Though the first race of the Utah High School Cycling League isn't until Sept. 6 at Soldier Hollow, the Park City High School Mountain Bike Club is ready to hit the hills for summer training.
After a meeting at PCHS on Tuesday afternoon, first-year head coach Pete Stoughton is encouraged by the number of riders interested in joining the team.
"We're hoping that we've got 30-40 riders," he said. "It's awesome that we've got so many riders, but we've got to figure out how to make sure they're riding with adults. It's a blessing and a curse."
But, with one of the Cycling League's five races returning to Round Valley (on Oct. 4), Stoughton, who took over head coaching duties from Evan Hyde (now club director), said he hopes the club's skills draw some fans out to the home race.
"I'm hoping that we get 40 riders and it becomes such a big thing that, rather than going to the football game, people are going to Round Valley for homecoming to watch a race," he said.
Coming off a state title last year, Stoughton said this year's group of cyclists should be right in the mix for a repeat. Though the team lost a couple key seniors, Stoughton is excited about the returning talent.
"We've got Ethan Reynolds coming back," he said. "He's one of our returning varsity riders. He was almost always top-10 last year. He's a great leader on the trails and off the trails, so we're really glad to have him back.
"We also have some strong senior girls in Brenna Egan and Quinn Graves. They'll be riding varsity again."
Then there are the non-seniors, who Stoughton said are just as strong on the trails as the upperclassmen.
"We've got some young kids who are just amazing and have been riding for a long time nationally and internationally," he said. "Haley Batten [who won every girls' varsity race last season], Evan Clouse will be riding with us, Sienna Leger Redel, Drew Palmer-Leger it's just an arsenal of riders who could, hands down, whip any adult out there on the trails.
Though the team has plenty of star power at the top, Stoughton said balance from top to bottom is a key for Park City.
"The strength of this team is that they're a team," he said. "They all get along, they have fun together and they laugh together. That's good, because you're kind of vulnerable when you're in spandex for a long period of time."
Park City will definitely be a force again this year, but Stoughton said the gap between his squad and some other schools isn't as big as it was a year ago.
"There are some really good teams," he said. "Corner Canyon and some other teams are really developing and have some strong riders. We've got to stay on our toes."
That'll be made easier by a donation from Reynolds Cycling that the club received on Tuesday afternoon.
"We got a call from Reynolds saying they wanted to donate six $2,000 wheels," Stoughton said. "They called us up and said 'Let's get you guys on these wheels ASAP."
So, as the summer training season begins, the club has even more motivation to get out on the trails and work hard. But, Stoughton added, the emphasis will continue to be on having fun first and foremost.
"We just want to keep these guys having fun and riding because they love it," he said. "Then, hopefully, they'll continue to win. Summer is for getting kids on the bike and developing skills. A lot of the elite riders are already on the bike and racing now, so summer is just a continuation of that. But, for some of the kids, they're just getting on the bike in the summer because that's when they have free time."
2014 Utah High School Cycling League Schedule