Local bike series spits out the seeds
EAGLE COUNTY – Mountain bike racing was a different animal 30 years ago than the Lycra and titanium suspension forks we all associate with it today.When the inaugural Vail race series started in 1984, 12 racers turned out to test the wheels of their heavy, rigid-fork rigs down Shrine Pass from the Vail Pass summit to Red Cliff.”We didn’t really know anything about mountain bike racing,” said Katrina Ammer of the Vail Valley Foundation, who, in 1984, was a teenage employee at Snug, the ski shop in Vail whose owners, Ramsey Kropf and LeeAnne Esp, launched what is now the Mountain Challenge Bike Series run by the Vail Recreation District – the 2005 series of which kicks off Wednesday with the Eagle Classic. “It was funny because, not knowing how it all worked, we had a truck at the start with a stopwatch,” Ammer said of the premiere race. “We had no idea how fast mountain bikers were, and when the truck started driving to the finish line, Mike Kloser (race winner, later to become a World Cup mountain biking champion) passed it. The bikes varied. There weren’t clipless pedals. There were barely toe clips. We have some pictures of tube socks and big ol’ clunky helmets.”From that scene, one of the first mountain bike race series in the Rocky Mountain region was born.
“Mountain biking started to pick up so quickly in this valley,” Ammer said. “It grew like you couldn’t believe within the first few years. I think it was the third year, we had a race at Meadow Mountain with like 450 series.”After Snug disbanded, Ammer said Christy Sports took over the series, and then Vail Bicycle Services, where she ran each race herself along with a few volunteers and Ramsey’s husband, Steve. The Kopfs, by the way, are one of many couples who originally met on or near the local race courses.”Some people will reflect back to the good ol’ days,” Ammer said. “We did one race in Montezuma, and at the end, we met at a campfire and had watermelon as the prizes. I would organize the races, and at the very beginning, I would go out to mark the course myself, putting ribbons on trees and hoping people wouldn’t get lost.”When the late-night handwritten tallying of race results got to be a bit much once the field reached 200-plus racers, race organizers began investing in timing systems, sponsors got involved,, and the competition became incrementally more intense. Highline Sports took over the series and then the Rec District.Getting back up to speed
“I’m just happy it’s still going and still so popular,” Ammer said. “Around here, everyone’s so competitive. Because the riders got so into it, there was no other place for it to go except to get a lot bigger. It’s a nice competitive venue, but everyone’s pretty much friends too. Where I’ve seen the biggest growth is in the women’s categories. When I started, there were really good women racers, but not very many. Now, I look at even the beginner class, and I don’t think I could be in it. I look at how many people have been doing it for so many years. People just can’t say no to it. Some of my fondest memories were the races where it was either terrible weather and everyone pulled together and it was like this great camaraderie, or the really old days when we were giving watermelon for prizes. Even though everyone by nature is so competitive, it didn’t really have that cutthroat feel, not after the races, anyway.”The bike races are open to anyone who wants to compete, and they include junior categories and men’s and women’s beginner, sport, expert and pro classes.Races are Wednesday nights, beginning this Wednesday at Eagle and continuing with the Davos Dash July 8, the Vail Grind July 29, the Copper Mountain Melee collaboration with Summit County’s race organizers July 13, the Camp Hale Hub July 20 and wrapping up with the Beaver Creek Blast Aug. 10.”The riders have a really tight community,” said race series organizer Brian Doyon of the Vail Rec District. “They’re very close friends and a great bunch of people. Everyone llikes a different thing, and each of the venues is so different.”
Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or email@example.com.Beaver Creek and Vail Mountain Challenge Bike SeriesThe series begins this Wednesday in Eagle. Juniors start at 5 p.m. and adults at 5:45 p.m. Registration is $17 or $22 on race day. Season passes for all six races are available for $102. Registration for Wednesday’s race begins at 4 p.m. outside of Capitol Theater in Eagle. For more information on the race or about the series, call the Vail Recreation District at 479-2280 or visit http://www.vailrec.com.Vail, Colorado
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Vail’s updated plans regarding the state guidelines and isolation housing requirements is one of several pieces of information guests are waiting on heading into the 2020-21 season.