Road Cycling

Aspen Cycling Club gearing up for new season – Aspen Times

As the new president for the Aspen Cycling Club, Andy Ralston finds himself in a bit of a dream role. The nonprofit organization is a consistent presence most Wednesdays during the summer in the Roaring Fork Valley, and Ralston enjoys bringing it to life.

“It’s super fun. You get to build a fantasy calendar of bike rides around Aspen and then actually make it happen, which is amazing,” he said. “People should just be able to show up on Wednesday night and have a friendly, easy reception and jump in and have a good time.”

The Aspen Cycling Club is gearing up for another season, with the first of 16 races scheduled for May 1. Those 16 events are split equally between road and mountain bike races.

To get everyone amped up for the fast-approaching season, the club will host a 6 p.m. kick-off party Wednesday at Home Team BBQ, located at the base of Buttermilk Ski Area.

“We are trying to give our racers a chance to meet the board, meet the sponsors, ask questions — give a little more of a human face to the club, so people can spot us at races,” Ralston said.

Then, on Monday, the club will host a free road racing skills clinic at 5:30 p.m. Led by local legend Dean Hill, the clinic will allow newbies and veterans alike to fine-tune their skills before the first races. The clinic is going to be held at the Aspen Motorsports Park in Woody Creek, barring any weather issues.

The clinic is part of the bigger plan of getting more people on bikes.

“That’s geared toward people who might be a little intimidated by road bike ricing, because it can be scary to jump in a pack of 20 riders for your first time and not really know anybody and you are moving fast,” Ralston said. “Dean is super tuned into that stuff, and he’ll give good, easy-to-digest advice.”

The first race of 2019 will be the May 1 Lower River Road Time Trial. While opening with a time trial is commonplace, in recent years the first event had usually been the Difficult Time Trial toward Independence Pass, but they decided to move it downvalley due to the unreliable weather this time of year.

The first mountain bike race is scheduled for May 15, the Prince Creek Circuit near Carbondale. Many of the popular and established races are back, such as the Emma Roubaix, Sky Mountain Park mountain bike race, the Missouri Heights road race and the season-ending Maroon Bells Time Trial on Sept. 4.

Once again sponsored by The North Face, the Aspen Cycling Club also went through a visual rebranding this past offseason, with a new logo and new look for their website. As great as The North Face has been to the club, Ralston said they are still hoping to add more sponsors throughout the summer.

“It’s been a tough year in terms of fundraising and we are looking at ways for sponsors to come on, even during the season,” he said. “They don’t have to sign on preseason, and we are open to creative ideas for how people can support the club.”

Ralston, 30, replaces Tyler Newton as the club’s president. Ralston moved to the valley from New York City in 2014 and has been on the board of directors the past few seasons. He currently works as the business development manager for Backbone Media in Carbondale.

Ralston founded a bike racing club back in college, allowing him to learn about his love for working behind-the-scenes in the sport. He’s hoping to bring that same passion into his role with the Aspen Cycling Club.

“Tyler Newton was president for three years and kept the club in amazing shape. I’m inheriting something that is up and running really well,” Ralston said. “It’s awesome that we can present 16 of those races every year. But we also, with things like the skills clinic, want to make it easy for people who are new to bike racing to jump in. With Tyler, the club started off down that path and I’d like to continue in that direction to make it more accessible.”