ACA Junior Cyclocross Camp feature, October 11, 2006
Bikes, mud, 'bump and thump' contests and cyclocross training. Beth Seliga reveals why every child in America dreams of attending the Spring ACA Junior Cyclocross Camp in Colorado.
The American Cycling Association held its annual Junior Cyclocross Camp this past weekend at Winter Park, in Colorado's mountains. Every year, junior cyclists from Colorado and New Mexico come together for the weekend to work on their Cyclocross skills, learn about race tactics, and have a lot of fun. This weekend saw a record turnout, with 80 young riders taking part in the camp.
The campers signed in on Friday night and had some quick classroom coaching. Saturday brought a cold wakeup for the kids, with temperatures in the mid 30s for their 7am morning run and calisthenics. After a quick breakfast, everyone reported to the athletic field for drills. Riders were broken into groups by age and ability, and assigned to a coaching team. Everyone practiced their dismounts and remounts, cornering, and mass-starts. Other drills included slalom and barrel racing. Another afternoon drill session continued after lunch, before the camp pictures and course building.
This year also saw the first time any team at camp got to train all day with their coach. The boys on the ACA's Junior Cyclocross Development Team, also known as the Mudskippers, got to spend the day with their team coach, Erik Hultgren. This also helped the new team get to know each other better, with two new riders joining the team that weekend.
Every year the camp hosts a race, but this year it was only for campers and the adult chaperones. The race course had to be built from scratch, as the old course was no longer usable. Instead of a somewhat mountain bikey course through the forest, most of this year's course was across the grassy meadows of Snow Valley Ranch's campus. The campers helped put up course tape and flags, and get all the barriers set. After the course was set, it was off to dinner and then the always anticipated Saturday event: "bump and thump"!
Designed to teach riders bike handling skills, a set of riders get sent into the ring and knock each other over using their bikes or elbows while defending themselves form the others. Speeds are kept slow thanks to the tight dimensions, and the competition is always high. Even without the prizes, the kids would want to compete all night!! The final match featured the Mudskippers challenging their coach. The entire team charged into the ring, with Hultgren finding himself quickly bogged down behind fallen riders and attacked from both sides by his riders. With their coach taken down and the final match over, it was off to pick up race numbers and go to bed.
Sunday morning had races for the different age groups. The day started warmer than expected and dry - everyone hoped it would stay that way. The youngest racers went off early, with a good sized field of under-10-year-olds. These little ones raced on a shortened circuit, where the entire race was visible to the spectators. The 10 to 12-year-olds were next, with the largest field of the day. Racers were lined up three rows deep at the start, eager to go show what they could do on the full length course, part of which winded through the woods. The weather held for the 13 to 14-year-olds, whose 30 minute race went off at a lightning pace - but as that race ended, in came the rain. With temperatures in the high 30s, the rest of the junior races were combined, and run off in the cold rain. The course got trickier as the rain came down, making it go from fast and bumpy to muddy and slippery. The rain let up for the final race of the day as the adults from camp (coaches and parents) took to the course. A quick 30 minute race later, all that was left was tearing down the course, cleaning out rooms, and sending everyone home to look forward to next spring's road camp. As usual, all the campers left excited and chatty, telling their parents how they couldn't wait to come back till springtime