The lower chalet at Spirit Mountain Recreation Area in Duluth was crowded with people trying out their skills on the trails crisscrossing the area Thursday, July 18, and at least one group in particular, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton mountain bike team, was training for the upcoming season.
The team has tripled in size since it was organized in 2017. Coach Ashley Hagelin said the team started with 12 members and has 36 in 2019. The team holds practices three times each week on area courses including Spirit Mountain and Pine Valley Park in Cloquet.
The team isn’t affiliated with the area schools, but features riders ages 6-12 primarily from Carlton County, but also includes some from Hermantown.
The team started training in early July for its third season, which will include five races beginning at the end of August and continue through October.
The races feature a number of different obstacles and challenges, but Hagelin said it’s really cross-country races that are as long as 16 miles for older riders.
“There are some technical skills required, but it really comes down to endurance,” Hagelin said.
Harper Mears, 12, of Esko, typically plays soccer and basketball but said she started riding with the team for something to do in the summer evenings and said her favorite tracks include Spirit Mountain and Pine Valley.
“My friends and I needed something for our evenings,” Harper said. “I enjoy riding on the trails with people and learning new things.”
Harper’s friend Ashley Schultz, 12, of Esko came to try out mountain biking for the first time at Spirit Mountain. She said she’s definitely going to come back to practice, but she wasn’t sure about racing.
“I don’t know if I’m going to do any, but I’m going to watch some,” Ashley said.
Layla Hagelin, 12, of Esko said she enjoys working hard to achieve her goals, but her favorite part of the sport is something most people can relate to.
“My favorite part about mountain biking is going up and being rewarded with the downhill,” she said.