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OBRA to debut High School cyclocross program this fall

Posted by on June 21st, 2010 at 3:32 pm

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Coming to high schools this fall.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) will launch a cyclocross development league and training program at high schools throughout the state this fall. OBRA, a non-profit with nearly 5,000 members across Oregon, has created a white paper on the new initiative that identifies cyclocross as “a great way to introduce young athletes to the sport of cycling.”

OBRA membership numbers show that cyclocross has been the fastest growing discipline every year since 2006, outpacing road, mountain and track racing. Kenji Sugahara, OBRA’s executive director, says the program’s first season will begin in September and they’ll plan to expand it next year. “We’re going in with the understanding that the first year will be small, but it’s a matter of getting a foothold and moving up from there.”

Sugahara says the High School Training and Racing Program will be organized like a “club sport” with volunteer coaches and trainers. He envisions each participating school would field teams of 4-8 students and training clinics would be held on school grounds.

“Our main goal is to make this a game-changer for cycling throughout the state by legitimizing it as a major high school sport like football or basketball.”
— Kenji Sugahara, Executive Director of OBRA

OBRA plans a three-race series in 2010 that will happen in September, with the inaugural championships occurring over Thanksgiving weekend. Also working on the project are Rick Potestio, John Myers, and Brad Ross — all of whom have been instrumental in developing the popular Cross Crusade into the largest cyclocross series (in terms of participation) in the world. Potestio, Myers, and Ross are working on a video and workbook that will serve as a coaches handbook.

OBRA has also named the first communities that will field teams this year. They include; Bend, Eugene/Corvallis, Newport, Salem/Keizer, Portland, Hood River, and Medford.

Back in March, I reported that the National Interscholastic Cycling Association was gaining momentum and signing up new chapter states. Sugahara says since Oregon already has a solid organizational infrastructure for cycling, this new initiative will be wholly operated by OBRA.

For Sugahara, the new program is about much more than just racing bikes. “Our main goal is to make this a game-changer for cycling throughout the state by legitimizing it as a major high school sport like football or basketball.” He also sees potential for cyclocross racing clubs in high schools to impact advocacy issues and has already discussed the new initiative with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. “Visibility of cycling in general equals more acceptance, which equals safer roads, which equals getting more people out on their bikes.”

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16 Comments
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    Oliver June 21, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.

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    Tom June 21, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Stoked!

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    Case June 21, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    This is why I’m totally fine with giving OBRA my membership money (which is really reasonable) every year. USA Cycling doesn’t do stuff like this and to race track, road, cross and mtb on a USAC license will set you back over $100. Thanks OBRA, you’re out there doing the good work!

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    Jack June 22, 2010 at 8:23 am

    This is exactly what high school students need. The courses that pass as Phsyical Education these days are a joke. Apparently its more important that no ones feelings get hurt than it is for a majority of the students to get some exercise. As a result, these kids perception of sports consist of standing in line to shoot a basketball, walking around the gym a few times, and maybe, if they’re lucky, throwing a ball back and forth.

    Show a kid what it feels like to run through some hurdles with a bike on their shoulder and do a clean re-mount, and they’ll remember how fun physical activity can be.

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    Brad June 22, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Let’s run down the list of potential powerhouse CX schools…

    Jesuit
    Catlin Gabel
    Lincoln
    Lake Oswego
    Lakeview
    Westview

    See a pattern? Portland area, money, white…

    I applaud OBRA for making this foray but we should all be very honest about cyling sports. They require a good sum of money to get started and to maintain the equipment. Want to be truly competitive? That costs even more money. I am in no way trying to make this a race or class issue just pointing out that the sport has significant barriers to entry that seem to exclude kids without the financial means to participate.

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    dan June 22, 2010 at 11:00 am

    I was thinking the same thing as Brad (#5) — cross bikes aren’t cheap, which will tend to limit who can compete at this level. OBRA should look at some way to have bikes donated and get them into the hands of interested high school students who otherwise might not be riding.

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    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 22, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Brad and dan,

    might be worth noting that OBRA is currently trying to find sponsors for this program and I wouldn’t be surprised if they found a bike company to offer reduced price bikes.

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    Brad June 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    It will be a great thing if OBRA can pull something like that together.

    I would also suggest some that some special rules to level the economic playing field be implemented as well. Rules limiting high school racers to one bike, certain wheels, assistance, etc. would keep L.O. dentist dad from outfitting his kid with two carbon Ridleys with 404 tubulars while manning the pressure washer in the pits. It would be a real shame if lower to moderate income kids try CX (and a bike lifestyle) only to quit because they are hopelessly outgunned by top end gear and well heeled parents vicariously seeking to make their special snowflake the next Sven Nys.

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    Caliente June 22, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Good for OBRA for doing this. Almost makes me wish I had kids.

    Almost.

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    Tom June 22, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Brad – Sounds like you’re pretty passionate about this. Have you considered volunteering some of your time to this effort? Maybe at Jefferson or Madison? Hope to see you out there!

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    Adam June 22, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Who do I need to talk to about volunteering? I’m going to assume Kenji?

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    spencer June 23, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Brad- way too cynical-

    expensive bikes do not a cross rider make. you have to have the skills to even ride a course before equipment makes a difference. take it from someone who’s raced for four years on POC bikes w/out the ‘crabon’ tubies. you can whoop up on most while riding a cheap bike. its about watts and skills 1st, then equipment 2nd.

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    Brad June 23, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Rationally speaking, you are correct about fitness and skills being paramount. But having coached junior high and high school aged kids in both track and soccer, the minute they see someone show up with far superior gear the self doubt and “We’re gonna lose” mentality starts. These are kids we’re talking about.

    I realize that we cannot make things completely fair or control how confident kids can be. All I am advocating is that each high school racer has only one bike in the event and one set of spare wheels. I also propose that coaches / parents cannot man the pits and that each athlete must perform his/her own wheel changes. Other than that, all OBRA rules apply.

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    Brad Ross June 23, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Some of the best youth’s racing cyclocross in the Portland area right now are from the inner city. Check out B.I.K.E.

    Brad Ross, Director
    Cross Crusade Cyclocross Series

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    Brad Ross June 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    As far as the instructional video is concerned, we’ll make sure we employ a multi ethnic cast of actors as to not piss off any liberals. We even have a trans gender albino we’re considering for one part.

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    Jonathan Long June 24, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Way to go OBRA. Expensive bikes aren’t the biggest problem, it’s the fees that go along with racing every week that can prohibit racing and OBRA does a great job at keeping those costs down especially for the younger groups.
    I know alot of people that only ride once a week and it’s on those nasty Sunday mornings in Oregon and sometimes on borrowed bikes from nice people that race early in the morning and then let someone else race their bike in another category later.
    I can wait to see how this works out!

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