High school competitive mountain biking gaining momentum

The year 2011 saw the creation of one of the newest and fastest growing club activities across the high school landscape in Minnesota.

All racers in mountain biking take off at the same time, then head through various challenging terrains. (Photo courtesy of Libby Hurley)

All racers in mountain biking take off at the same time, then head through various challenging terrains. (Photo courtesy of Libby Hurley)

Mountain biking continues to evolve and include more schools year after year. In just about two years, high school mountain biking has grown into nearly 30 different teams stretching from Rochester to the Twin Cities and beyond. With the newly formed addition of a Metro West team and several other schools trying to form teams such as Champlin, Maple Grove-Osseo and even Duluth, high school mountain biking is becoming a legitimate attraction for high school students.

Libby Hurley from the Minnesota High School Cycling Association is very happy with the reception cycling has received in the beginning stages. “We are much honored to see the participation of many students and are finding that parents and other family members are becoming involved proving that cycling is a family activity.”

Cycling has benefits that are attracting athletes from all areas of sports. “Athletes from Nordic skiing and cross country are cyclists that we are seeing the most,” Hurley said. Cycling allows students from many different sports the opportunity to remain in peak performance condition during their offseason.

That doesn’t mean this sport is just for top athletes. Hurley wants everyone to know this sport is for anybody. “What’s nice about cycling,” Hurley said, “is that it’s not a sport that forces athletes to give up other sports in order to compete.”

A flexible schedule has allowed cycling the opportunity to grow. With a limited number of events, cycling has focused on developing a competitive schedule while allowing athletes the freedom to continue their primary activities. The schedule for the 2013 cycling season will consist of five events total which just enough to promote the sport without being overwhelming for the students.

Flexibility isn’t the only thing that boosts cycling in comparison to other activities. Many students and families enjoy the fact that no student sits on the bench as part of a cycling team. All cyclists race at one time. “Total participation is what we strive to achieve and athletes … do not have to weight their decision to participate based on playing time.”

Total participation also means individuals from all different ages and genders to get involved. To expose the sport to a wider variety of people, a group of females created “Crank Sisters” which helps to promote the sport to women by reaching out to high school females to become racers and women in their communities to become coaches.

How does a cycling event work?

Racers line up at the starting grid to receive the starting notification. All racers sprint off at one time heading down the path through various terrains that challenges the riders physically and mentally to choose the best lines possible. Riders are given points based on their finishing position; the school with the highest amount of points at the end of the race is considered the winner.

Mountain bike racers navigate throughout the course. (Photo courtesy of Libby Hurley)

Mountain bike racers navigate throughout the course. (Photo courtesy of Libby Hurley)

The cycling season will begin on Sept. 8 with the final race of the season Oct. 20. Anyone interested in finding out more about the Minnesota High School Cycling League is encouraged to attend a “Try it out session.” The next session will be Saturday, July 27, at 10 a.m. at the Murphy Hanrehan trail where interested individuals will be able to meet the newly formed West Metro mountain biking team and go on a ride utilizing their own bike or a sponsorship bike that will be available. “Our sport is great for kids who are looking to become part of an activity, I will never forget the happiness I saw on a mother’s face who came to talk with me about the change she has seen in her daughter ever since joining cycling. Her confidence is up, her grades are up, and she is finally happy to have found something she truly enjoys,” Hurley said.

Teams can be formed however desired, all any interested individuals need to do is visit the Minnesota High School Cycling League’s website and find out what materials are needed for a Team Starter Kit.

“Lacrosse started out this way, as a club sport and look at the popularity it has received as it evolved into a full fledge sport recognized by the Minnesota’s State High School League,” Hurley said. “Hopefully, with time Mountain Biking will experience the same fate.”

The next “try it out session” will be Saturday, July 27, at 10 a.m. at the Murphy Hanrehan trail, 15501 Murphy Lake Road, Savage, threeriversparks.org.

 

Contact Ryan Schleichler at ryan.schleichler@ecm-inc.com

 
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