About 20 racers battled cold winds and steep grades Thursday during the Alta Alpina Cycling Club’s Kingsbury time trial.
The 7.9-mile race started at the base of Kingsbury Grade, rising 2,550 feet above the valley floor before finishing at Daggett Summit. The sixth race of the club’s twilight road race series, the athletes competing ranged from novice roadies to elite semiprofessionals, according to Alta Alpina President Mel Maalouf.
“The club focus has changed. It’s less race-oriented, more informal,” Maalouf said. “The mission has always been to serve the local cycling community, to highlight local riding. We try and make sure cycling is fun and safe for everyone.”
The Alta Alpina Cycling Club, which includes both road and mountain bike riders, serves Carson City, Garderville and Lake Tahoe according to the organization’s website. And while the club doesn’t currently have a men’s or women’s race team, members have been working to formalize a junior racing team this year.
Maalouf, who started racing 27 years ago at age 16, coaches the junior team. This year, it’s comprised of eight individuals, four of whom compete in the local races and all of whom are younger than 19 years old. The focus is on development and training since there aren’t enough youth in the area to maintain a powerhouse team that would compete nationally, Maalouf said.
The club has seen its fair share of strong riders though. Several of the juniors who have passed under Alta Alpina’s wing went on to compete throughout the country, while another raced the Canadian Tour de l’Abitibi, a grueling stage race that could be considered the Tour de France for young racers.
Maalouf acknowledges racing isn’t for everyone, but he said the club’s low-key competitions are a good introduction to the sport. For Maalouf, his main goal is to share his passion for cycling with other people.
“Being on a bike gave me freedom. I was able to go places where I wouldn’t have been able to go because my parents were so busy,” he said. “I like cycling. It’s healthy, it allows you to go explore. I wanted to share that with kids so they could discover racing, competition and riding.”
Other racing clubs in the area include the Reno Wheelmen, the Hub Coffee Roasters p/b Tahoe Carson Radiology Cycling Team and the Reno Cycling Team.
For more recreational riders, there’s a number of touring events in the Lake Tahoe Basin that don’t involve nearly the same amount of pain and suffering that racing involves.
The Tahoe Bike Challenge kicks off June 1, while several regional agencies will host the Tahoe Bike Path Cleanup Thursday, May 30 from 3-6 p.m. at the Tahoe City Field Station.
Alta Alpina’s twilight road races run weekly through Aug. 29., and include individual time trails, road races and criteriums. The club’s spring century is scheduled for May 26 while the Alta Alpine Challenge, which lets riders choose from rides that range from a family-friendly route to an eight-pass monster, kicks off June 29.
For more information, visit the club’s homepage at www.altaalpina.org.