If you’ve been out in, say, Red Rock Canyon Open Space lately, there’s a good chance you’ve passed groups of high school mountain bikers wearing the team kits of Cheyenne Mountain Cycling Team, Manitou Monsters or Highlander Racing. Fall is race season for the Colorado High School Cycling League, and the Springs is home to five of the 74 affiliated high school cycling clubs.
For a decade, the league has fostered an inclusive blend of character building and competition—and it has been growing the next generation of lifelong cyclists. “There’s a lot of mutual support and respect out on the course, regardless of your category, your gender, team or socioeconomic background,” says Kate Rau, Colorado League executive director. Clubs are coed, and Rau says Colorado has one of the highest female participation percentages in the country.
Full disclosure: I’m a team parent and coach, and I can attest it’s a refreshing scene. Races are competitive, with top riders going on to national levels and college scholarships, but the atmosphere is overwhelmingly supportive. “The camaraderie in the league is unlike any other high school sport,” says Cheyenne Mountain sophomore Sophie T. “It’s not any of the cutthroat win-or-you-suck nonsense.”
“It’s the culture we’ve created with spirit contests and the slingshot award [for most improved] and focusing on every rider and every team regardless of where they are ranked or whether they’re on the podium,” Rau says.
“My team left the first-place podium at the Leadville race to support the girl who finished last, and make her feel proud to finish,” Sophie says. “She wasn’t there to win. She was there to have fun, and she did because of all the amazing friendship the teams showed her.”
With an award to honor the team that completes the most trail work, don’t be surprised when you also see those same young mountain bike riders giving back on local trails. That’s a win for everyone.