Bike races still running for Labor Day weekend
There will be bicycle races in the area over Labor Day weekend, even without a professional race featuring American cycling legend Lance Armstrong.While a professional race for the September holiday weekend was canceled this week, a youth-oriented race series will hold its state championships here, culminating a summer of road-bike racing.Before last year’s announcement of the Vail stop on the Pro Cycling Tour, local bike enthusiasts John Edwards and Roy Pickavance had done a bit of work to establish a youth racing program. “We both thought this should be a beacon for something besides golf in the summer,” Edwards said. With the news Armstrong might be coming, Edwards and Pickavance got to work and landed the 2004 U.S. Cycling Federation state championships in the Lance Armstrong Foundation Junior Olympic Race Series, a series founded in 1995.Originally, events were scheduled for Sept. 4, 5, and 6, but a planned event on Saturday was to be held in conjunction with Pro Cycling Tour events on that day. With the big pro race canceled, events for that day are still up in the air, Edwards said.
The Sunday and Monday events are firm, and include some tough races for young cyclists.The Sunday event is a hillclimb at Beaver Creek, with the racers starting at the west day lot along U.S. Highway 6 and then heading up to Beaver Creek Village, Strawberry Park and Daybreak Ridge.The Monday event is a time trial, a 25-mile blast from Beaver Creek to Eagle, with the race finishing up at Eagle Ranch above Brush Creek Elementary School.”That’s a perfect time trial course,” Edwards said.Also in September, the area will hold another state championship event, a criterium race.Organizers hope the September events tap into enthusiasm built up during the series of summer races. The first of those events will be held in conjunction with the Teva Mountain Games. On June 6, racers will compete on a course that once was used during the Coors Classic bicycle races a number of years ago. That course, an eight-mile hillclimb, takes racers from Vail Village, up the frontage road, then into East Vail and up Vail Pass along old Highway 6 to a cul-de-sac.The race, now called the Teva Mountain Games FirstBank Vail Pass Hillclimb, will award $1,500 in cash prizes to winners. In addition, class winners will all receive a riding vest. Through the summer, road racers will gather in Eagle every Tuesday from June 22 to Sept. 14 at that town’s weekly downtown market. Those races will focus more on young racers participating in the Eagle Valley Racing and Development Club.
Proceeds from the race will benefit the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office DARE program.While the valley has an active mountain biking scene and plenty of dirt races, one local bike shop owner believes it’s past time for road racers to have some fun, too.”I’m surprised it’s taken this long to get a road series going,” Moontime Cyclery owner Frank Mitchell said. “The road bike market is the only segment of the industry that’s growing right now.”Mitchell said after years of growth in mountain biking, road bikes have become more comfortable to ride. Besides, Mitchell said, “A road bike is just better on the road.”If excitement builds over the summer, Mitchell said the Labor Day events could draw some pretty big crowds. Better still, Edwards said, if a pro cycling event does come to the area in 2005, the locals will be ready. “We want to make Vail a destination for travel to do cycling, and training,” Edwards said. Mostly, though, he said, “We want to focus on the kids in our community.”