You might not consider Florida to be a hotbed for mountain biking. But aside from the beaches and theme parks, the state offers a diverse span of options for cyclists to get a little dirty and take on the challenges of technical off-road trails.
While many adults flock to mountain biking, the Tarpon Coast Composite MTB Team offers youth in grades 6-12 an opportunity to learn and compete. The team recently finished their inaugural year at the final races in Ocala, Fla. Nine area youth, including four from Charlotte County, participated in the full season that runs from December-May.
Two female athletes, Eisley Kiburz (8th grade, Punta Gorda Middle School) and Isabella Maggiore (6th grade, Charlotte Preparatory School), brought home medals from competitions throughout the season.
The Tarpon Coast Composite MTB Team, part of the Florida Interscholastic Cycling League, is on a mission to give kids a new and different opportunity – riding and racing mountain bikes. The Florida League is a youth-development organization that fosters strong bodies, strong minds, strong character, and strong communities.
The Florida Interscholastic Cycling League is a chapter of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). Practices were held in Punta Gorda, North Port, and Alva. The races for the 2021 season were in Lakeland, Alachua, West Palm Beach, and Ocala.
The Tarpon Coast MTB goals are simple: have fun, ride and race safely, show respect and value every rider, and work to improve yourself as an individual and an athlete. While students are learning new skills and gaining fitness, Tarpon Coast MTB coaches also are focused on teaching students how to respect one another, themselves, the environment, the trails, and their community.
The team practice rides were led by five licensed coaches throughout the season, including two avid mountain bike enthusiasts and members of the Florida Mudcutters Club, Greg and Melissa Parramore.
The Tarpon Coast Composite MTB Team was started by two area parents, Ian and Julie Lang, to provide an opportunity for their son to continue competing in NICA races after their move from Wisconsin to Punta Gorda. Bryce Lang participated in three seasons with a team in the Wisconsin League and found mountain biking to be his primary sport of choice. Bryce is an eighth-grader at Punta Gorda Middle School and consistently placed in the top 10 for his age category throughout the season.
Ian and Julie Lang are graduates of Charlotte High School and licensed NICA mountain bike coaches. Julie served as president of the board for a large NICA team in Wisconsin prior to starting the Tarpon Coast MTB team. Julie felt strongly about starting this team because she has a strong focus on balanced health and wellness. She embraces the NICA philosophy which focuses on youth development using a bicycle as a tool to empower kids to develop skills, overcome challenges, build confidence, forge relationships, embrace healthy habits and celebrate victories.
Tarpon Coast MTB is the only active NICA team in Southwest Florida. Athletes from Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and surrounding counties are welcome. The preseason begins in October and runs through December. Practice is held at various parks throughout the season and encompasses skill building, bike handling, trail riding, and endurance training.
The official season is Dec. 15 through May 15. The team will be open to new riders in the fall and is seeking additional adults to become licensed as NICA coaches.
For more information, visit tarponcoastmtb.com or call Julie Lang at 262-880-9929.
Submitted by Julie Lang