The Aspen Cycling Club (ACC) kicked off its 29th season with a new logo, a new website, new categories, and a new president. Club racers would have been forgiven for wondering if they’d now be racing on, say, tandems or trikes, but at the start line of the season’s first road race, the Difficult Time Trial in late April, they found the same things Roaring Fork Valley cyclists have come to rely on every Wednesday at 6 p.m.: professionally run, low-key, and affordable races up and down the valley.
“We offer an 18-race season with both road racing and mountain bike racing, and the level of competition for just $5 is pretty unheard of,” says newly appointed ACC president Tyler Newton. “I don’t know of any other race series with that duration, variety, and low cost.”
Newton started racing with the ACC in 2010 while working for Alpine Bank, a club sponsor. He found his first race, the Difficult Time Trial, “equally cold and hard. I couldn’t believe how fast everyone was going,” he remembers. “I also really liked the party at the end. It’s fun to finish and hang with like-minded people.”
Within the summer-long series, mountain bike races are held on a variety of trails, from intermediate-friendly buff singletrack at Sky Mountain Park to technical terrain like the rock-strewn Government Trail. Road races run as short as 7 miles to the Maroon Bells and as long as 48 miles up the Fryingpan road past Ruedi Reservoir.
The ACC offers free entry for anyone’s first race, and to anyone under 18, and this year’s new categories, which mirror national standards (i.e., three main categories for males and females), are easier to understand and more robust. For example, rather than having female racers spread out over multiple categories, as in the past, bigger groups of women now race together. Within each category, racers compete for points in a season-long competition. To qualify for the overall championship, racers must volunteer to marshal for one race per season.
“The ACC is where I’ve met a lot of riding partners,” says board member Rachel Beck. “I love the community and the camaraderie. I went from having three kids and never racing to using the weekly races to gain fitness to do bigger races around the state.”
Another lure for racing newbies—and even visitors to Aspen—is the chance to ride unfamiliar trails up and down the valley via marked courses. Veteran racers, too, will find added draws this season: a new mountain bike course offers an opportunity to compete on recently built trails in Hunter Creek, and the road schedule revives a classic course that races from Aspen Valley Hospital to Ashcroft and part of the way back down Castle Creek Road. The return of the latter route suggests that amid the ACC’s cycle of change, a ride down memory lane can be just as satisfying.
Fresh Dirt: 3 New Trails to Try
1 Seven Star Trail, Snowmass Village
The trail will provide an alternative to the standard South to North Rim Trail ride with a new, 4-mile flowing descent. Take the North Rim Trail from the Rodeo Lot to Seven Star for a loop that’s perfect for an after-work ride. The new trail also completes a formerly missing link that now allows for a 24-mile loop connecting the Sky Mountain Park, Tom Blake, Cross Mountain, and Rim trails. Try it with a group at the inaugural Snowmass Loop Mountain Bike Fondo on June 25 (snowmassloopmtbfondo.com).
2 Glassier Trail, Emma
The new Glassier Open Space provides the mid Roaring Fork Valley with additional access to the expansive Crown area, with its network of singletrack trails and four-wheel-drive roads. This 2-plus-mile trail will climb steadily along the edge of the property’s spectacular red cliffs.
3 Lower Buckhorn Trail, Emma
Until now, cyclists had to access the Crown from Emma via a steep, rutted utility easement. This new 1.4-mile section, which begins off the Rio Grande Trail just downvalley from Aspen Center for Environmental Studies’ Rock Bottom Ranch, reroutes the former lung-busting climb onto more moderate terrain before joining back with the original Buckhorn Trail.