Breckenridge’s Kane returns from worldly bike trip
summit daily news
Breck native Kevin Kane returned from his summer travels to whip up on the local field at the Summit Mountain Challenge mountain bike series last week. To the credit of the local field, Kane had just come home from Europe, where he was competing with the under-23 USA National Team.
Kane, who rides for the Rocky Mountain Factory Team, was taking on the toughest riders in the world. It was his third straight year heading over to Europe, Germany and Switzerland to be precise, and it’s always a little bit of a shock to the system how good those guys are, he said.
“Europe has a lot more riders in a smaller area,” Kane said. “It’s a very much more cycling-oriented culture over there. Everyone rides their bike. Seventy-year-old women ride their bikes going to the grocery store.”
The 20-year-old Kane said unlike America where bike riding is generally thought of as an activity, in Europe it’s very much a way of life, as well as a recreation.
“There are a lot of riders over there – and they are a lot faster, especially in Switzerland. They have arguably the best national cycling team in the world. You look at any world championship or any world cup, the Swiss are dominant in men, women and juniors,” he said.
The trip is part of USA Cycling’s push to expose young American riders to the realities of racing abroad. Kane said the course and tactics are very different. The race is always situated on a five-kilometer loop (as opposed to the States, where the loops are much longer). This makes for a better spectator event – the more laps the riders do, the better it is to watch in one place. The International Cycling Union (UCI) also demands that courses be exactly 5k per lap and 90 minutes in duration for cross-country races. These strict requirements have made it very difficult for American venues to adapt.
Kane said the racing is quite a bit more physical in Europe, as well – more elbows on the tough climbs.
“My initial U-23 camp (in Europe) was an eye-opening experience for everyone. Racing over there is a whole different ballgame – levels above where we were as U.S. athletes. … Going for the third year, having been there twice and knowing how difficult it is and having all that mental preparation – every time I go over there, that first race is such a shocker,” Kane said.
On this trip abroad, Kane took eighth place in an ultra-marathon, and he was extremely happy to get 42nd in the Swiss Racer Bike Cup, which is a half a notch below World-Cup level racing. Some World Cup riders use it as a training ground (like the Europa Cup or NorAms in Ski Racing).
“Personally, I think I did the best that I’ve ever done over there,” he said.
He said the highlight of his cycling career, and perhaps his life, was racing in the BC Bike Race in British Columbia, which he did just after Europe. Jetlagged from the trip, Kane was in Boulder when he got a phone call from his Rocky Mountain team, urging him to get on a plane for the stage race north of the boarder.
“Initially, I was like, no, that’s stupid,” he said. “I’ve never done a stage race. I’ve never gone to BC, which has some of the most technical riding. It’s incomparable to anything in Colorado – rooty, wet, rain forest riding, and long days. I’m not ready for that.”
The moment he hung up the phone he changed his mind, partially because he wanted to get amped up for U.S. nationals, which followed.
“This was a great opportunity for me to get some exposure in probably one of the biggest stage races in the world,” he said. “It was a week of the most incredible riding I’ve ever done – 95 percent singletrack in the most amazing place. Hiking in the Gore Range is on the edge of how technical it is riding in BC. You have to learn to find the finesse that you just don’t need here. I was on the edge of my riding capabilities. I learned a lot.”
Kane finished top-20 overall out of 800 riders in the seven-stage race. He went on to U.S. nationals the following week, but was too burnt out from the BC race and did not finish.
In addition to traveling around the world, Kane spends his summers at home, riding in Summit County. Most of the rigorous training work is done in the springtime in Boulder, where he is a junior at the University of Colorado.
Summertime in Summit County is all about having fun and enjoying the great trails that wind through his proverbial backyard. He hopes to peak physically in June and July, but he also hopes to maintain some level of fitness thereafter, which is where riding the Summit County singletrack comes in play.
“(Maintaining fitness) especially up here at altitude means going out and having fun on my bike,” he said. “Summit County is a great place to do it.”
His favorite trails have always been in the Soda Creek system – the ones that head up the Colorado Trail into West Ridge and Georgia Pass.
Kane is looking forward to racing in next week’s Breck Epic stage race, as well as riding on the college club circuit (the NCAA does not sanction mountain biking), which he says is a fun way to spend the fall.
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