Colorado High School Cycling Championships return to Eagle this weekend
If you go ...
What: Colorado High School Cycling Championships mountain bike racing.
When: Sunday, Oct. 22.; 9 a.m. first wave takes off.
Where: Haymaker Trail in Eagle.
More information: Racing continues throughout the day with the final wave slated to take off at 2 p.m. The awards ceremony is planned at 4:30 p.m. For more information, visit eagleoutside.com or coloradomtb.org.
For high school cyclists from all across Colorado, this weekend marks the culmination of their competition season.
For residents of Eagle, the weekend of Oct. 21-22 represents arguably the community’s biggest marketing success story.
“We definitely fill the hotels and people also camp and are out there in restaurants and businesses, spending money,” said Holli Snyder, member of the Eagle Marketing and Events Committee. “It’s what the lodging tax money is designed to do — uplift our hotels and our businesses.”
This year marks the fourth consecutive year that Eagle has hosted the Colorado Cycling League State Championships. The community lured the high school league to town with its Haymaker Trail design.
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“The course is incredible,” said Eagle Special Events coordinator Jeremy Gross. “We have a great asset in the Haymaker Trail that was professionally built specifically for this race.”
Of course, during the 51 other weeks of the year, the course is a community amenity that sees considerable use, but the trail and the championships have been tied together since 2013. That will change a bit in 2018.
Next year, the high school championships will be contested in Durango.
“We are a little sad to see the championships moving,” Gross said, “but we are confident we will continue to host races into the future.”
Since it was founded back in 2009, the Colorado High School Cycling League has seen huge growth with 66 teams and more than 1,000 riders competing in 2017. The league is now divided into a 29-team North Conference, which includes the Eagle Valley, Battle Mountain and Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy squads, and a 37-team South Conference. Races are contested at locations around the state throughout the fall, leading up to the championships.
The popularity of the sport, and Eagle’s reputation as a cycling epicenter, means that the community will continue hosting high school league events, Gross said. He noted the future may mean conference title races or even future championships.
“We are a great central locations for the entire state,” Gross said.
But for local competitors, their families and average Eagle residents, this year’s championships present the opportunity to leave a lasting impression with the high school league. They are committed to making sure that impression is a great one.
“The high school championships is a great event that brings together a couple of things Eagle loves — kids and bikes,” Gross said.
High school sports traditionally attract fans from familiarity — competitors’ family and friends. But Gross encouraged community members to take in the race atmosphere — as a volunteer or as a spectator.
Gross said the event needs everything from race marshals to parking attendants, and locals can sign up to help by visiting http://www.eagleoutside.com.
“This event showcases the type of people we have in our community,” Gross said.
Snyder highly recommends attending the races.
“The vibrancy of the entire event is very cool,” she said.
It is also great to hang out with the cycling event visitors because it gives Eagle residents the chance to see the community through their eyes, Snyder added. The spectators are generally intrigued about the community and the event gives Eagle residents a chance to share their recommendations and enthusiasm. Snyder told one woman from Grand Junction about her favorite Eagle restaurant a couple of years ago. When she ran into that woman the next year, the Grand Junction resident said that Eagle eatery is now her regular stop on the way to the Front Range.
There is one caveat for race spectators, Gross added.
“The recommended way to get to the event is to ride a bike there,” he said.
Low impact, high impact
While the high school championships has been one of the biggest events in Eagle for the past four years, it is also a remarkably low impact festival that doesn’t close down streets and require detours. For people who are unaware that the championships are happening, the biggest clue will likely be how busy the town’s restaurants are during the weekend.
“The goal with all our events is to increase sales tax and maybe get a couple of people to move here,” Gross said.
Gross noted that because of previous state championships, some families have opted to move to Eagle. They loved the community, its trails and its commitment to supporting high school cyclists. Combine that enthusiasm with sold out hotels, packed eateries and bustling shops, Eagle may be the biggest winner of all this weekend.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.