Life Outside Spring 2018 - 35

BY ERIC J. WALLACE

Interscholastic racing leagues are helping the region
become a world-class MTB destination.
IT'S 5:20 ON A TUESDAY AFTERNOON, and around 50 kids and coaches are pushing their

mountain bikes into the grass beyond the parking lot of Massanutten's Western Slope biking
area. Located at the foot of the mountain some two miles from the village of Keezletown,
the event offers quite the spectacle for an unsuspecting onlooker.
There are boys and girls ranging from ages 12 to 18, from 4 feet tall to 6-foot-3. Some are
dressed in t-shirts, some in brightly-colored racing jerseys. They all wear helmets-some
covered in stickers, others featuring elf ears, mohawks, or even a purple comb of stegosaur
plates. There are blue bikes, red bikes, yellow bikes, every color under the sun.
Gathering around 45-year-old team director, Kevin Rogers, the kids are divided into
groups according to skill level. He reads five to 10 names from a clipboard, and follows
with a trail-like, "Special K," or "Smoke Tree Lane." Mounting their bikes, the kids pedal
off in different directions, disappearing into the woods. Within 10 minutes, it's quiet. Like
they were never there.
What is all this? Why, it's a Shen-Rock Mountain Bike Team practice.
The riders will spend the next two hours drilling skills like pacing, cornering or accelerating
out of a turn, while making loops through the park's 30-plus-miles of trail. Practicing twice
a week, the Harrisonburg-based team is home to riders from Rockingham and Augusta
counties.
In the fall and spring, they compete in Virginia's two recently formed interscholastic
racing leagues: the Virginia High School Cycling League, and VAHS MTB Series, respectively.
The former is sanctioned by the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), the
latter, USA Cycling. Both offer a potential route to racing in college and/or professionally.
This year, Shen-Rock riders will race against upward of 450 student-athletes representing
25 teams, mostly from public and private schools located in the central and western regions
of the state.
THE FACT THAT MOUNTAIN BIKING has become the latest, greatest high school sanctioned

HIGH-SCHOOL SPEED
A Miller School of Albemarle
varsity racer competes in the
VAHS MTB Series championship, which is hosted by the
school on its award-winning
MSA XC course.

sport is both a result and an indication of the activity's rising popularity.
"These leagues are essentially the outgrowth of the efforts of numerous local mountain
biking organizations to make Virginia's mountainous regions more amenable to the sport,"
explains Rogers.
In Harrisonburg, the Shen-Rock team was a spin-off of the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle
Coalition. Formed when a long-time road cycling group merged with its mountain biking
counterpart in 2008, the organization provides a home base for regional cyclists, and
serves as an advocacy platform for the construction and maintenance of sustainable trail
systems throughout the valley. According to SVBC president, Kyle Lawrence, joining forces
gave members a bigger voice, and more political muscle. Largely, they sought to unravel
negative stereotypes, and negotiate for land use.
"In the 90s and early 2000s, mountain biking was lumped with skateboarding and other
so-called extreme sports-it had this reputation of being grungy, punkish, and alt-oriented,"
he says. "Of course, the perception was misguided. But it's had a lingering effect on growth."
Even today, there are detractors that fiercely argue against opening trail systems to bikes.
For instance, in Albemarle County, Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club president
Sam Lindblom says that, although parks and recreation officials approved a plan for bike
trails to be installed at the Ragged Mountain Natural Area, a coalition of bird-watchers
and naturalists filed lawsuits to block the process.
According to both Lawrence and Lindblom, the stigma is unjustified.
"In reality, mountain bikers build the highest-quality, most sustainable trail systems
out there, and moreover, can organize the manpower to maintain them," says Lawrence.
LifeOutsideMag.com // Spring 2018

35


http://www.LifeOutsideMag.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Life Outside Spring 2018

Life Outside Spring 2018 - Cover1
Life Outside Spring 2018 - Cover2
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 3
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 4
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 5
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 6
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 7
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 8
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 9
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 10
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 11
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 12
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 13
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 14
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 15
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 16
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 17
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 18
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 19
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 20
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 21
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 22
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 23
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 24
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 25
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 26
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 27
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 28
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 29
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 30
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 31
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 32
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 33
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 34
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 35
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 36
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 37
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 38
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 39
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 40
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 41
Life Outside Spring 2018 - 42
Life Outside Spring 2018 - Cover3
Life Outside Spring 2018 - Cover4
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/Life_Outside_Spring_2019
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/Life_Outside_Fall_2018
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/Life_Outside_Summer_2018
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/Life_Outside_Spring_2018
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/Life_Outside_Fall_2017
http://www.nxtbookMEDIA.com