State’s mountain bikers feel the spirit |

State’s mountain bikers feel the spirit

Shauna Farnell

Local mountain bikers who know all the High Country bike trails and race courses like the backs of their hands might want to look into competitions that take them to other areas of Colorado.

The Subaru Spirit of the Rockies Mountain Bike Race Series already has a jump on the season, having just completed its first race last weekend with “The Vegetarian” cross country race in Fruita, for which about 500 beginner, sport, pro and expert riders turned out to compete.

“We tend to pick locations by concerns from racers in previous series,” said Dave Elkan, director of the Spirit of the Rockies Series. “They like to go to different venues. They like to travel, not long distances. We keep all the races within three hours of each other.”

The series, which includes the Hell in the High Country race in Breckenridge – this year slated for Aug. 17-18 – features all events from cross country, dual slalom, observed trials and downhill, depending on the venue. The races, while drawing top pro riders from throughout the state, also have a strong focus on reeling in never-evers and beginner riders with an itch to dabble in competition.

“We wanted to cater to riders NORBA (National Off Road Bicycling Association) was missing – beginner and sport riders,” Elkan said. “We need to get the juniors back into it. We’re working on growing the younger entry-level racer base. I’d like to think of the pro and expert racers as people that are definitely going to show up and promote the sport. They are role models for new riders who come out.”

The Spirit of the Rockies Series began as NORBA Classic races and part of the Colorado Off Road Points Series (CORPS). Now, racers who compete in the series still accumulate points within the state, and there are prizes going to the top three riders in each category after the final race.

“It’s probably the premiere mountain bike racing series in Colorado,” said Dan Vardamis of the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Vardamis competes regularly in the series each year. “They’ve created outstanding racing and kept it relatively low-key. They’re not super high-pressure. It takes you to some of the best riding places in Colorado, which is great. We live here, and it’s probably the best place in the world for mountain biking. If you’re a pro and want to go out and do it or if you want to go out and just get a workout, it’s a great series to go to.”

Elkan said that, although the course terrain varies depending on the venue, he tries to keep the races at one to one-and-a-half hours for beginners, one-and-a-half to two hours for sport and two to two-and-a-half hours for expert and pro riders. The races always take place on weekends and cost to pre-register is typically $30 or less. Courses range from mountain single tracks, like those in the Hell in the High Country race to dirt-bike style double tracks with jumps like the loop course in the next series race at Bear Creek Lake Park in Denver on Saturday.

“That’s the heart and soul of mountain biking – seeing what else is out there and riding the new stuff,” Elkan said. “The whole point of the weekend races is to give riders up in Summit County the opportunity to explore other areas. They race Saturday and can stick around and ride local trails Sunday. It encourages individual riders to see the state and enhance the cycling atmosphere in Colorado.”

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