BALANCE: positively impact youth
by: Charles Geibig
photos by: Paul D deBerjeois
There are those wonderful instances when a parent can freeze time, take in a deep breath, then slowly exhale while thinking, “Wow, that crazy kid of mine is really pretty amazing!” Such a moment came to me after finding a poem authored by my son. It was on a crumpled piece of paper amongst many others from the weekly backpack purge that occurs every Monday morning before the new school week begins.
Bicycle Family by Wyatt Geibig, age 12
My family is a mountain bike;Each family member has a part to play. My mom is the handle bars to steer us in the right direction. My dad is the crank to keep us moving, even through arguments, and on hard parts of the trail. My sister is the brake to slow us down when we need it. My cousins are the pedals because they help the crank. My grandparents are the gear shifters to make us go faster and have more fun. I am the wheels making it possible for the bike to move. This bike is a mountain conqueror.
The poem, for me, captured very well the values of family, diversity, teamwork and motivation. There’s credit to be given here for the positive path that my son seems to be on right now, and a significant part of that credit goes to the cycling club he is part of – the Front Rangers Cycling Club of Colorado Springs.
According to Clay Worthington, National Talent ID Coach / U25 Men’s Endurance Track Coach for USA Cycling and a volunteer coach for the Front Rangers, the roots of the club were formed in the Denver area around 1991 by acting Police Chief Jerry Whitman and local businessman Steve Syzmanski. The club had a simple mission: positively impact local youth. Early successes paved the way for a Boulder chapter in 1993 and a Colorado Springs chapter in 1997. Each chapter originally had the support and oversight of local police officers.
In 2001, oversight of the Colorado Springs chapter was shifted to the local cycling parents. Then, in 2007, the Youth Cycling League of Colorado Springs presented the opportunity for youth to learn about and use the Colorado Springs Velodrome at Memorial Park.
A Front Ranger’s vision for making a positive impact on youth in the community is to get any interested kid between the ages of 12-18 years old involved in cycling. Types of cycling supported are road, track, mountain, and more recently, cyclo-cross. Coaches and parents feel that having kids gain an interest in cycling helps build character, confidence, team skills and physical health. Not withstanding, simply enjoying the pleasure of a bike ride, and the smiles and laughter that come with it, is a huge bonus.
Who may join the ranks of the Front Rangers? The answer is almost anyone. In fact,
according to the club’s charter, the only requirements for a child are: 1) meeting the age range of 12-18 years old, and, 2) being able to ride a bike. The latter is probably resolvable, as the club has many great coaches donating their time and experience. These coaches include Renee Eastman, Jessica Niles, Herb Rodriguez, Eldon Goats and Thomas Vistuba.
“Female coaches like Renee and Jessica, accomplished riders themselves, are great mentors for young girls,“ Clay says. A growing number of girls are participating in the Front Rangers. Clay notes that Taylor Fogg, a National Triathlon champion for her age, often rides with the group.
The heart of the mission of the Front Rangers is that no one be turned away due to of lack of financial resources. Team sponsors have generously pitched in to reduce bike and accessory costs.
While the fundamental goal is to teach all kids to enjoy cycling and physical activity, the Front Rangers does provide a path for individuals to set themselves apart from the pack by offering a three-tiered program having different levels of competition and rider expectations. Currently there are eight Front Ranger graduates placed on collegiate teams, and a Coronado High School student, Russell Finsterwald, is competing on an elite level. Russell has been with the club since 2006 and has raced in mountain, road, track and cyclo-cross events. He is now getting invitations for international cycling events, and just finished a road cycling competition in Belgium.
Collin Albert has been involved with the Front Rangers for several years. His father, Peter, an expert in academic instruction programs, feels that Collin’s school performance noticeably improved after becoming involved with the team. Says Peter, “It’s no secret that a healthy body fuels a healthy mind.”
Ed Browne recalls a time when his son, Allen, was riding a small rigid mountain bike in Palmer Park for fun, but wanted to do more. He was able to use the Velodrome track with the Front Rangers beginner track group and became hooked on track and road cycling. A year later, in his first road race, he won the State Junior Criterium Championship.
Front Ranger practices and races are held in the Colorado Front Range region, which offers some of the most unique and unparalleled scenic beauty in the world. My son and I recently attended a mountain bike race at the Pueblo State Park. We discovered nearly forty miles of trails that have been developed on the southern edge of the Arkansas Reservoir, offering a New Mexico desert-like riding experience. Without the motivation of this race, we may not have discovered this local mountain biking gem. Other locations for mountain bike rides
include Cheyenne Mountain State Park and Bear Creek Park.
Road cyclists practice and race on courses set up in places like the Air Force Academy grounds and the Garden of the Gods Park. The Carmichael Sand Creek Mountain Bike Race Series is a good example of a competitive racing opportunity in the Colorado Springs area.
“I’m pretty sure that most parents enjoy the Front Rangers Club as much as their kids,” said Clay. “In fact, practices are usually open to participation by parents and that goes for the competitions as well.”
One could really say that the Front Rangers Cycling Club is a “bicycle family.” Its mission and actions reflect the efforts of a cycling group of kids, coaches and parents who care for each other, while at the same time encouraging achievement from all members and always striving for fun.