A youth mountain bike club team is launching in the near future in Cody.
The Cody composite team will compete as part of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, but Chris Guyer, owner of Joyvagen Bicycle Shop, said the sole focus will be providing an enjoyable environment for learning the sport in a group-ride setting.
“It’s getting kids on mountain bikes and teaching them a skill set in a safe manner,” Guyer said. “It also provides a platform for kids to network with other kids of other teams in a racing format.”
Mountain biking is a lifetime sport, unlike other sports that are difficult to continue after high school or college.
“Kids play scholastic sports … but very few of them go on to pursue that after high school,” Guyer said. “It’s to build a relationship with an athletic endeavor that’s a lifelong pursuit.”
Boys and girls in grades 7-12 are encouraged to join.
A primary tenet of NICA is providing a safe cycling environment while maximizing experience with the sport, no matter what the rider’s abilities may be.
“Using the bicycle as a tool to figure out life and figure out what they are going to do after high school,” said NICA President Steve Matous of his organization’s purpose.
The team will practice at Beck Lake twice a week throughout the season. The first practice is 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, with the season continuing through early October.
For now there is one race on the schedule in Bozeman, Mont., with a tentative second race scheduled. Guyer added it is purely optional for team members to compete.
“Our motivation with it is to provide an opportunity for kids to be active in a non-traditional scholastic sport,” Guyer said. “We’re not pushing it as a racing program. Our primary goal with this is more about riding and having fun and having a lifelong athletic skill set.”
Coach Greg Eckley said the biggest difference that will separate his already-existing Park County youth cycling team that competes on gravel roads and the mountain bike team is the new squad will cross-country ride on dirt trails with possible elements of enduro mixed in.
“Often, these kids are practicing on two-track roads with skinny tracks so we’re looking forward to seeing what they can do,” he said.
The team’s seasons will only overlap by a week, so Eckley expects many of the PCYC members to crossover for the new opportunity in order to stay active in the fall season.
Landon Rau, a member of PCYC and an avid mountain biker since he was in sixth grade, said he will be on the new team.
“I can’t wait. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s a fun way to stay in shape.”
Rau has competed in a few races already, taking third in the 29-and-younger age division of the Dead Swede 40-mile cruiser outside Sheridan last year.
There has never been a youth mountain bike team in Cody before.
“And that’s part of why a lot of us want to provide this opportunity to kids,” Guyer said. “If this existed when I was a kid, I would have been excited to participate rather than a traditional team sport.”
There are already about 10 kids and a handful of coaches signed up.
“Mountain biking is very near and dear to us and we want to share that same opportunity cycling has given us,” Guyer said. “Camaraderie, friendship, the ability to be outside with kids.”
A mountain bike, helmet and $115 fee are required to participate, with additional fees for races.
If interested in joining, stop by Joyvagen or call (307) 527-0640.
For more information on NICA, visit Nationalmtb.org.