Three years ago, when the first meetings were held at Boulder-area high schools to talk about launching the Colorado High School Cycling League, a handful of riders showed up interested to cycle for their schools. Fairview started with two riders in 2010. Boulder High saw five at the first club meeting — but had 18 at the first practice and 32 by the end of the first season. Around Boulder high schools, the league has boomed in the few short years of its existence, and now has more than 400 cyclists who compete in their season, which sandwiches four races in between the end of summer mountain biking season and the start of the cyclocross season.
“I’m not sure that there’s anything more suitable for this community than mountain biking,” says Ben Boyer, a Boulder High School teacher and coach of the mountain biking team there, which has won the state championships three years running — though Fairview was just 17 points behind one year, out of 5,000 total. “It fits with our community obviously really well.”
This coming fall, the group is expected to exceed the 52 team members from last season.
“We have a lot of interest,” he says. “I’m not really concerned. It’s a great problem to have. But it’s a big group.”
High schoolers are accepted to teams throughout the league regardless of ability, and coaches point to the fact that, unlike some sports, everyone on the team gets to ride in every race.
“The great thing about mountain bike racing is there is no bench,” says Steve Noel, who coaches the team at Fairview and was recruited when his son started as one of the two competitors in the team’s first season. “Nobody sits on the bench. Everybody rides.”
The cycling teams also try to set themselves apart by cultivating good sportsmanship over a sense of rivalry between schools. The Boulder High and Fairview High coaches ask to have their team pits for the races set up next to each other.
“Everyone is cheering for everyone — it doesn’t matter what color the jersey is on your back,” Boyer says.
Mountain biking offers other unique benefits as a sport — there’s a sense of independence, self-reliance and confidence that comes from learning how to ride difficult terrain and do your own on-trail bike repairs in an emergency.
“Mountain biking gets a mind geared to, ‘I can do this, I can do this,’” Boyer says. “Because you’re out there on the course and you have to finish. It’s not like someone can come get you.”
“When we’re going out and we’re riding, you’re self-sufficient in terms of being able to make trail-side repairs,” Boyer says. “It’s not like the coaches sit there and say ‘Let me fix this for you.’”
That mindset can last for a lifetime, they say. And so can participation in cycling.
“Cycling is a lifelong endeavor,” Boyer says. “It’s not like something you do in high school and then hang up your cleats and you’re done.”
Their fourth race season opens Sept. 8 in Granby. Teams are always looking for assistant coaches to help out.
The Colorado High School Cycling League is hosting a fundraiser to support interscholastic cross-country mountain biking in Colorado and Wyoming on May 31 and June 1. Colorado CycleFest kicks off with a dinner and gala 6 p.m. May 31 at the Downtown Aquarium, 700 Water St., Denver. Events continue with a ride at 9 a.m. June 1 that starts with pastries and cappuccinos and finishes with an Italian lunch. The ride is limited to 50 riders and starts at Pasta Vino, 1043 Pearl St. in Boulder. Additional information can be found at www.coloradomtb.org.