Still rolling strong
SILT – Preparing for a big criterium race, they zoom around a rectangular, makeshift track – which also serves as an access road for a developing residential area nestled in the Silt countryside. Cyclers, some as young as 8 and others as old as 21, master flawless turns and practice drafting and passing while pedaling furiously. It’s a practice day for Two Rivers Cycling Club, also known as Brown and Wills cycling team, and though the group may not be huge in numbers, its members ooze spirit and dedication. Even in the face of a recent coaching change and the program’s near demise.Led by coach James Otis and a legion of dedicated parents, Brown and Wills cyclers convene for weekly training rides and travel to competitions throughout Colorado on the weekends. “About a year ago December, we kind of got it cobbled together,” said Otis, who reached pro Category 2 status as a cycler in his younger days. “I jumped into the fray. I didn’t want to see that opportunity go away. These are opportunities that weren’t there when I was a kid.” Otis had worked with a few aspiring cyclists individually prior to grabbing the reins of the youth club and when the vacancy arose, he pounced on it. His aim is to pique youth interest in cycling in the area, regardless of skill level.
“We just want to keep them coming back,” said Otis, whose three kids – 5-year-old Sam, 8-year-old Abigail and 10-year-old Madison – are on the team. “If we slam the door and have an elitist approach, we may miss the one that might turn into the next Lance Armstrong.” On the Western Slope, and throughout the United States, Otis says the biggest problem youth cycling faces is perception. He does his best to smash the stereotypes.”It never quite gets the traction you want it to,” he explained. “Some of it is perception. You have to fight the parents who are into football, baseball or basketball. When they have a kid who wants to ride a bike, they think, ‘Why do you want to do that?'” And, Otis adds, many parents think cycling’s a “rich man’s sport.” That isn’t entirely the case, at least not as far as Two Rivers is concerned. Team member Ryan Lake, 14, thinks he knows why few kids embrace cycling.”They just haven’t found it yet,” the second-year competitive rider said.Lake got hooked on cycling rather quickly, and is among the state’s best in his age group. The many nuances of the sport enthrall the youngster.
“Before I ever started, I didn’t even know about drafting or anything like that,” he noted. “I’m still kind of learning the extras.”Another Brown and Wills rider, 10-year-old Max Somers, is also infatuated with cycling. He urged other kids to give it a go.”I’d say if you bike, come on our rides and see what it’s like. If you like, great. Get a bike, get a jersey and be part of the team.” Equipment aside, latching on with Two Rivers isn’t terribly expensive.Thanks to the financial support of local attorney Walt Brown, the club’s biggest backer, and a number of other major sponsors, the cost to riders remains low. Currently, there is no cost to join the club. They even have a team van for travel to competitions. The team also has big-time name power in the form of 1990 Glenwood Springs High School graduate Bobby Julich, a Tour de France veteran and the probably the most prominent cycler to emerge from the Roaring Fork Valley.Julich himself started as a junior rider and, coming up the ranks, was a major beneficiary of Brown’s generosity. Julich’s name graces the kids’ jerseys, and he’s been known to cast a watchful eye on what the young riders are accomplishing.
“He deserves huge kudos,” Otis said. “He had a huge yard sale in Pennsylvania of bike stuff. He came up with $4,500. He turned around and immediately wrote a check for that amount, sent it to Walt and said, ‘Give it to the kids.’ Walt will e-mail him results and Bobby will shoot right back with ‘that’s awesome.'” Though not all members are ultra-competitive, Brown and Wills is seeing results. “At the beginning of the year, we were mid to bottom in most age groups,” Otis said. “Now, we’re at the top of the field almost every race. We’re doing something right. It’s nice to get the results, but the fact the kids love bikes and like coming out is the meat and potatoes.”How hard riders push themselves is up to them, and that concept is the crux of Two Rivers’ philosophy. One element is consistent among all members, though, and that’s an addiction to the sport of cycling.”It’s life by endorphins,” team dad Chris Lake said. “A lot of these guys are endorphin junkies. It’s painful to ride hard, but it’s fun.”Otis echoed the claim.”It’s a tough sport,” he said. “It’ll test your mettle.”
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The Glenwood Springs Demons boys swim team won 11 of 12 events and swept the top-3 positions in four of the events to score a dominating team win at the Southwest Conference Championships on Friday.