October 1, 2021 | SPORTS | By Zeke Lloyd | Photo by Anil Jergens
Early in the month of September, a competitive collegiate biker sped down a mountain trail which lay just over 150 miles from the school he represented. The evening before, he had made the drive from Colorado Springs to Granby without any company.
“I was the only one who went. I just really wanted to get out and have a good time,” said Sam Yolles ’25.
Not every race was so lonely, though. “I was able to go to Snowmass last weekend, and we had a pretty full squad — about 20 people,” Yolles said.
Yolles is a member of the Colorado College Mountain Biking Team. The team is an amorphous group of individuals with a common interest in biking. Fluctuation in participation is common so it is difficult to quantify their total number of members.
“Our GroupMe is over 200 people. But most people probably aren’t active or interested,” Yolles said. “I personally feel like anyone could join the group. Anyone could come up with us to the races.”
Even with an open-door policy, there are still barriers to entry for novice riders. “Anyone could come and start a race and see how far it goes,” Yolles said. “But obviously that can be scary for people.”
The sport is fundamentally based on moving at high speeds through difficult mountainous environments. Terrain is littered with obstacles and dangers: trees loom in the middle of trails, sharp rocks hide beneath foliage, and cliffs dwell just inches beyond the path.
One source of inspiration for young riders is Chris Mehlman ’23.
“He’s one of the captains. He’s been really helpful in organizing the team and getting the roster set up,” Yolles said.
Mehlman not only plays a leadership role on the team but is also a professional biker. Over the most recent block break, Mehlman raced in the Pikes Peak Apex. The race brought expert bikers from around the world, with a total of 132 participants. Mehlman finished second in the under-23 category.
Despite his ability to compete at a high level, Mehlman is engaged with the team. He enjoys the less competitive biking outlet the group can provide.
“We are super, super relaxed. There is no requirement to compete. There’s no requirement to go on any group rides,” Mehlman said. “I would say CC Biking Team is 90% about hanging out with people, and 10% about racing.”
That doesn’t mean the team is without its ambitions, though. “Our goal is not really competition. Our biggest goal, which we were talking about last spring, is to make it more accessible,” Mehlman said.
Outdoor sports can be some of the most financially straining, but the team is working to help prospective members overcome these barriers. According to Mehlman, getting bikes has been a priority. Unfortunately for the team, the pandemic had a large effect on the production of bicycle parts, plus funding has limited the team’s ability to buy bikes.
“Outdoor Ed does have some bikes, but [they] don’t have a ton,” Mehlman said. “Because we don’t get [much funding] from CC, which is a point of contention, we don’t have the funding to buy bikes.”
Even as the team works to achieve their long-term goals, there are short-term efforts to encourage new membership. Mehlman and Yolles both encouraged curious students to join.
“It’s a great way to meet other people. That’s how I met a lot of people freshmen year,” Mehlman said. “Definitely good from a mental health standpoint, if you’re just stuck on campus all the time, it gets to be a little much.”
Yolles was more direct. “Come ride,” he said. “We don’t bite.”