and just-graduated senior Mikaela Martinez, none of the girls have raced before. Brede knows they're nervous, but she also knows it only takes one race — and one finish — to boost confidence.

"We try to set them up for success," Brede says. "A race is just what you make it — it can be as stressful or relaxing as you want. Once you cross that finish line, you have a sense of achievement. You're ready for more."

Frisco Roundup

What: An early-season mountain bike race across the Frisco Peninsula trail system, with distances ranging from 4.4 miles for juniors to 19.8 miles for pro/elite cyclists

Where: Frisco Adventure Park starting line, 621 Recreation Way in Frisco

When: Wednesday, June 3

Cost: $30 for adults, $15 for juniors (18 and younger)

Day-of registration at 4 p.m. Juniors racing kicks off at 5:15 p.m., followed by adults at 5:30 p.m. The post-race part at Backcountry Brewery in Frisco is $10 and includes pasta buffet, garlic bread, salad and two free beers.

2015 Summit Mountain Challenge series

June 3 — Frisco Roundup, Frisco Peninsula

June 17 — Gold Run Rush, Breckenridge

July 15 — Keystone Uphill/Downhill Double Time Trial, Keystone

July 29 — Pennsylvania Gulch Grind, Breckenridge

Aug. 5 — Soda Creek Scramble, Keystone

Aug. 19 — Peaks Trail Time Trial, Breckenridge to Frisco

Sept. 6 — The Fall Classic, Breckenridge

All series races are held on Wednesdays, with categories for children, adults and singlespeed cyclists. Entry fees vary from race to race. A series pass (good for all races) is $170 until June 17. A series pass without The Fall Classic is $125 until June 17. For more info, including course maps and registration details, see http://www.mavsports.com.