Whether you're an enthusiast or even a professional, pedaling on a bike has been particularly challenging this winter. Bend has a reputation for being a place to comfortably ride bikes year-round, but not during this record snow year. For mountain and road bikers alike, the trails and roads have been covered in snow, promsing to turn into a mess of mud and cinder. A few brave souls have been getting after it, freezing their spandex-covered butts off, narrowly avoiding cars in roads with no bike lanes, with nothing but pure passion for riding a bicycle, no matter the conditions.
For 20 competitive junior athletes of the Bend Endurance Academy (BEA), practice has already begun with indoor riding and strength training. At the Bend-based elite training facility, Bowen Sports Performance, BEA athletes bring their own bikes to hook up to "Wahoo KICKR" smart trainers. The trainers provide specific information about power ratios and fitness levels, helping athletes track their progress in real time. In addition to these technologically advanced cycling machines, traditional strength training components have been incorporated into their regimen. Free weights, swiss and medicine balls, Indo boards, plyometrics and resistance bands complement the fitness requirements necessary to compete on a national level.
BEA Cycling Director Bill Warburton says, "This pre-season training is not the typical slow, long base-miles. The juniors have specific needs that we're working to address. These sessions are critical for the success of the racing team to be ready when the big races start up in April."
Actual outdoor mountain biking practice begins March 15. two to three days a week. Mid- March is typically when trails become available to ride. Daylight saving time brings an extra hour of light, enabling longer afternoon practices.
One of BEA's top young cyclists, Ryder Uetrecht (nominated by The Source Weekly as "best young athlete" in 2016) placed 3rd at MTB nationals and 11th at cyclocross nationals. He hopes to improve these results this year and is committed to training both in and outdoors to increase his strength, speed and endurance.
Motivated 16-year-old Alex Walker, who is more specialized in enduro and downhill cycling disciplines, intends to dominate the podium in the junior expert division. Last season, he placed 2nd overall out of six races in the Cascadia Dirt Cup, despite having some minor mechanical setbacks. Both of these teenage athletes will be training similarly, while racing in entirely different styles. It is, however, still about having fun.
Bill adds, "While the racers are getting started now, the vast majority of our riders are only interested in the recreational rides that start up in April. I see cycling as an ideal way for our kids to play with their friends, learn independence and be a part of a sportsteam that can support them from beginner to national-level. I'm always excited this time of year to see how much the returning riders have grown, we turn our goals into missions while welcoming fresh faces to the team."
Bend Endurance Academy isn't limited to coaching elite athletes. The organization offers programs for youth of all ages and ability levels in cycling, Nordic skiing and rock climbing. When the academy first opened in 2009, there were fewer than 10 young athletes in all the programs combined. Now in its eighth year, over 1,000 kids of all ages are enjoying structured outdoor activities with experienced coaches.
Enrollment for Bend Endurance Academy's 2017 cycling programs opens on March 1. and typically fills up extremely fast.
Bowen Sports Performance
Bend Endurance Academy
Rex Shepard is a professional skier, mountain biking coach, bartender and photographer who grew up in Bend, Oregon thriving off adventure. Follow him on Instagram @RexShepard to keep up with his latest outdoor experiences!