VIDA MTB Series returns to Keystone this weekend with a new name and new coaching roster
Women’s Wednesdays at Keystone
What: A female-only series at the Keystone bike park, featuring free instruction from coaches and ambassadors with the VIDA MTB Series
When: Wednesdays, June 17 to Aug. 26
Cost: $30 (bike, pads, lift pass)
The series is open to cyclists of all ages and abilities. Instruction and guided rides run from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Wednesday. Pre-registration is recommended. To register or find out more, see www.keystoneresort.com.
After just two summers, the Beti AllRide clinic has outgrown its name.
This weekend, the clinic returns to Keystone as the VIDA MTB Series. The concept is still the same — a mountain bike series made for women, by women — but thanks to overwhelming interest from a growing community of riders spread across the nation, the founders decided to embrace change. Not only is the series known by a different name, it’s also bigger, better and more widespread than before.
“We saw such tremendous growth at the end of last summer,” says Elena Forchielli, the series co-founder and marketing director. “We knew we either had to scale it back or take it to the next level, and we decided we wanted to make it the best it could be.”
The two-day series is capped at 100 participants and already has 97 registered, leaving little room for additional entries. (The weekly Women’s Wednesdays events at Keystone run until late August and are a microcosm of the weekend clinic.) But Forchielli says VIDA is much more than a clinic. It’s a way to pair female riders with other female riders who want to push the boundaries of their sport, not simply tag along with the boys.
“I’ve been trying to get girls to do the stuff I like to do since high school,” says Forchielli, who moved to Boulder from the East Coast as a teenager and quickly fell in love with the mountain biking world. “You don’t see these ladies in the media, but they’re out there, riding your local trails.”
Put me in, coach
For the past three days, Forchielli and a small collection of VIDA coaches have been busy training the first batch of assistant coaches at Keystone. The 14 women came from across the state and, in almost every case, participated in past VIDA and Beti AllRide clinics.
The majority also acted as VIDA ambassadors, arranging group rides and introducing more women to the sport. They’re now getting certified on all aspects of mountain biking through a custom curriculum built by the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
Like Forchielli, the coaches-in-training fell in love with the burlier side of mountain biking — slick-rock ascents, highly technical descents, mid-course tabletops, intimidating road gaps — and wanted to share their skills with up-and-coming cyclists.
But it hardly means VIDA is only for adrenaline junkies with death wishes. Mia Phillips, a 49-year-old former adventure racer who moved to Crested Butte from Missouri in 2013, is one of the 14 coaches training at Keystone. She fell in love with mountain biking in 2002 and slowly started pushing her personal boundaries, beginning with rides in her home state.
When she moved to Colorado, Phillips was awed by how many women were willing — and more than able — to tackle the demanding trails in her new backyard. But she wanted to draw even more peers to the sport, proving that berms and kickers and pump tracks aren’t only for the youngsters.
“This is something you can do for a very long time — lifelong, really,” Phillips says shortly after returning from a quick afternoon ride at Keystone. “I know I’m the oldest ambassador they have and that was really one of my key points. You’re never too old to start mountain biking. I’ve been on a bike my whole life, but I didn’t start shredding with these gals in their 20s and 30s until I got older.”
True, Phillips was slightly intimidated when she started riding around Crested Butte — “They had strength and skill and stamina,” she says — but it only made her want to hit the trails harder, and do so with like-minded ladies. That mentality led her to eventually touch base with Forchielli and fellow co-founder Sarah Rawley, who encouraged Phillips to become a certified coach, even though she’d never attended a clinic.
“Being exposed to all these other women is important and empowering for all riders who come,” Forchielli says. “We get women all the time who say, ‘I didn’t realize there were women out there who want to ride like I do.’ This really just shows the momentum we have in the women’s mountain-biking community.”
As the series continues to grow, Forchielli and Rawley hope weekend outings like the Keystone clinic gain even more momentum. There are two more scheduled for the summer, first in Crested Butte from Aug. 15-16 and again in Deluth, Minnesota from Aug. 29-30, the series’ first trip to a venue outside of Colorado. VIDA hosted seven clinics this summer, up from four last summer.
The expanded clinic roster is winning converts from coast to coast, not to mention big-name sponsors like Colorado-based Yeti Cycles. This summer there are VIDA ambassadors in 11 states, including Colorado, Vermont, New Jersey and California. Forechielli suggests checking the VIDA Facebook page for group rides and impromptu clinics across the country. Again, it’s part of building a community, and that community can only get larger.
”These are all women I count among my closest friends,” Forchielli says of the VIDA coaches and ambassadors. “They are just incredible, and they do all this work for the sheer joy of loving what they do. We don’t even pay them — hopefully we can soon — but they want to spread the love of mountain biking. It’s authentic when you’re with them.”
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