Steamboat Springs Last summer, alpine ski racer Derek Nickum was introduced to the sport of road cycling through the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's cycling team.
"It was the first time I had ever been on a road bike," Nickum said. "It's been great. I fell in love with the sport quickly and I feel like it's something I can do for the rest of my life."
So when the ski season ended a few months ago, Nickum shifted gears easily. He started riding again in May and he already has raced this season, despite the fact that the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's cycling program didn't go to its first official race until this weekend.
"I couldn't wait to get back on my bike," Nickum said. "It's the most exciting and rewarding sport that you can take part in. When I finish a race, it makes me feel like I've accomplished something."
His is the type of enthusiasm cycling coach Tom Davis was hoping for when he started the program last summer with a handful of recruits. This year, that core group of riders has remained the same, but Davis hopes the program will grow at the development level and on the mountain biking side.
In its first year, the team enjoyed great success on the road behind riders such as Bo Randolph and Nickum.
Randolph, who is a freestyle skier in the winter, won a state and national championship.
Nickum won the Lap the Lake race in Leadville in July in his first year of competitive racing.
"I think I will always be proud that I was one of the original members of this team," Nickum said. "Knowing that I was involved with this team when it first got started will always be special to me."
The team also enjoyed a great showing on the mountain bike side with riders including Bryce Gordon, Adam Parke and Wiley Thayer.
This year's team has 15 members, but Davis expects that number to grow in the next few weeks when the team begins regular training sessions.
Most of last year's top riders are back and Davis is excited about the addition of road racer Emily Colin and mountain biker Katherine Ingalls to this year's team.
The program includes the elite road, elite mountain biking and development teams.
Athletes can join at levels ranging from the elite level ($1,250), which includes full support, use of equipment and coaching, to the very basic steel level ($25) where riders ride with the team and listen to what coaches have to offer other riders. Several intermediate levels of cost and support also are offered.
While the programs have different goals, the approach is consistent and mimics the methods used by the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
The elite and carbon level riders will focus either on mountain biking or road biking, and will be steered toward regional level races and the training needed to be successful at the upper levels of racing.
The development team ($550) is a more introductory program designed to give riders a taste of road biking and mountain biking and teach them the skills needed to excel.
The steel level is for riders who may not make every training ride, but are looking for a group to ride with in the summer. The coaching offered to this group is limited, but it's a great way to participate with the club while supporting junior cycling.
The road team will take part in about 25 races this summer and the mountain bike team is expected to compete in 15 -- that includes seven races in the Mountain States Cup and the eight Town Challenge races. There will also be weekly training rides between events.
Davis, a self-proclaimed roadie, will coach the road team this summer and has hired Daimeon Shanks, an experienced rider and coach in mountain-bike and road racing, to oversee the mountain biking team.
Davis said while the program will include both disciplines, the idea is to remain a single team that encourages athletes to pursue goals in both road and mountain biking.
Davis said the success of the program has been directly tied to the support it gets from local sponsors.
Moots, which supplies bikes for the team to use during the summer, has been a huge supporter as well as Orange Peel, Ski Haus and Ski and Bike Kare.
'This team has been very dependant on the local biking community," Davis said. "So far, they've been very supportive and we are thankful."