Life on Two Wheels: Andrew Dunlap and the allure of Andorra
Editor’s note: For countless Summit County residents, a bicycle is more than a machine — it’s a lifestyle. Every week during the summer, we’ll ask our most adventurous residents, “Where has your bike taken you?”
When Andrew Dunlap was packing for a five-month stay in Spain, he cleared out a hockey bag, disassembled his Giant Reign and shoved the enduro bike into the bag, taking it with him for the 14-hour, 6,000-mile journey from the U.S. to Europe.
And it was absolutely worth the trouble.
Beginning at 9 years old, the Summit native has been drawn to trail riding on bicycles. He began like so many locals with the junior mountain bike league, then moved up to the Summit Velo team and Summit Mountain Challenge Series, back before there was a high school league. He fell hard for cross-country riding as a kid and competed in the collegiate league while attending University of Colorado-Boulder, but after getting burnt out on cross-country, he soon found the big, bad, adrenaline-fueled world of mountain enduro racing.
Since graduating from CU in 2011, Dunlap has competed in a slew of enduro races across the state and the region. He prefers the multi-race enduro format to the single-day cross-country approach. After all, he simple enjoys riding, and after moving back to his hometown following graduation, he dove headfirst into enduro competition.
“Just growing up here and being close to the mountains, it was tough to be in Boulder, be that weekend warrior,” Dunlap says. “It’s nice to get away from all that driving, dealing with I-70. The flatlanders have it rough down there.”
Now 22 years old, Dunlap is back in Summit for the long haul. He’s in the process of launching a general contractor outfit, but in the meantime, he’s honing his skills on the downhill track. Mechanical issues and unexpected tragedy have plagued his season: A nasty practice crash at the Aspen-Snowmass Big Mountain Enduro in late June, multiple flat tires two weeks later in Keystone and a competition-halting death at Crested Butte in early August.
Dunlap finally found his legs at the Enduro-X in Steamboat Springs on Aug. 23, taking second overall in his division. He hopes to carry that performance over to the final race of the season, the Winter Park Big Mountain Enduro Sept. 4-5.
The experience of riding and exploring Spain’s Pyrenees Mountains as a college student showed Dunlap just how small — and welcoming — the mountain bike community is, even several thousand miles from his hometown. And, flat tires or not, that’s what biking is all about.
“Through racing, it’s real easy to meet people from across the state, even across the world. Once you meet those people you can ride where they ride and stay with them, experience what they get to ride all the time. For me, riding is about meeting other people and finding out what they like — it’s just very cool to have that mountain bike community. You make friends through biking, and when you’re able to bike with them, where they go, it’s incredible.
I studied abroad in Barcelona and met several people in Spain through biking. I was able to travel to the different bike parks in Spain, then traveled to Andorra, where the Mountain Bike World Championships are this year (Sept. 1-6). It’s cool, because I have friends out there now, and the riding out there is pretty much the same as it is in Summit County. Even mountain people are pretty much the same across the whole world — they just enjoy being outside. You think of Europe as being a much different place, but they have the same bikes and bike racks and gear, the same everything. They just speak a different language. You worry that you’ll go over there and ride flatland trails, not have any rocks or anything. I was in the Pyrenees, though, and it’s really cool to see that, yes, they do have huge mountains.”
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