Mountain bike champ doesn’t get cold feet over the weather
April 9, 2010
Finding time to talk to Keith Sanders can be tough:
“Kristen, I can’t meet you today.”
“I’m on a bike ride.”
“Keith, it’s 32 degrees outside”
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I tell him my bike ride minimum temperature is 60 degrees.
“You’re not wearing the right clothes”
I have a lot to learn about biking in Grand County.
What you need on a cold day (30 degrees or less) according to Keith Sanders: shell, tights, skull cap, and bike shoe coverings.
Keith is the reigning USA Cycling National Cross Country Champion Cat 1 for the age group: 50-54. He trains year round here in the Winter Park /Fraser Valley. At 16 he started road racing in Boulder, where he grew up. He raced through high school and really ramped up his racing program in 1988. While he is predominately a mountain bike racer, cyclocross is his second favorite biking endeavor.
“There is something about the solitude in the woods,” he tells me. Biking is a family affair. Keith will go out on the mountain biking trails with his wife Ann and son Aaron, 8. “Aaron bikes really well. That low center of gravity makes me jealous.”
Keith and his wife own and manage three ski rental shops in Grand County. Since December and January keep him busy with work, longer, tougher training doesn’t begin until February. He adapts his workout plans based on how he feels and weather conditions.
“A regimented training plan is difficult here in Grand County. I work with milestones.”
A resident of the Fraser Valley since 1980, he has learned to adapt to weather. Training year round includes skate and downhill skiing. He rides his cyclocross bike on the roads starting in March, even when it’s less than 40 degrees – if he can find the time.
Last year Keith qualified for nationals at the Mountain States Cup in Snowmass in order to compete last July at SolVista. He won the race with a time of 1:51. What contributed to finishing first: familiarity with the course, racing for years, racing at altitude, and knowing the competition.
Keith also helped design the course. Additionally he consults on cross country race course design for USA Cycling, Mountain States Cup and the Winter Park Mountain Bike Series.
What motivates him to continue training and racing at this level for so many years: “It’s all about the lifestyle. I really like the race atmosphere. At the end of a mountain bike race everyone knows each other and talks about the race; it’s a mountain biking family. The people I’ve met at races have pushed me to my limits.”
I asked Keith what mountain bike race would be good for a first time racer.
“We are fortunate to have the best mountain bike race series in the country at Winter Park Resort. It is a quality experience for everyone no matter what level: beginner, intermediate, professional. The race is designed to be challenging but you race against people in your class and skill set. First time racers should enter Valley Point to Point.” (www.epicsingletrack.com)
Keith will be defending his title at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships at SolVista Basin July 15-18. I hope to see Grand County residents out in force that weekend cheering on local athletes who will be competing in all the events.