Mountain bike numbers are climbing

Camaraderie and playing time are pluses for the Ozaukee County Composite Team

Harrison Ebbers negotiated a bridge after coming down a hill at Pleasant Valley Nature Park in the Town of Cedarburg.
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Word is spreading about mountain biking in Ozaukee County.

Participation is up 90% on the Ozaukee County Composite Team, coach Anthony James said. The mountain-biking team of sixth-graders through high school seniors has 24 riders and is still accepting more.

That doesn’t include Cedarburg, which has so many riders it has its own team this season. The two squads combined last season.

Ozaukee County Composite team director Emily Hurd credits bikers talking to their friends and said this year more team members have returned than before.

Shawn Steltenpohl, an eighth-grader at John Long Middle School in Grafton, said he had been interested in mountain biking for a year before joining the team this summer.

“I get to meet new people, get help from coaches and learn how to get better,” he said.

Steltenpohl’s friend and classmate Max Jacoby joined with him.

“Before we joined the team, we didn’t have access to many trails,” he said. “I think I get more of an adrenaline rush from sports like this. You don’t know what to expect when you’re on a trail.”

A couple of elements keep bikers interested.

“What’s awesome is if they have a bike they participate,” James said. “There is no bench.”

For those who don’t have bikes, James said he can usually find one to use.

Team camaraderie, he said, is genuine.

“Just because one person here is a science geek and another is a 500-meter swimmer, they all interact the same,” he said.

“There are no cliques,” Grafton High School freshman and veteran rider Dorothy Keon said. “If there’s new people or if somebody wants to join, we’re all cool with it.”

At meets, which are held on weekends in fall across the state — the team’s home meet is at Minooka Park in Waukesha — the atmosphere is the same.

“You don’t even need to be on anybody’s team. Everybody cheers everybody on,” Port Washington freshman Emma Kasza-James said. “I like the sense of community.”

Steltenpohl said the sport isn’t as competitive as others.

“It’s more learning. It’s more about skill,” he said.

That is by design, James said.

“We just want kids to ride bikes and explore,” he said, adding he has seen shy team members build confidence in themselves.

“This,” Hurd said, “is a lifetime sport.”

It can also become a family activity.

“It’s not always about going fast. It’s quality time. A lot of parents ride because of their kids,” James said.

The team has sixth-graders through seniors. The middle-schoolers race one lap of a course, about 5.2 miles, to get a taste of the sport, James said.

The team practices at Pleasant Valley Nature Park in the Town of Cedarburg or Lime Kiln Park in Grafton three times per week.

But riders aren’t penalized for missing a practice, Hurd said. They can actually participate in other sports in the same season.

In addition to riding trails, James employs different games during practices to teach different skills.

One is called foot down.

Team members get in a circle and do a track stand, holding their cranks in a horizontal position while pedaling forward and backward to remain stationary while their front wheel turns back and forth.

If they need to put their foot down for balance, they are out.

“They love that they can bump each other,” James said.

The team’s first meet is Sept. 9 in Eau Claire. Members will ride the course to test it out on Saturday and compete on Sunday.

For more information or to join, contact Hurd at surflkmi@gmail.com or James at anth.james@sbcglobal.net.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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