Aspen Cycling Club to open 2018 season on Wednesday with Difficult time trial |

Aspen Cycling Club to open 2018 season on Wednesday with Difficult time trial

Cyclists take part in Wednesday's free skills clinic, put on by Aspen Cycling Club at Aspen Motorsports Park in Woody Creek. The 2018 season gets going Wednesday with the Difficult time trial.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Getting back on a bike after a long winter off it — or even for the first time — can be daunting. So, with the season on the doorstep, the Aspen Cycling Club decided to host a pair of free skills clinics to help riders fine-tune their abilities ahead of the first races of the spring.

The first clinic was held Wednesday at Aspen Motorsports Park in Woody Creek, with a second session scheduled for Tuesday, the day before the season-opening time trial. Dean Hill of Aspen Pro Cycling led the session.

“It’s for anyone who wants to come out and brush up on their cycling skills before our first series of races,” Aspen Cycling Club board member Heidi Mellin said. “Just things to get people comfortable so they feel really good about our upcoming races.”

The Aspen Cycling Club is about to embark on its 31st season in the Roaring Fork Valley. The nonprofit organization picked up The North Face as its title sponsor this season and has 16 races on the schedule for 2018, plus a few other events such as the free skills clinics.

The season starts Wednesday with the Difficult time trial, a quick sprint from the Difficult Campground near Independence Pass toward Aspen and back. From there, races take place nearly every Wednesday through the season-ending Maroon Bells time trial Sept. 5.

“We’ll have everyone racing, from kids just getting into high school to someone who is 84 years old this year,” ACC president Tyler Newton said. “It’s a community. Definitely grassroots.”

On top of the skills clinics, the Aspen Cycling Club does have a few other new events on the schedule this year. Usually an even split between road and mountain bike races, early-season permitting issues on the local trails have led to a road-heavy schedule in 2018.

Among the new races are the Glassier-Buckhorn mountain bike race near Willits on May 30 and the June 27 Snowmass Discovery Circuit, also a mountain bike race.

“I think that race on Buckhorn is going to be huge,” Newton said. “It’s downvalley. It’s got some amazing dirt. The biggest race of the season is always Frying Pan. We bring out a finish-line camera for that.”

Indeed, the June 20 road race on Frying Pan Road is the longest race of the season and typically brings in the most participants. The long course features roughly 48 miles of racing and 3,000 feet of climbing.

“You start just outside of Basalt and you ride all the way to Norrie and back after work, which is quite the effort,” Newton said. “We always time that right around the solstice. The other thing we are doing this year is we are continuing our trails day. We are giving back and making sure to have each club member who wants to be in the overall points for their division, they need to do one trails day.”

The ACC, along with Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, will host its annual community trails day June 13, a bye week from normal racing.

After Wednesday’s season-opening time trial, the club will hold the Woody Creek to Old Snowmass to Lenado race May 9, and the Spring Gulch Hill Climb time trial May 16. Both are road races.

Then, on May 19, the ACC encourages everyone to participate in the Ride for the Pass road race, which is considered the unofficial start to summer for cyclists as it comes just before Independence Pass opens to vehicle traffic for the season on Memorial Day weekend. While Aspen Cycling Club does not organize the race, it rewards its members for volunteering.

“Anyone in the community can ride that, and it’s a great day because the road is closed,” Mellin said. “It’s a fun way to start your season and punish yourself.”

In most cases, the cost to drop in on a race is $20. For $125, a full membership to the club can be purchased and this includes entry into each race. The club also offers a free junior membership to those 18 and younger.

While there is a competitive side — Butch Peterson was the overall men’s open class winner in 2017 with Rachel Beck taking the women’s title — a large portion of the participants are casual racers. Even though pros can often show up — Lance Armstrong is known to race from time to time — the club wants to promote its acceptance of all ability levels.

“I think that’s the misconception,” Mellin said. “We have elite-level athletes, ex-Olympians, and we also have people who just want to get out and ride and enjoy the camaraderie.”

The club often hosts post-race parties at various establishments across the valley.

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