We Like Bikes

Four Aspen Cyclists That Inspire

From starting a kids' BMX program to competing as a pro, these locals add an extra-special something to their riding resumés.

By Trina Ortega and Allison Pattillo Illustrations by Kwon Sena August 2, 2019 Published in the Midsummer/Fall 2019 issue of Aspen Sojourner


Heath Johnson 
An artist and property manager, Johnson has played a key role in bringing cycling opportunities to Roaring Fork Valley youth. He grew up racing BMX in the 1980s and, thanks to his future wife, Tricia, discovered mountain biking in college. It was only as an adult that he realized how much BMX improved his single-track aptitude, so he got his two children into BMX, too. To increase their opportunities, he joined forces with locals Paul Viola, John Blatz, and Jared McDermott six years ago to help the town of Basalt build Crown Mountain BMX, which now hosts a robust schedule of clinics, camps, and weekly races for all ages. Johnson, who was also a founding board member of Roaring Fork Cycling, says the lifelong sport of biking is “one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty throughout our valley.” He can be found ripping the single-track near his Woody Creek home. —T.O.


Rachel Beck 
Sure, it’s taken fitness, discipline, and passion for the Woody Creek resident to land on the mountain bike podium in her time as an elite racer. But the biggest driving factor? Her family, says the mother of three. “I want my children to see me train, have ups and downs, and pursue goals,” explains Beck, 43. “The most important thing in my life is my family, and sports is a way to teach them integrity.” The former runner and rower took up mountain biking to get back in shape after having her third child and fell in love with the sport. Whether keeping pace with her son, George, who races on the Aspen High School team or re-centering on a solo ride (her favorites are up Hunter Creek), Beck says she’s continually aiming to improve her technical ability. Says the Aspen Cycling Club board member, “There’s always so much room for improvement.” —T.O.



Heidi Mellin
Running used to be this Aspenite’s go-to sport, until a string of injuries by her early twenties made her switch to biking. Although she hated it at first, cycling eventually became a lifestyle. Now she takes biking vacations with her family and races regularly, including time trials with Team Colorado Bike Law out of Denver, where she used to live. “It’s fun setting goals and doing the best you can, while also allowing yourself some gratitude and humility,” says Mellin, 54. A vice president of the Aspen Cycling Club, Mellin is working to expand the community outreach of the 30-year-old organization. Historically a racing club, the group now also hosts skills clinics and provides scholarships to young local riders. And Mellin draws continuing motivation from the cyclists she races against through the club. “When you compete against these women, you get your ass handed to you,” she says. “I’ve learned women get older and cleverer, but they don’t get slower.” —A.P.


Keegan Swirbul
The pro cyclist and El Jebel resident is in the midst of his first season with a new team, Floyd’s Pro Cycling, yet biking was not always his passion. While he was a regular at weekly Aspen Cycling Club races, Swirbul, now 23, once focused on Nordic skiing. That is, until he won the local Power of Four mountain bike race in 2012, besting Lance Armstrong. The two became friends, and Armstrong introduced him to key people in the cycling world. Two years later, Swirbul had graduated high school early and joined a pro team. Since then, his life has been a whirlwind of travel, racing, and training, including at home, where he deems the Roaring Fork Valley’s multiple climbs perfect for building endurance. Recently, Swirbul’s been riding some 400 miles a week to prepare for August’s Tour of Utah. If you spot him on television during the race, remember this: “When they show pictures of the peloton, it looks super calm,” says Swirbul. “But it’s absolute chaos, a war zone. No one gives you an inch.” —A.P.

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