Aspen Cycling Club pedals into new era
The Aspen Times
The Aspen Cycling Club is pedaling into a new era this season.
Boosted by new title sponsorship from two local cycling icons, the club is launching initiatives to expand the reach and membership, particularly among young riders.
Aspen Cycling Club president Tyler Newton, who took over as the club’s lead figure this year, announced the club title sponsorship from Aspen cyclist Tejay van Garderen and his wife, Aspen native Jessica Phillips.
The van Garderen family contribution will enable the club to provide quality racing opportunities in Aspen at a low cost.
“We’ll be able to continue and expand the high school and youth scholarship (program),” Newton said. “We can keep the fees down … and give back.”
Van Garderen is the decorated professional cyclist riding with the BMC team, one of the top U.S. riders and a contender again this year in the upcoming Tour de France. He’s a two-time overall winner of the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado.
Phillips, who grew up in Aspen, also is a professional cyclist who organized the first women’s pro race in Aspen in conjunction with the inaugural USA Pro Challenge stage in 2011.
One of the best all-around athletes ever at Aspen High School, Phillips was a pro triathlete before turning full-time to cycling.
“Cycling is our whole life,” Jessica Phillips said in an interview with The Aspen Times. “And we were looking for different ways that we can help out.”
She said that she and Tejay love Aspen and they want to raise their family here.
“We’re having another baby,” Phillips said. “We knew we wanted to help. But we don’t have the time … to run our own scholarship program or something like that. So we said let’s support one that’s out there.”
Thus they decided to become the title sponsors for the Aspen Cycling Club with club officials using the resources “wherever they need to be,” said Phillips.
The van Garderen family also has a daughter Rylen.
Phillips said the support for the Aspen Cycling Club is personal for her husband, one of the top cyclists on the world stage.
“Tejay started racing when he was 11,” Phillips said. “For his career, he understands how important it is (to have community bike races like the ACC events).”
The two were impressed with Newton’s visions for the future of the Aspen Cycling Club, and the partnership was off and rolling.
“Seeing Tejay give back, an athlete of his stature, is really special for us,” Newton said. “The Aspen Cycling Club really appreciates (the assistance).”
He said the timing is particularly helpful.
“This year marks a shift for us,” he said. Race categories were adjusted in an effort to better match the racing fields, he said. The result is racing among cyclists of closer abilities — better racing.
The club also launched a comprehensive new website that includes a full race schedule.
The club hosts regular races every Wednesday, starting at 6 p.m. The races generally alternate between mountain bike races and road races.
Some revised courses also are part of the schedule this summer, Newton said.
Some historic road rides, like this week’s Aspen Valley Hospital-Ashcroft Road Race, were returned to the calendar. And new options, like last week’s Sky Mountain Park Mountain Bike Race, were added.
He said the versatility of the cycling club enables up-and-coming cyclists, like Aspen’s Kevin Callahan, to race and gain experience the top race veterans of the Aspen Cycling Club.
Callahan, an AHS senior who will ride for the powerhouse Fort Lewis College cycling team next year, recently won the time trial at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in Durango. He beat a field that included several Fort Lewis cyclists who were coming off the national collegiate championships in North Carolina.
Callahan finished a close second in the annual Ride for the Pass climb up Independence Pass two weeks ago.
He finished just behind Cormac McGeough, a current Fort Lewis College cyclist.
Veteran Aspen Cycling club rider Tony Nitti was third in the climb up Independence.
Other young cyclists also have flourished, Newton said, citing Marius Mercier who won his middle school division in the Wednesday road race up the Castle Creek Valley.
His father, Scott Mercier, won the B division for the men.
In the competitive Men’s A (or open) Division, six riders posted identical times of 1:00:48 for the 22-mile course.
The finish order was decided by visual timing with Scott Leonard in first.
Gregory Strokes was second with Charlie Eckart third.
Danny Sullivan was fourth, followed by Ian Anderson and the aforementioned Nitti.
Tiffany Cromwell topped the Women’s A division in 1:02:44.
Anne Gonzales was second with Tess Strokes third and Maria Winner fourth.
Complete results appear on Page A19 in today’s edition of the Aspen Times.
“We’d like to keep the sport alive and well here in Aspen,” Jessica Phillips said.
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