Photo Albums No. 1
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Mountain bike racing has always been an almost-anything-goes affair; you know, some dudes and mountain chicks rocking some single track, having fun.
But the Ascent Cycling Series in Colorado Springs is something special.
On a gorgeous Wednesday evening in Bear Creek Park, race director Andy Bohlmann (right) tipped
his cowboy hat back, squinted at the sunset and shook his head in disbelief. He had created something he’d dreamed of for years: A well-organized community event with a laid-back attitude; a place where first-time racers can walk up, slap their $25 on the barrel head and ride with some of the best in the business.
“We have a 14-year-old first-time racer here tonight, and then
we have pros like Katie Compton and Russel Finsterwald,” Bohlmann said. “Where else does something like that happen?”
is one of the top cyclecross competitors in the world. A Colorado Springs resident, she narrowly missed winning the world championship in 2009. She was No. 2 in the world in 2007.
Finsterwald is a pro rider for Subaru/Gary Fisher. He spent
most of the last three weeks racing in Europe,
competing in a World Cup race and in the Swiss Nationals.
The number of racers in the series has increased thanks to sponsors such
as the Ascent Bike Shop, which formed a partnership with Bohlmann’s Sand Creek Sports racing organization in 2008.
The Women’s Mountain Bike Association of
Colorado Springs has boosted the number of women racers. Carmichael Training Systems has attracted and created excellent riders.
The Front Rangers team, which develops young riders, brings a pack to each race.
And the area’s trails system is one of the best in the country. With plenty of sunshine, there is no lack of good riding here, even in January.
Colorado Springs-area cyclists know they’re lucky.
And It all forms a perfect storm for Bohlmann, who has organized races in the area for about 20 years.
Jonathan Bearden, who rides for SoCo Velo, is practically
living a dream in the Ascent Cycling Series. He has raced in and won the Cat 3
division in each of the three races, which isn’t all that surprising. But he is winning and he had never raced before ... and that is surprising.
“I’m just purely a recreational rider,” Bearden said. “These
hills are in my backyard. I’m out here for a
couple of hours every day.”
The Pro/Category 1 race begins to wind down as riders make
their last lap. An older cyclist slows to a stop along the course, where his family greets him. With miles yet to ride, he grabs a drink and says hello to his kids.
“That’s what it’s all about right there,” Bohlmann said.
After the race, Compton
held court as racers gathered around her to share their tales from the trail. She had wrecked and was partially covered in dirt, but recognized that the Sand Creek scene is something different.
“This race is good competition, it’s a good course, but it’s
really just fun to be out here,” she said.
The start and finish area hums with activity. Bohlmann barks instructions over the PA and riders funnel in to register or fill their water bottles.
Trainers from Front Range Orthopaedics slap the antiseptic to cuts and scrapes as riders wince and make faces at folks who gather around to witness the carnage. There are no serious injuries, just a little blood and some whispered cuss words.
The winners of the Pro/Cat 1 race, Kalan Beisel and Kennon
Roeber, cross the line. A few savvy race fans shout out to the top racers.
A cooler of beer emerges from somebody’s trunk and the night begins to settle in. The final results are posted, bikes are loaded and plans are made to meet again at the Ascent Cycling Series.
The next race is June 19.