Without races, Summit Tigers mountain bikers embrace creative challenges
BRECKENRIDGE — A year ago, the final Sunday in August at the Frisco Peninsula Recreation Area was a festival-like experience for members of the state’s mountain biking community.
Hundreds of young athletes and their families and friends erected tents on open space at the Frisco Adventure Park in a sporting setting unique to the Colorado High School Cycling League. On that dusty, warm summer day, teams and friends caught up with others from across the state while the best young mountain biking talent opened the 2019 season for the state’s affiliate of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.
“It’s fun to do the weekend trips,” Summit High School senior Tai-Lee Smith said. “Sometimes the team will camp together the night before. I feel like it’s really team bonding. There’s the spirit; everyone dresses up. You’re trying to get points together, hyping everybody up. Everybody wants everyone to do well.”
This year, there won’t be such a scene at the peninsula for a Tigers home meet. That’s because the Colorado High School Cycling League canceled formal races this fall due to COVID-19 concerns. As a result, the Tigers are prepping for an atypical season — one that will feature virtual data- and statistics-based challenges. But it’s also one that will feature creativity from Tigers coaches to lead athletes through a fun and competitive campaign as best they can.
“I think we are very lucky to be doing what we are doing right now at this stage considering it’s not a Colorado High School Activities Association-recognized sport,” coach Jeff Cospolich said. “Given all the protocols, I feel very lucky to be doing what we are doing. A lot of the cyclists on the team have high aspirations, but some come out just for fun. It’s a diverse group. Our goal is to create lifelong cyclists.”
On Thursday afternoon, about 30 young mountain bikers convened with about a half-dozen coaches at the B&B Mine Trailhead off of French Gulch Road in Breckenridge. From there, riders embarked in smaller groups based on age and ability to hit the X10U8 trail. It’s one of a couple of formal practices the Tigers host each week, typically one in Breckenridge and one at the Frisco peninsula.
At Thursday’s practice, coach Jaime Brede presented the cyclists with their latest challenge. It’s a day-by-day Tour de France-style challenge inspired by the classic European cycling race where cyclists are encouraged to complete a certain distance, based on ability level, each day. To Brede, it’s a way to cultivate some kind of a challenge for her athletes and friends in the community.
“Just to have an excuse to ride bikes and have fun,” Brede said. “And I wanted to do it old school on paper, so it’s less digital. Now more than ever, we’re all mired down in the digital, so I wanted a piece of paper and a game to play that focuses on bikes.”
For Summit seniors Liam Goettleman and Smith, they said they are most excited about the vertical elevation challenge the Colorado High School Cycling League will host later this season.
“That one is probably our highest chance one, because all of our rides here are straight up and straight down,” Goettleman said.
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