Texas Blog

Day 5, 2 August 2013

The last day of our first ever summer mountain bike camp came too fast for us, and we went through our daily morning routines with bittersweet regularity. Though everyone was thoroughly exhausted and beat up from the daily conquering of mountains, not one of us wanted it to be over quite yet. To celebrate the last of so many great rides that the students had experienced throughout the week, today’s adventure was to explore the Overend Mountain Park just west of town. Named after the bicycle racer Ned Overend, this system of trails has just about everything a mountain biker could dream of for a full day of fun and “knar shreeding” as the kids are saying these days. Most of the groups stayed out extra long to soak up the last remaining moments of these sacred and famed trails of Durango, CO. I caught up with several of them after the ride to see what we were all missing.

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Combo Interview with Alex Ward and Boone Flynn

 

What did you think about the ride today?

Boone: It was so fun! The trail was nice and tacky from the rain we got last night. It was fast and flowy.

Alex: It was fun to watch Steven from Devo shred knar. He had some good flow.

Boone: Yeah he had some flow. It’s awesome to ride with locals because they know the trails really well.

 

What did you learn on the ride today that you didn’t know before?

Alex: There are a lot more trails out there than the ones that are marked. The trail system is never ending around here!

Boone: I learned again today that fast is good. Tacky trails are good. Descending is very good. Ruts in the trail are not good. Slippery roots are not good. But fig bars are good.

Alex: Yeah, things got pretty schralpy today.

 

What was your favorite part of the trail today?

Boone: That climb up Hogs Back was steep and awesome.

Alex: It was very rewarding.

Boone: The descent on the other side was the radness. I didn’t know I could go down that much steep stuff for that long without being killed. Steve suggested that we do it; it wasn’t in the ride plan for the day.

Alex: The local sweet elite.

Boone: Steve Shredfest Devoust.

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What was the most challenging part of the day?

Alex: The climb up Hogs Back was the hardest part of the day.

Boone: Yeah. That and excepting that the ride was over.

Alex: Yeah, having to go back to the dorm. That was hard.

 

Do you miss your parents?

Alex: I guess you could say that. Final answer; Yes I do.

Boone: Yes.

 

Who is your favorite Coach?

Boone: I would say Chad Cheeney is the radness.

Alex: He is a total schralper. He has a serious side but he is also comical.

 

What do you like about Durango?

Boone: I like everything. Just everything.

Alex: Yeah I would say everything. The town, the trails, the temperature, and the people here.

 

What do you like about Fort Lewis?

Boone: Everything. Except for Chinese food day in the Student Union cafeteria.

Alex: I like that it is secluded and the town is real close.

 

 

Interview with Betty Rodriguez

 

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What did you think about the ride today?

Betty: I was in the third group today; I liked our ride. It was muddy today and it was really different from anything I have ridden in Texas. It was a great experience.

 

What did you learn on the ride today that you didn’t know before?

Betty: I think with every ride I am getting better at cornering and breaking suddenly behind people. I am getting the hang of standing while going downhill. I am also getting better at the attack position.

 

What was your favorite part of the trail today?

Betty: I would say the downhill part. It was super muddy and there were ditches to navigate in and out of. It was really fast and fun.

 

What was the most challenging part of the day?

Betty: All of the uphills. I tried going up this one really big hill that  only two of us tried. We only made it halfway up; it was so steep and long and had stumps that messed us up so we turned around. My gears were starting to mess up so that didn’t help either.

 

Do you miss your parents?

Betty: Yeah I miss them both. Its kinda hard being without them because we normally spend so much time together. At the same time, it’s cool to be here on my own too.

 

Who is your favorite Coach?

Betty: I would say Elke is my favorite. She is really outgoing and funny. She watches me and tells me what I am doing wrong with my form and how I ride. She slows me down when I am going too fast and starting to get out of control.

 

What do you like about Durango?

Betty: I like the mountains here, they are beautiful. It’s good to get out of Texas and be somewhere completely different for a while.

 

What do you like about Fort Lewis?

Betty: I like how it’s so free to be who you are here. There is so much to offer – kayaking, rock climbing, cycling – whatever you want to do.

 

 

Interview with Abby Lestina

 

What did you think about the ride today?

Abby: Overall I would say it was pretty good. It was tough; I never thought the climbing would end. The views today were awesome though and worth it.

 

What did you learn on the ride today that you didn’t know before?

Abby: That I am a better rider than I think I am.

 

What was your favorite part of the trail today?

Abby: I liked the beginning of the climb. My legs were fresh and I felt strong.

 

 

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Abby: Getting back on my bike after my crash. It happened at the bottom of a really steep and long descent. I had thoughts of wanting someone to come and pick me up in a car and take me back to campus. I really wanted to make it all the way down that descent! I am pretty sure I crashed right when I thought I might.

 

Do you miss your parents?

Abby: No not really. I am about to go to off college so that is good. I have been staying in touch with them for the most part while I have been here.

 

Who is your favorite Coach?

Abby: I don’t really have a favorite. Today I would have to say that I really appreciated Dave and Andrew. Andrew was so positive throughout the whole ride. Everything he and Boone tell me stays with me – like to stay aggressive in my riding. Every time we stopped Andrew told me I was doing great, which was encouraging. Dave was really patient with me today too.

Earlier in the week Sarah noticed something about my bike that really affected my riding style. She adjusted my brakes so I wasn’t reaching down for them. After she made that little adjustment, I could instantly ride better. She has great attention to detail.

 

What do you like about Durango?

Abby: The weather nice and cool here, and I like that it’s a small town. Durango is so pretty. Especially at night; you can see so many stars and I love the way the nearby cliff looks with the moon shining on it. Oh, and everyone here is wearing Choco’s!

 

What do you like about Fort Lewis?

Abby:  I like that it’s a small school. The school I will be going to is small too.  I like the way the buildings look; they are nicely designed. I also like how the campus sits on a hilltop overlooking the town.

 

Throughout the week we had all learned about taking care of our bikes, taking care of our bodies, taking care of our spirits, or happiness, and on this last session of the camp it was time to concentrate on how to train the mind. We all marched over to the Sky Hawk Hall (to the same room Elke had gathered us earlier in the week) to learn about Mental Preparation with Steve Ilg. Steve is a world-renowned yogi, athlete, coach, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand all around guru. He has been teaching a method he calls Wholistic Fitness since 1982, in which training for any sport is centered around yoga and meditation. He talked a lot about the Ego part of our minds; the part that protects the “I, me, and mine”. The ego is the voice in your head that says, “I’m tired…I can’t do it…my ___ hurts.” The key is keeping your ego on a short leash and training your mind to stay focused, and surprisingly enough, empty during an effort or a race. When we do well at a sport, our minds are not thinking of anything. We are in the present moment. He pointed out that our bodies merely follow our minds, and so our performance on the bike rests with our ability to train our minds. The easiest way to start doing this is by simply sitting and breathing for just a few minutes every day. This is so much more difficult than it sounds. He suggested that we all straighten up our posture and sit completely still and straight for the entire hour we were with him. Many couldn’t do it. It really hurt to try! After just a few moments, I could hear that little voice grow in my head. Telling me to stop; complaining and trying it’s best to convince me. It all made so much sense; it was hard to believe that most coaches and training regimens leave out this key part of learning and growing as an athlete.

After such a serious and mind expanding session with Steve Ilg, it was only fair to end the day and (officially) the week with a light-hearted game of bike polo! Chad Cheeney and wife Annie led us to a field at the edge of campus to teach us how to play. The backdrop to this scene alone was breathtaking – it was as if we were playing on the edge of the world; an entire range of mountains rose up all around us past the mesa in the afternoon sun. Bike polo works much like horse polo – you have a vehicle, a mallet, a ball, and a goal on either side of the field. The tricky part is maneuvering all of these things independently. The bike often gets in the way of your mallet’s range of motion, the momentum of the ball, and your teammates bikes. What the game does for the rider’s ability is so beneficial, and this is almost a side effect to all of the fun it looks to be.  It develops balance, in-the-moment problem solving, coordination, and teamwork.

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Most of the students and coaches opted to play, and started off with a practice session to get the feel for how it all works. At first there were a lot of bikes colliding, mallets smashing into gears, and balls that seemed to be stuck in place to the grass. But after splitting into two sets of teams and playing for even just 10 or 20 minutes, the miscalculations had already become considerably less and a real game was soon underway. The students absolutely loved it and some of the coaches were making mental highlighted and underlined notes to incorporate bike polo into their own team activities back home. You can see a bunch of great shots from the game here.

Back at the dorms at dusk, Vance McMurry gave his final speech to the student athletes, supported by some of the Fort Lewis College and Durango Devo crew. Every single person that had attended the camp had accomplished so many things and had made so much progress; both on and off the bike. We had witnessed new friendships, breakthroughs in riding abilities, confidence levels, and teamwork that these students can take with them in all areas of life. And even though we had spent so much time listening to and picking the brains of some of the most accomplished and iconic athletes in the sport of cycling, Vance wanted to remind us that the League and this summer camp are not about attending Fort Lewis college or about going pro and taking up cycling as a career. It’s all about opening cycling up as a lifestyle; it’s about living a full and healthy life – on purpose – and having the time of your life doing it.

We all went around the room before breaking for the night and shared what we had learned from the week. Philip Romo learned to enjoy climbing. His week gave him the ability to last longer on the bike when things get rough; he has more endurance now. Nick Gerard is excited to go home and feel super fast, blasting up his home town’s true 30 second climbs. Summer Bewick learned how to better pace herself, something her coaches have been trying to teach her since she started riding. Chad Bobbit learned so many new skills on the bike. He loved the amount and variety of the trails in the area. John Miller learned to love cycling again on this trip. He had been feeling burnt out and being here had re-energized his desire to get out and ride. Lily Kohles learned how to control her speed while descending and she improved her climbing abilities. And Peter Drury enjoyed all of the different perspectives given about the sport from all of the local coaches and pros that we talked to.

The next morning, we were fed, packed, and on the road by 7:30am back to the flatlands of Texas. Had we taken a vote, we surely would have stayed another week. Just to experience it all over again. The talented Philip Romo had spent the week filming, producing, and editing a video that captures some of the fun, so we wouldn’t miss it all too much.

Until next year, Durango!

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Day 4, 1 August 2013

Day 4 of camp brought us our first day of cloudy skies and cooler temperatures. The threat of rain loomed nearby. It was a welcome change however, since the hot sunny days were starting to feel a little too familiar. It was also a blessing because this day was different. Today the student athletes would get to challenge themselves against the clock for a time trial race up Telegraph Hill. Today’s ride report is courtesy of Coach Ali Wilkerson of the A&M Consolidated Team.

Today no one got a ride to the trail head. We all rode our bikes from campus as a big group on Chakra trail, crossed the road, and made our way to Telegraph Hill. Today was time trial day! We thought that most of the student athletes would want to do the race, but it turned out that most did not. So we improvised and Sarah and Kim took a group to do some easier trails around campus for a fun recovery ride. We grabbed Paul to course marshal at a trail intersection and I rode up to a second point. That was about the time it started to rain, but it didn’t last too long and didn’t even soak the ground, so it wasn’t anything to worry about. Chad Cheeney came up to help score and organize the festivities, along with Dave Hagen. The race was not official or promoted, but a few other locals showed up for the fun. The course was about two and a third miles long – all uphill. The first section is really loose and rocky, which slows you down and eats up all of your power. But then there is a break once you enter the meadow; and it smoothes out to give you a chance to recover or pick up the pace. At the end of the meadow the trail starts to become steeper, adding in switch backs and rock gardens, and getting still steeper all the time. By the time you get to the top and navigate a few ledges, you are wiped out.

It was great fun watching the student athletes battle it out on the way up, and getting to cheer them on. They were all working so hard; no one was smiling except for Alex Defily. He had a big smile on his face when he passed me! Coach Andrew came by toward the end of the group breathing, “This hurts so good”.

Once everyone made it to the top, we joined them to devise a descending plan. We chose 2 different routes to give a longer and a shorter option. But surprisingly, everyone chose the longer route, just at different paces. The trails we took back in were very well built, high trafficked, but still super fun. It was a Desert Singletrack Extravaganza! These trails reminded me very much of the system around Lajitas, TX near Big Bend National Park. We ended up coming back through town and finally climbed up to the campus, barely making it to lunch before the cafeteria closed.

 

 

Interview with John Miller

 

What did you think about the ride today?

John: It was fun. We time-trialed up telegraph hill and did a long and fun descent. I love mountain biking!

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What did you learn on the ride today that you didn’t know before?

John: I learned that climbing a hill under pressure is really hard. You want to go faster than you are able to, so you push yourself a little more, but then you wonder if you will make it so you back off. There is a fine line to finding that balance between the two.

 

What was your favorite part of the trail today?

John: My favorite part was Big Canyon Trail because it was a fast downhill and it was very flowy. There was this one wall ride turn that was super cool.

 

What was the most challenging part of the day?

John: It’s always the climbing and trying to breathe in this altitude.

 

Do you miss your parents?

John: Kinda; no.

 

Who is your favorite Coach?

John: Chad is my favorite. He has the raddest beard ever. He is very good at cycling, and has a way with words. Meeting him has taught me that anything is possible; I can be anything I want in life. He really does have a cool beard though. I wanna grow a beard like that.

 

What do you like about Durango?

John: The town is super bike friendly. There are trails everywhere!

 

What do you like about Fort Lewis?

John: Its super centered around people’s ideas and art. You can be whatever you want here. It’s awesome.

 

Interview with Lily Kohles

 

What did you think about the ride today?

Lily: I didn’t do the big time trial so it was nice and easy and chill. It was good to get a recovery ride day. We did a mini time trial near the pump track, and I went through the short course a lot of times to shave off some seconds. I kept getting a little faster each time, but then I got tired and my times slowed down.

 

What did you learn on the ride today that you didn’t know before?

Lily: I learned that I need to watch out for rocks that are tall enough to clip my shoe and time my pedal strokes to avoid them. That happened to me today and it knocked me off balance. I would have fallen down a little cliff if Philip Romo wasn’t there to catch me! It was a close call.

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What was your favorite part of the trail today?

Lily: We played around campus today and did a lot of fun stuff. We rode on the pump track, practiced going down stairs around campus and popping our wheel over a little jump.

 

What was the most challenging part of the day?

Lily: Climbing the part of Rim Trail where the cliff is on the left and the hill is on the right. It’s pretty narrow there. You can’t look left or you might fall that way down the side of the hill.

 

Do you miss your parents?

Lily: Yeah I miss my parents.

 

Who is your favorite Coach?

Lily: My favorite coach is Kim, because she allows me to take breaks when I need them and she isn’t too pushy. She is really cool to talk to and is understanding about how I don’t like to climb that much. She says she doesn’t like to climb either!

 

What do you like about Durango?

Lily: The scenery here is so beautiful. I like the small town feel and how everything is accessible by bike. My town of San Angelo doesn’t have bike lanes and I don’t feel safe riding around town on a bike like I do here.

 

What do you like about Fort Lewis?

Lily: The opportunities are good here. For instance, you can have a paying job on campus while still going to school to build experience for the real world. I like that it’s a small school and a small campus. It seems like there would be more individual attention here.

 

After the morning ride the students changed clothes (barely any time for mid-day showers on these packed days!) and headed to lunch to refuel. Directly afterwards was an official campus walking tour that was hosted by the college. The students learned about all of the different areas of study the school has to offer, and became acquainted with the layout of the campus. The takeaway fun fact of the afternoon? The running track is made out of recycled plungers. Somewhere there is a really great joke about running fast and usedtoilet equipment that I just can’t place at the moment…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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We enjoyed a few hours of an afternoon gap between activities that sent nearly the entire group downtown in the vans for a little downtown Durango exploring. Half of the group went to seek out local bike shops specifically, and the other half just went roaming around Main street for some general gift shopping. After all, we had been in town for 5 days already and we hadn’t even seen the town itself yet! We were far too busy becoming awesome well-rounded mountain bikers for petty tourism.

 

Back on campus, adorned with bags of souvenir tshirts, novelty candy, and quirky racing socks, we had to hustle up to dinner before getting to talk to two Fort Lewis College cyclists not too much older than our own students about juggling racing and school. Lauren Catlin is a graduate of Drake High School in northern California (THE most adorned and accomplished high school mountain bike team in the USA) and currently a Junior at Fort Lewis college studying Biology. She is also an incredible champion bike racer in several disciplines (just check out her latest stats in the link in her name above). Talking to her you can tell that she is impressively focused, well-rounded, and genuinely enjoys the rich life that she has created for herself. For her, like many of our student athletes, it all started with an introduction to mountain biking through her local high school team.

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Ian Burnett is a graduate of Fort Lewis from just a couple of years ago, and already is established as a pro-cyclist and a coach to the college cycling team. He also was the only one to beat our very own Boone Flynn on the time trial earlier in the day. He provided insight into his role as student athlete-turned-coach and how much of his job entails helping students balance racing with other school priorities. Both parts of this kind of life can be quite demanding, and top cycling schools are looking for well-rounded athletes that are also good students, effective communicators, and represent the team and school in a professional manner. It is not enough to merely be fast on a bike. Both Ian and Lauren stressed the importance of finishing a college degree if bike racing becomes a priority and a potential career to anyone. Maintaining, balancing, and learning to excel in both disciplines gives invaluable life skills in time management and life balance, preparing you for a successful life no matter what the future may hold.

Day 3, 31 July 2013

Before the 3rd day of camp had even started, League Director Vance McMurry prepared the student athletes the night before. The ride on this day would be the most challenging yet. For those that wanted to ride out, it would be at least a 25 mile day. That means it would take groups 1 and 2 about 3 full hours, and the 3rd group would get a 2 or 2.5 hour ride with a shuttle to and from the trail head in the van. They would need more water than previous rides, more snacks, and would need to pace themselves.

 

That morning, some of the student athletes had risen early to wash their bikes and check them over. Way to apply what you have learned! It was a proud moment for the coaches, to see them being diligent in preparing for the day’s ride in the right ways. After the now well-worn morning routine of breakfast and getting ready for the day, they were off for another adventure in the colorful Colorado outback.

 

I caught up with Paul Garcia, League mechanic and camp ride lead, for the scoop when they returned. He had gone out fast and hard with the 1st group, riding there and back and STILL beating everyone else back to campus for lunch.

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Today we rode part of the Colorado freakin Trail! It was a beautiful day once again in and around Durango, and we could tell it was going to be a hot one. I changed it up today and committed to keeping up with group 1. Besides myself, our group consisted of Chad Cheaney, Coach Andrew, Boone Flynn, Alex Ward, Alex Defily, Chad Bobbit, and Peter Drury. Leading the other groups were Coach Ali, Coach Kim, Vance, Sarah, Elke Brutstaert, and Anthony Diaz from Devo. My group and some of group 2 rode to the trail head from campus to get some extra miles in while the others got a ride in the van. Right off the bat, the front guys started off fast and the group spread out across the 4 or so miles to the next meeting point.

0We regrouped where the trail head split to discuss the ride plans of the day, which started with – you guessed it – a lot of climbing. Once we started our way up, there was no slowing of the steady pace. This group is well matched and we all stayed together pretty much to the top of the smooth and steady climb to meet up with the Colorado Trail. Our highest point of the day was 8,114 feet above sea level (Fort Lewis College is 6,350). Once there, we paused to take in the views, have a snack, and snap some photos for proof of our superhuman feats.

 

Starting up again, we traversed a bit along some high trail, then everyone started ripping down the descent. I was holding on for dear life! Chad Cheaney and I moved toward the back to allow the students to open it up and let it all out. Much of the trail on the way down turned tightly around a threatening ridgeline, and was quite narrow. Chad Bobbitt had a near crash around a technical blind turn that hid some ledges. He had clipped out with one foot, his bars had flipped around, and his other foot got stuck in the pedal. He ended up hopping down along the trail to safety with his bike dragging behind him. It was a great save. Really one of the greatest skills to have as a mountain biker is knowing how to fall and how to catch yourself from turning an easy slip up to an really bad situation. Though maybe not the prettiest of moves, points for Chad on that one.

At the bottom of the mountain we took a river side trail back toward the college and met up with the road for the final bit. Those guys rode well today – they were killing it. And I was exhausted!

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Interview with Peter Drury

 

What did you think about the ride today?

Peter: It was awesome. It was by far the hardest and longest ride all week, but still the most fun. The downhill at the end was worth all of the brutal climbing it took to get there.

 

What did you learn on the ride today that you didn’t know before?

Peter: I have been learning all week just how bad it is to climb so much at altitude. I can’t breathe up there!

 

What was your favorite part of the trail today?

Peter: Definitely the super knarly downhill trail. It was super narrow, rocky, and had blind corners just beside cliffs. There were some super sweet rollers and crazy rock gardens in the worst spots, which made it challenging.

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What was the most challenging part of the day?

Peter: the climbing is always most challenging. Today my knee was killing me all the way up.

 

Do you miss your parents?

Peter: Yes but no. I am about to shed a tear.

 

Who is your favorite Coach?

Peter: Andrew and the Chadster are my favorite. They are sick dudes, super knarly riders and it’s fun to ride behind them. They teach me a lot.

 

What do you like about Durango?

Peter: All the trails are super buff and the climbs are super haggard. I like that it’s not flat; where I live in Dallas is super flat. There may be only about 100 ft of elevation in a ride, whereas here there is thousands.

 

What do you like about Fort Lewis?

Peter: the dorms are sweet. I like the food in the cafeteria and all of the coaches are awesome…and I am coming here for college.

 

Peter wanted to express some last words at the conclusion of his interview.

Peter: I know I’m awesome. Sweet whips.

 

Though I am not entirely sure what it all means, I believe the spirit of it all implies that he had a great time on the ride today and was still feeling the effects of that excitement when I caught up to him to chat.

 

 

Interview with Catherine Canby

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What did you think about the ride today?

Catherine: I had a hard time on the uphill section, I would have stopped if Vance wasn’t behind me telling me to find a happy place. Apparently his happy place is thinking about unicorns with lasers. I thought I was going to die on that climb; I didn’t think I could make it all the way up. I am a good technical climber, but this sustained smooth climbing is so hard. It was so worth it for the downhill that came after though, I would do it again for that part!

 

What did you learn on the ride today that you didn’t know before?

Catherine: I learned that I can keep going when I don’t think I can. That I can push myself a little more. I actually thought of Estzer riding that divide race while I was climbing today. I reminded myself that this was nothing compared to that; I can do this.

 

What was your favorite part of the trail today?

Catherine: The downhill section! The terrain on it was great and the turns were more tacky. There were some roots and rocks that made it so fun.

 

What was the most challenging part of the day?

Catherine: The uphill section was the hardest. Not the last one, but the one before that. The one that was just a sustained climb with no technical features in the way to keep it interesting.

 

Do you miss your parents?

Catherine: Not really. I have only talked to them once since I have been here. They probably miss me though, because I haven’t been home much all summer.

 

Who is your favorite Coach?

Catherine: Andrew is my favorite; he is so inspirational . He believes in me more than other people sometimes and he makes me feel confident in my riding abilities. He knows my limits and he pushes me to do better. Plus he is fun to be around and is always ready to ride. His enthusiasm rubs off on me.

 

What do you like about Durango?

Catherine: I love the trails! Especially the downhill trails. I like the climbs too, because you can’t get that kind of elevation gain in Austin. It’s great to be in a different environment like this; to come here and challenge yourself in a different way.

 

What do you like about Fort Lewis?

Catherine: I like the location, the scenery on campus, and the instant access of so many bike trails. I like that you can bike everywhere; it seems like a very bike friendly place.

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA After lunch, there were two Q&A sessions with mountain bike pros that both graduated from Fort Lewis College and still reside in Durango. The first was German-born Ben Sonntag, Nordic skier turned world class mountain biker. We collected in the dorm common room to soak up the incredible knowledge he had for us about training, being a well-rounded athlete, and about the importance of making it through college to have something to fall back on if cycling doesn’t work out the way you might want it to.

 

The next pro that visited us was 3 time Olympian and top international champion (with too many big wins to mention) Todd Wells. We all moved out to a shady spot outside in the grass to change up the scenery and gathered around him like Indians around a totem pole. He let us into his world of how he got to where he is today, what he eats before a race, and how his training regimen works. Despite how famous he is in the world of cycling (he even has his own Wikipedia page), he was very down to earth and easy to talk to.

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Though we had an hour set up to visit with Todd, it seemed to end too soon. We all had places to be after all! The Durango Devos were about to start their mini Shocker Enduro race on the other side of the street and we had riders that wanted to enter. We headed over there for a taste of a real (though short) Colorado downhill mountain bike race. The course was steep, had short and tight switchbacks, and a couple of technical drops. After a few practice runs, the race had begun! Each rider went down the course separately – the A group got best out of 3 runs, and the girls and B group got best out of 2. A group of us perched ourselves near one of the drops to cheer on our fellow student athletes as they made their way down. Though there were a handful of local riders that came out to race, it seemed as though we populated the majority of the spots. It was super fun to get to be a part of the event and great experience for our student athletes. Results can be found here.

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With the long day full of back to back activities, we missed out on dinner on campus and decided to pile into the vans and have a proper taco dinner at Zia Taqueria. Back at the dorms to wind down the evening, we discussed what we had all learned that day. One of the student athletes learned that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be a professional bike racer. Megan Gautreaux had learned that she can do more than she thought she could on the bike during her morning ride. Philip Romo learned about finding a rhythm to settle into while hashing out those long climbs up the mountain. Someone else commented on the extraordinary confidence and skill of the local downhill guys that we saw during the endure race.

But the unanimous lesson of the day? Eat rice in the morning before training or racing! That seemed to be a pattern with both pros and certainly resonated with the student athletes as part of a recipe for success in the sport. Rice cookers all around for Christmas presents, parents. These kids are cooking up a storm.

Erin O’Neill Garcia

Day 2, 30 July 2013

Tuesday morning of camp brought us yet another beautiful day in paradise. The air was clear, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the cool mountain air was quickly warming up. The campers started their morning routine of waking up, suiting up, and getting to breakfast by 7am. In the next hour, they were all back and gathering bikes and gear for the ride of the day. Today’s ride report comes from Coach Kim Topps from the A&M Consolidated team.

The ride today was an adventure and seems to be everyone’s favorite so far. The trail head was a little further away than the one yesterday, so we all rode our bikes on the road to get out there. It was only a few miles, and there were some gradual down hills that were super fun for the students. I don’t think that some of them had ever gone that fast of the bike before. They were very excited about the speed!

Once we got to the trail head, we split up into 3 groups to better accommodate the different skill levels of the students. We had a lot more expert local help today to make that possible. Elke, Sarah, myself, and Paul were in the 3rd group. A small group of Fort Lewis College cyclists, Estzer Horanyi (Tour of the Divide current women’s record holder), Scott_____, and Anthony Diaz (Texas native turned Durango pro downhill racer) also joined us today to help with the other two groups.

Our group studied the map before setting out, and we knew immediately that we didn’t want to do the entire route for the day. We chose a jeep road climb rather than the longer and windier single-track trail for the first climb before meeting up with the other groups. Everyone’s legs were pretty tired and heavy from yesterday’s ride so we took our time, and made little goals for ourselves to stop in the shady spots along the way for breaks. The trail was more exposed than what we were riding yesterday, and we could feel the heat start to boil, so this plan worked out great for us.

I would have to say that the star of the day would be Betty Rodriguez. She was doing a great job climbing today! Just motoring up and outdoing the rest of us. She seemed to have a little bit more in her tank than we did. Once we all reached the top of our climb, we caught sight of the 1st group coming from a higher part of the trail. We stopped to watch them rip past us down the side of the mountain. They were going so fast! Once they had passed, we followed them down on the roller coaster trail back towards the road. This was by far everyone’s favorite part of the day. Not only was this trail in a wooded area that provided some much appreciated shade, but the descending gave us a great breeze as well. At first I was a little nervous about how the students would feel on this section. The turns were a bit more technical and looked difficult to me. But to my surprise, they all rocked it and had so much fun! The best part of my day was seeing their faces as they whizzed by me in a cloud of dust and smiles. Making it to the bottom, the students piled into the van and hopped a ride back to the college in air-conditioning and pure luxury.

 

Interview with Michael Luna-Hodges

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What did you think about the ride today?

Michael: It was awesome. It was epic and super fun.

 

What did you learn during the ride today that you didn’t know before?

Michael: I really didn’t learn anything new from yesterday. it was a refresher from our first ride in climbing and descending mostly.

 

What was your favorite part of the trail and why?

Michael: Toward the end of the trail it was like a roller coaster, and it was awesome to ride. There were a lot of steep slopes and up and downs.

 

What was the most challenging part of the day?

Michael: the hardest part were the climbs. There were a lot of loose rocks and it was steep for a long time.

 

Do you miss your parents?

Michael: To be honest, not really.

 

Who is your favorite coach?

Michael: Coach Ali is my favorite: she is awesome. She has taught me some things since we have been here that I didn’t know before and has pushed me through some climbs by encouraging me to keep going.

 

What do you like about Durango?

Michael: The views. Definitely the views.

 

What do you like about Fort Lewis College?

Michael: The food in the cafeteria is pretty good. The college campus looks like a cool place to be. I like how they have a mtb team here. I will definitely take that into consideration when looking for colleges to attend.

 

 

 

Interview with Summer Bewick

 

What did you think about the ride today?

Summer: I want to say that it was a really hard ride, but it wasn’t really; I was just really sore from yesterday. It was still really fun though.

 

What did you learn during the ride today that you didn’t know before?

Summer: That I have to pace myself a lot better than I have been to make it up these long climbs. I have to learn to just keep going.

 

What was your favorite part of the trail and why?

Summer: the best part was definitely the downhill roller coaster trail when we were coming back down. There were some sidewall turns and some switchbacks. it was really fun.

 

What was the most challenging part of the day?

Summer: It was really tough towards the top of the climb. It was hard to keep myself going on the bike without calling it quits.

 

Did you take any spills today?

Summer: I didn’t! I was one of the only girls that didn’t today actually. I did have a close call on a downhill and almost ran into the girl in front of me, but I put my feet down to slow and catch myself before anything bad happened.

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Do you miss your parents?

Summer: yeah, I do. I don’t know what I’m going to do when they leave me on my own in the real world.

 

Who is your favorite coach?

Summer: I don’t really have a favorite; there is something that I like about everyone. Ali is really mellow about things and Kim is really upbeat and full of encouragement. Paul is more to the point and tells me how it is – this is gonna hurt but you just gotta do it.

 

What do you like about Durango?

Summer: It’s so gorgeous here. The trails are amazing, even though I can’t ride them very well yet. It’s a really big change from home; something completely different.

 

What do you like about Fort Lewis College?

Summer: The campus is really pretty, and they take good care of the grounds. Everyone that I have met is really positive and really cool.

 

The best Summer quote of the day I overheard as she was telling someone about a text to her parents that included a photo of the surrounding mountains at the top of a climb. She had sent the photo with some text that exclaimed, “Enjoy this view, because we sure earned it!”

 

 

 

After everyone got a good meal in them down at the Student Union, we all enjoyed a few hours of free time. Some chose to relax at the dorms, a group went down to the river for a swim , and some even found the energy to practice on the nearby pump track. At about 4pm it was time for some life lessons from Chad Cheeney, one of the founders of the Durango Devos. Rather than sit inside under the fluorescents, or sit in one place at all, this recipe called for bicycles and helmets. Sprinkle in a brief tour of the campus grounds, and add a dash of stopping here and there to discuss being a lifelong athlete or a responsible steward of the environment. At one point they all laid in a large soft grassy spot and looked up at the blue sky overhead, contemplating inner peace and happiness in one’s life.  Once the more serious discussions had been properly covered, it was time for a little game of bike tag! The game works just like regular tag, except everyone is on bikes. This sneaks in practicing key skills like agility, balance, and firing those muscles quickly when trying to duck and dash away from close fingertips.

I met up with the group at dinner once they were done, and I could tell that Chad had really reached some of them with his zen-like wisdom when I asked them how it all went. It was exciting to see them so engaged in such an enlightening experience, and I thought to myself as I often do when involved with the Texas Mtb League, ‘Man, I wish I had this when I was a kid.” It has surely been a daily recurring thought this week!

After dinner there was one last item on the agenda, that thankfully, did not involve any moving around at all. It had been such a long day for us all and I could see the fatigue on everyone’s faces. We all trekked over to a different building to a small auditorium to watch the film Ride the Divide, which is about the Tour Divide mountain bike race. The race has been called the toughest mountain bike race in the world, and it starts in Canada, following the spine of the Continental Divide all the way down to the finish at the Mexico border. While the film is well done and incredibly inspiring, the real treat of the evening was that we were joined by the current women’s record holder of the race, Estzer Horanyi. It took her just 19 days of riding about 18 hours a day to complete the course. After the film, she answered all of the questions we could think of about how she accomplishes such a massive feat. She gave us invaluable insight on what and how she eats, how she trains, and what she thinks about to keep herself going for such a long time.

So, how does she do it? A few hours at a time. She says she can’t think about how much farther she has to go in the entire race, or even the following day. She sets little goals for herself – 2 hours until the next meal break; 1 hour until the next town. And from that little bit of wisdom, we get our lesson of the day. In life and in cycling, it’s important to set goals and then see them through. No matter how large or how small. Even if it’s to the next shady spot on a climb, or to the next wildflower. Ride to that wildflower.

Day 1, 29 July 2013

The official first day of our fabulously fun 2013 Fort Lewis Summer Camp started out early, and the crisp mountain air drifting in through the open windows made it just a little tough to get out of bed. The students were up by 6:30am on this clear and sunny day, dressed and walking over to breakfast at the Student Union, across the street, for breakfast by 7. They must be used to the scheduled meals cafeteria-style from being in high school, because they file in, eat, and file back out like pros.

Back at the dorm, it was time to gear up, check the bikes, and then set out for the first of many long and challenging mornings on the trails just behind campus. Today’s adventure was to climb Telegraph Hill. Since your faithful author did not get to go along, I got a great race report from Coach Andrew later that day on the happenings of the ride.

The morning was buzzing with excitement and nervousness. It was the students’ first day riding in the mountains for the week, and for some the first day ever. Led by Sarah Tescher, the Co-Founder of the Durango Devo’s, Elke Brutsaert, Women’s and Strength and Conditioning Coach, and Dave Hagen, Director of the Fort Lewis Cycling Team as our guides, along with myself, Vance, Paul (handy league mechanic), and Coaches Ali and Kim, we all started off as one large group. It was a casual warm up ride to the bottom of the first big climb. We stopped briefly to regroup at the bottom…and then up we went. Hello Colorado!

The first part of the climb was a fire road and just a taste of what was to come. After that first leg, we stopped again and gathered around to listen to Elke give a few pointers on climbing skills. The next part of Telegraph Hill narrowed out to single track and was considerably steeper. That’s when things got real. Some of the faster kids couldn’t contain their excitement and went charging up the trail with the best of intentions. At the top, they found out why that wasn’t such a good idea! Exhausted, out of breath, and oxygen starved, they nearly collapsed at the top. But as the others paced themselves to make their way up, the early arrivers all stood on either side of the trail and cheered them on as they conquered that climb one by one.

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We regrouped then, turned to check out the already amazing views we had just achieved, breathed in the sweet smell of sage in the air, and had a snack.

After what felt like a lot of climbing, it was finally time to descend a bit. We split up into two groups (we will call them A and B) and chose 2 descents that paralleled each other. I went with the A group – our descent was rockier and ledgier and included some climbing at the very bottom. Everyone loved it and at the bottom there were wide smiles all around. It was certainly exhilarating!

The two groups looped around on a couple more trails and then met back up on the lower Meadow Loop; by this time we were all tired, hot, and thinking about lunch. We enjoyed a nice leisurely 20 minute ride back to camp, feeling elated and acco

mplished for the day. And it wasn’t even noon yet.

I had walked in just as the students had put all of the bikes away in the basement and had settled in the common room of the dorm. The energy in the room was incredible – everyone was either lounged way down in a chair or sprawled on the floor. Only one or two were talking; the rest were a bit dazed. They were gulping down water, faces red, and utterly exhausted. I felt a pang of jealousy for the incredible adventure they had just embarked on together. That morning they had left camp as just a bunch of Texas Student Athletes. But this group before me came back an experienced crew of climbing Colorado mountain bikers. They had all found new limits today within themselves. Andrew proclaimed they were now “No Limit Souljas” in the making.

I asked Andrew what the best part of his day was. Without hesitation, he said; as they were riding back in on the final stretch of trail before reaching campus, Student Athlete Alex Defily rode up beside him grinning ear to ear and proclaimed proudly, “Man this was the most fun I have ever had on a bike.” And that is exactly what makes it all worth it.

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We later caught up with Student Athletes Alex Defily, Highland Lakes Composite, and Katelyn Pervis, Lake Travis HS, and was able to get an interview with them:

Interview with Alex Defilydefily

What did you think about the ride today?

Alex: it was really cool. Tough, but really fun. Probably my best ride ever!

 

What did you learn on the ride today that you didn’t know before?

Alex: I learned a lot about climbing skills. Technics for climbing on steep trails, how to lean my bike, and how to position my feet while climbing and turning.

 

What was your favorite part of the trail today?

Alex: After Telegraph Hill at the top when we split up and then descended. That was the most fun of the day. It was super smooth and “flowy” with lots of turns. There were rocks at the top and then it smoothed out on the bottom.

 

What was the most challenging part of the day?

Alex: Definitely the climb up the mountain. I could tell the difference in oxygen as I made my way up for sure.

 

Do you miss your parents?

Alex: I think they would like to be here too, riding these trails. But it’s kinda cool to be here on my own.

 

Who is your favorite coach?

Alex: Dave is really good, I like him.

 

What do you like about Durango?

Alex: It’s really cool here. The mountains are so close and everywhere. The town is really remote.

 

What do you like about Fort Lewis College?

Alex: I like that its a pretty small school. You don’t have to drive to any trails from here, they are easily accessible by bike right from campus.

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Interview with Katelyn Pervis

What did you think about the ride today?

Katelyn: It was fun. The first half I rode with the girls and that was ok, except that Abby was kicking my butt. But then I went down a big descent and caught up with the boys group. The guys don’t complain about anything, they just ride. So that was fun.

 

What did you learn on the ride today that you didn’t know before?

Katelyn: That I should probably train for mtb camps, and that there is no real way to prepare yourself for the change in altitude.

 

What was your favorite part of the trail today?

Katelyn: That big descent that we did. It was new and different from any trail I have ridden before. It was super fun!

 

What was the most challenging part of the day?

Katelyn: Keeping up with the boys.

 

Do you miss your parents?

Katelyn: Not really. I am having too much fun to be thinking about that. Isn’t this a summer-long camp?

 

Who is your favorite Coach?

Katelyn: Coach Elke, she’s cool. Very hands on and understanding. She is very much like ‘let’s all figure this out together’ and that really helps me.

 

What do you like about Durango?

Katelyn: How many sentences do I get for my answer? The environment; the mass array of killer trails; everything.

 

What do you like about Fort Lewis?

Katelyn: It’s a really clean campus. And how awesome is it to go right outside your door and have all of these awesome trails to ride on!

After the Telegraph Trail ride, League Director, Vance McMurry chatted with the students for a minute before we all broke for lunch. Everyone ate ravenously, having properly earned the meal. After lunch there were two presentations on the schedule – the first was Bike Maintenance 101 with a pro mechanic and local bike shop owner, Tom Neb of San Juan Cycles. It was a huge honor to have him there in the flesh in front of us.  Tom was a professional mechanic for the Giant Team. He was at the 2012 Olympics in London last year, and he has been all over the world working for the best mountain bike athletes. We all gathered under the shade of a few pine trees in the grass with our bikes. He showed the group how to properly clean a bicycle thoroughly.  Most importantly, showed us that it’s not as difficult and as intimidating as it seems. He also talked about how to check the bike over for any loose or aging parts before a ride. He reminded us that a clean and properly lubed bike will last longer and cost less money in the long run in maintenance and ride faster and smoother on the trails.

Shortly after our talk with Tom, the group split up into two groups. One stayed at camp and worked on basic mountain bike drills with Vance. It was a great opportunity to refresh on the most important aspects of riding – the attack position, turning and braking. Repetition of these skills is the best way to master them, and there is always room for improvement. The other group took a leisure trip down to the Animas River in town.  Splitting up in a group riding down and a group in the van. The mountain water was freezing, but so refreshing in the now hot sun of the day and after a long morning of riding.

Bike Maintenance 101 with Tom Nebb

Next on the agenda – Dinner. We all filed into the Student Union for nourishment before the last talk of the day. This one sent us on a walk to the other side of campus to the athletics department. We met with Elke Brutsaert in a workout room for an incredible talk about conditioning for cyclists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAElke has experience being a pro-downhill rider for 10 years, following by 10 years of study and practice in massage and body work. She has been on both sides of the fence in this regard and understands the importance of keeping the body in good working order and proper balance. She taught us that while cycling is great for our bodies in a cardiovascular sense, just like any other sport the repetition of being in essentially the same position so much can have lasting effects like pain and shortened muscles and tendons. For instance, the position we are in riding bikes is very much like the everyday common positions of being on a computer, looking at a smartphone, or even driving a car. The shoulders slump forward, the neck juts out, the core softens, and the hips tilt forward. Nearly all of us are guilty of this posture at least some of the time. So Elke taught us some wonderful (and quite painful) active stretches and exercises to undo the damage done by this constant positioning, having us open up the front of our bodies and engage muscles that aren’t used to being fired. As we tried to settle into each one on our mats on the floor, unanimous groans spread around the room, followed by chuckles at how everyone felt the same aches and pains in their bodies. There was so much valuable take home information from both sessions today, and in a way, they are very similar to each other. Both were about preventative maintenance and taking care of all of the moving parts that are involved in cycling.

It was twilight as we were walking back across campus, and the sun was still shining on the mountain ridge behind the school. We walked back to the dorm and had about an hour of free time for last minute bike repairs, showers, and card games before hitting the sack. Tomorrow is another day of riding and learning and everyone needed all of the rest they could get.

Erin O’Neill Garcia

Day 0, 28 July 2013:

2013 Ft. Lewis College Summer Camp:

Written by Mrs. Erin O’Neill Garcia, Texas High School Mtb League Volunteer Coordinator.

So Vance McMurry, our trusty cross-country navigator and League Director, knows exactly how many rest stops DOES it take to get to Durango from Austin? A whole lot more than two a day, that’s for sure! Besides the inevitable altering of the written plans for the day, the trip to Durango went beautifully and without a hitch. We made sure to check over all of the bikes upon arrival to Westlake High School on Saturday morning, and made a list of parts and work that any would need once we arrived to our destination. All of the 20 student athletes arrived on time, and despite the early hour (better get used to that this week!) there was certainly excitement brewing in the air. We packed the Huntsville trailer to the brim with bikes and luggage, piled into the vans, and were on our way. Colorado bound!

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The first leg of the day took us through Lubbock to scoop up Nick Gerard and then landed us in Clovis, New Mexico, where we would stay for the night. We actually arrived ahead of schedule despite the frequent and needed rest stops. We enjoyed a sit down Mexican dinner together and then headed down the street to the Comfort Inn for the night. It had been a long day on the road and we were all anxious to settle in for the evening.

Early to bed and early to rise is the standard for the week, and Sunday morning was no exception. We were back on the road at 8am after a surprisingly delicious continental breakfast for another day of ipod playlists, car games, and rest stops through northern New Mexico. Once we finally got into mountain country, there was no containing our excitement any longer. At least one student in our van had never seen mountains before in his life. He proclaimed to probably have taken about 200 photos through the windows to try and capture the fleeting moments. It was fun to get to experience the wonder of it all with him for the first time again through his eyes.

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Durango is only about 40 miles from the Colorado border; it was almost as if crossing into the state changed everything around us immediately. I mentioned this to Alex Ward sitting next to me who admitted that he was thinking the very same thing. Finally reaching Colorado seemed to make the grass greener, the air clearer, and the mountains more majestic. We were finally here!

Fort Lewis College sits on top of a mesa overlooking the city of Durango. There are literally mountain views from nearly every place on campus and in every direction. The campus itself is incredibly clean, manicured, and since it’s the middle of summer, we almost have it all to ourselves for the week. We couldn’t believe how beautiful this place is!

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Right as we pulled up to campus, we were met by 3 additional student athletes, Aiden Angelovich, Boone Flynn, and Jeremy Polansky , to complete our camp number of 23. Once we unloaded the van, got all of the bikes situated, the students moved into the dorm rooms at Bader Hall on the southeast edge of campus. Our building has a large common room in the middle of the building  with seating for all. All around the edges are the dorms. The boys are two to a room downstairs, girls two to a room upstairs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce everyone settled in, it was time to suit up and get on the bikes! Chad Cheeney and Sarah  Tescher, founders of the Durango Devo’s, and Elke Brutsaert, women’s strength and conditioning coach for the Fort Lewis Cycling Team, came over to show us some skills that would help us with the terrain around these trails. We ran through some quick ice breaker exercises and then dove right into wheelies and popping curbs. After a little practice session in the grassy yards between the dorms, the students and coaches headed out to the trails on the edge of campus to practice on the pump track a bit, work on cornering through the windy track, followed by slowly taking u-turns around trees to work on form while turning, into trackstands for balance. I have to say that each and every one on a bike, coaches and student athletes, rode off toward those trails rather enthusiastically. We had all been cooped up in the vans for the last two days and this was the first trail touchdown of the trip. It was an exciting moment for sure.

 

Afterwards we made our first of many treks down the hill and across the street to the newly constructed student union for dinner. It’s only been around for a couple of years, and it’s super modern, sunny, and architecturally pretty darn cool. There are signs around that boast organic and local food, and encourage composting. Dinner was really good, there were lots of options; meat, pasta, veggies, a nice salad bar, soups, and perhaps a few too many kinds of desserts. We all ate pretty quickly and made our way back to the dorms for a quick meeting about the first full day of camp coming up, and finally, bed.

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Erin O’Neill Garcia

     
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