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(by BikeTexas Field Instructor Durwood Mayfield)
Palo Duro Kids Kup 2008As Saturday, September 27 dawned bright and crisp, temperatures hovering near 50 degrees, my granddaughter Brooke and I found ourselves heading north from Lubbock toward Palo Duro Canyon State Park. This is undoubtedly one of the most striking of all the state parks in Texas, a rare beauty on the flat plains of the northern panhandle, with stunning vistas and stark contrasts to the surrounding country. But we aren’t going just to see the grandeur of the Grand Canyon of Texas; we are going to participate in the future of bicycling in Texas – the BikeTexas Kids Kup mountain bike race, one race of the Shimano Youth Series mountain bike races, sponsored by BikeTexas, Shimano and Cliff Bars.
This series is indeed part of the future of cycling in Texas, as it introduces children as young as 2 years old up through 12 years old to cycling in a safe and bicycle friendly environment. The children only have to think about having fun while learning to ride their bicycles. These bicycles range from push bikes with no pedals that the children propel by pushing with their feet, to tricycles, to beginner bikes with training wheels, to BMX-type bikes, to full-fledged racing bikes. For most of the participants this is their introduction to competitive sports. They learn through the series of races that coming in first is not necessarily the most important part of mountain biking (and maybe life in general!), and that just participating is a reward itself. Every child receives a tee shirt and at the finish of their race they receive a “winner’s medal” for having participated. When we arrived at Palo Duro Canyon State Park it was almost noon, the registration tent was set up and only one child had registered.
Brooke and I joined kids racing experts Bill and Jaque Payne, and in about an hour the children and their parents started arriving to register. Jacque registered the kids, Bill placed them in the right classes, Brooke stuffed the racers’ bags and handed them out, I gave out the racers’ numbers and put the number plates on the correct bikes – we operated like a well-oiled bike chain. Then at 2:00 came the pre-race safety meeting, and all of the children were very attentive as Bill went through the bike and helmet safety demonstration; even the parents paid attention, as this was perhaps their introduction to bicycle and helmet safety.
Then came time for the fun part of the BikeTexas “Kids Kup” mountain bike race: the actual race! The race covers a predetermined course of about 150 yards laid out through the trees and shrubs of the canyon. It’s a very kid-friendly course that teaches the basic bike handling skills for the participants. The course is great for spectators and usually lined with parents, grandparents and other participants loudly cheering on the racers, just as if it were a heat in the state championship race. The Kids Kup starts with the “up to three years old” group riding tricycles, bikes with training wheels or push bikes. Parents are allowed to follow along as the race progresses, and often at least one kid on training wheels gets stuck and needs a helping hand. After each heat the age group goes up, and by the end the older kids are really flying around the course!
Today’s race concluded with a raffle for two brand new, bright and shiny youth size bike helmets donated by Velocity Bike shop of Lubbock. Everyone involved in the Kids Kup – participants, parents, grandparents and the volunteers who make all of this happen – had a super time, and many asked when the next race would be. It is through events like this that the seed of cycling is planted in our children’s minds. Who knows, maybe the next cycling champion of the world was at the 2008 Kids Kup mountain bike race in picturesque Palo Duro Canyon State Park! A special thanks to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Old Tascosa Cycling Club, Texas Mountain Bike Racing Association (TMBRA), Texas Bicycle Coalition, the other sponsors and volunteers for introducing to bicycle racing the children who are truly the future of cycling in Texas.