The future of 'cross gathers in Colorado

Tales from the peloton, October 13, 2005

American Cycling Association junior cyclocross camp

Under glorious blue Colorado skies, the 2005 American Cycling Association's Junior Cyclocross Camp once again convened at Snow Mountain Ranch on September 24 and 25 for two days of honing the skills of our future cyclocross stars. Although Fraser, Colorado has the reputation for being the "icebox" of the nation, we were blessed with temps that rivaled summer rather than the cold and rain that greeted the Front Range.

Kids aged 8 to 18 years woke early Saturday morning with an organised run, just to get the legs moving for the rest of the weekend. Lead coach and local cyclocross guru Scott Mares treated the kids, and us coaches, to a little drill sergeant routine, barking orders at 7:05am to make sure everyone completed the run and calisthenics in an orderly fashion, even going so far as to add a little bit more when a few of the youngsters "protested". The kids were now primed to get on their bikes, and true to the American Cycling Association's dedication to grassroots and developmental goals, the ACA had a number of Redline CX bikes available for those who didn't have cross bikes for the weekend. All of them were spoken for quickly, and the programme's success was evident by how many of those went home with the kids after the weekend was over.

With the run completed and breakfast done, it was finally time to get to work on the core of the weekend, the skills. After breaking into more manageable groups, the team of dedicated volunteer coaches put the kids through their paces, teaching them the finer points of dismounts and remounts and how to get over barriers quickly and efficiently. Granted, a 10-year-old trying to lift a bike that's a third of their weight over a 16 inch barrier can hardly be described as either quickly or efficiently, but they all did so with enthusiasm, eager to learn more. Cone drills, barrel races and bunny hopping all familiarised the kids with the bike handling skills best used for tackling a cyclocross course, but easily transferred over to all types of riding.

The afternoon culminated with the annual building of the next days race course. The goal was to let the kids construct a course that would challenge the skills and lessons learned earlier in the day. Multiple barriers, a couple of water crossings, a decent run-up and some tight turns through the trees, the kids and coaches came away with a challenging design. After stringing 10,000 feet of yellow caution tape through the forest and constructing the infamous Snow Mountain mud pit, the kids were finally ready for the highlight of the weekend, the always popular "bump and thump". Last person standing, or more importantly riding, within a small, enclosed oval earned the skilled rider a prize. Judging by how often the kids were lining up time after time for a couple of hours, the event proved its worth not only for developing close riding skills but savvy bike handling as well.

Sunday dawned cool but clear, but the temps didn't stop the kids from lining up to race at 8:30 in the morning. Judging by the smiles on both the kids and their parents' faces, the work done the previous day was evidently rewarding as they sailed through the course with their new found skills. Muddied from the few trips through the mud pit and exhausted from lifting bikes over barriers, the weekend was a success for the future cyclocross stars. There is no doubt that all the kids are looking forward to next year's camp.

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