Aspen prep mountain bike team takes off | AspenTimes.com

Aspen prep mountain bike team takes off

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

The Aspen Skiers are pedaling into new territory.

The first Aspen High School mountain bike team will head to Granby on Sunday for its first foray into the world of the Colorado High School Cycling League.

The Aspen High School team, a club team, was initiated and funded by the Hub of Aspen and longtime Aspen cycling icon Charlie Tarver.

"I've been thinking about doing something different (in cycling) for a while," Tarver said, "since I'm too old to race. It came up that there's a Colorado high school league."

And Tarver wasn't alone.

"Nat and Amy Ross were having the same idea," Tarver said of the Aspen cycling colleagues who bring lifetimes of experience in bike racing.

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"We started talking about it. The three of us," Tarver said. "The idea was to give Aspen High School a mountain bike team."

Early start

They started last November in discussions with the school to clear coaching protocols, etc.

"We started meetings with the kids in the spring. And we started riding at the end of July," Tarver said. "We've been riding a couple of times a week."

Nat Ross, a four-time world mountain bike champion, will lead the coaching efforts along with Amy and Tarver.

Tarver's Hub of Aspen shop is underwriting the cost of the team.

"The first race is Sunday, in the Winter Park area," Tarver said. "There's only four races in the series. Two of them are really close (Leadville and Eagle)."

Tarver said it will be interesting to see how the team develops in it's first season.

"We have no idea how we'll do, but we'll be out there riding and having fun," Tarver said, adding that safety is a point of daily emphasis with the fledgling squad.

Math/math support teacher Paul Stucki is the Aspen High School liaison to the mountain bike team. He has extensive experience with the Colorado High School Cycling League.

He also had sons who raced in the high school league as well as collegiate cycling.

"This is a really good place to start a team," said Stucki, who previously worked with prep squads in Gunnison and Buena Vista. "We have a lot of athletes, a lot of families here, who are interested in endurance sports. People who are interested in mountain biking. So, it seemed like a natural to get something going here."

Stucki said the students responded with a core of 10 cyclists who have been at every practice session.

More than 20 turned out for last weekend's practice ride

Stucki also works extensive with the Experiential Education program at Aspen High School.

"That's another reason this sport (mountain biking) fits right in here. We're excited about it," Stucki said.

Fun and safety

"Our main interest is fun and safety," the AHS teacher said. "But we also have some pretty talented riders."

The first formal event for the team will be a benefit film presentation at 7 p.m. today at the Aspen School District Theatre.

"Singletrack High" is a film about kids who ride bikes, specifically a Northern California group of prep mountain bikers. It was produced by Pedal Born Pictures for http://www.nationalmtb.org.

There is a suggested donation of $10 with all proceeds going to the inaugural edition of the Aspen-area composite cycling team.

The team will open the 2013 race calendar Sunday at the Snow Mountain Ranch Stampede near Granby, riding on the trails that form the Nordic network in winter at Snow Mountain Ranch.

The second race of the mountain bike season will be Sept. 22. Leadville will host the annual Cloud City Challenge.

The third of four races will be in Elbert on Oct. 6, the Peaceful Valley Invitational.

The short season will conclude with the state championships Oct. 20 in Eagle — the annual Haymeadow Classic.

Forty teams representing high schools in Colorado and Wyoming participate in the Colorado High School Cycling League.

The Aspen area team joins Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale and Grand Valley (Parachute) as regional representatives in the statewide prep cycling organization.

Other schools or teams include mountain squads from Buena Vista, Crested Butte, Durango, Estes Park, Evergreen, Gunnison, Leadville, Salida, Steamboat Springs, Summit County and Vail (Vail Valley Composite team).

Urban areas are represented with the likes of Boulder High School, one of the largest prep cycling programs in the state. There's also Boulder Fairview, Columbine, Cheyenne Mountain (Colorado Springs), Denver East, Fort Collins, Poudre, Fountain Valley, Golden, Green Mountain, Highlands Ranch, Loveland, Lyons, Monarch, Ralston Valley and Valor Christian.

Home-school students are allowed to compete on the closest public high school team in the cycling league.

Wyoming teams

The Colorado league also includes Wyoming teams from Laramie, Casper and Cheyenne.

Teams compete in either Division 1 or Division 2, depending on the level of competition.

dstrode@aspentimes.com

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