Trailblazers

Winter Sports Club mountain bikers excelling in first competitive season

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Looking for Bryce Gordon, Katherine Ingalls, Greg Ingalls, Adam Parke, Bo Randolph or Wiley Thayer?

Try the mountain bike trails.

Since conditions allowed the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's elite mountain bike team to clip in this spring, the teenagers have been on their bikes riding area trails day after day after day.

"The team is pretty good, actually," said Adam Parke, 14.

The team, which began last year as a development program, has turned into a successful squad that travels throughout Colorado and outside state lines to compete.

At the Steamboat Springs Town Challenge Series races, they wear their blue Moots jerseys and shorts, and they ride their Moots Smoothie aluminum bikes.

Needless to say, few 14-year-olds -- or adults for that matter -- have Moots mountain bikes. Fewer can ride a bike faster.

The young riders consistently win their divisions in the Town Challenge races. Thayer competes in the men's sport class. Randolph rides with the men's expert. Neither is older than 18.

Gordon and Parke take turns winning the junior 16 to 18 class. Katherine Ingalls is in the youth girls 13-15 class.

"On the mountain bike side, when you go to the Town Challenge, you see a multitude of kids," said Tom Davis, SSWSC Cycling Program Director. "Our team has really grown with that elite mountain bike team. We are hoping more kids want to get involved."

There are a variety of teams within the club that children of all levels can join. The elite team is competitive. Consequently, their summer schedule consists of training rides, races and more training rides.

"You aren't required to place at races, but you need to be at every race and train every day," Katherine Ingalls said.

In a typical week, Monday is reserved for a hard three-hour ride. Tuesday is a lighter ride. Wednesday is race night. Thursday is a lighter day. Friday is another hard ride, and Saturday is usually another race day. Sunday is a day of rest, but many of the teenagers can't get enough of their Smoothies.

This weekend, most of the

team is in Telluride competing in a National Off Road Bicycling Association event in Snowmass Village. NORBA is the mountain bike branch of USA Cycling.

"It's mostly a time-commitment thing," said coach Daimeon Shanks. "Racers don't typically peak until their late 20s or early 30s, so it's more about learning the skills than the results."

Try telling that to the racers, many of whom ski race for the Winter Sports Club, as well.

Gordon is currently leading the Rocky Mountain State Cup series standings in the junior sport division. Parke is in 11th. Thayer and Greg Ingalls are in the same division.

Katherine Ingalls is in third place, and SSWSC carbon mountain bike team member Sean Geisler, 12, is ninth in his division.

"Mountain biking and skiing are cross training for the other," Katherine Ingalls said. "But if I wasn't doing Nordic skiing, I would still bike race."

Gordon pinpoints the camaraderie developed among him, his teammates and other mountain bikers as an appealing aspect of the sport. Few sports allow competitors to exchange conversations while racing. For example, it's not atypical for mountain bikers to discuss the pain they are in on an ascent together, Parke said.

"All the kids are cool about respecting the others," Shanks said.

The elite team membership offers the riders the opportunity for high-level coaching, organized training schedules and entrance into competitions without worrying about transportation or lodging issues, all in addition to the sponsored clothing and bicycles.

The Winter Sports Club mountain bike team has gone from a development program designed to "keep the lungs up," Gordon said, to an organized, focused team.

Everyone's technique is improving under the coaching of Shanks and volunteers who come out for rides. The young mountain bikers are learning the mental aspects of race preparation and the proper nutritional needs for a competitive athlete.

"The kids are awesome," Shanks said. "Of all the teams I've worked with, these kids are the best."

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208

or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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