PRIOR LAKE, Minn. (WCCO) — With no mountains in Minnesota, you may not think of our state as a mountain biking state.
But at the high school level, the sport has taken off. And this type of biking isn’t about a leisurely jaunt around the park. It’s about taking the trails — head on.
“There’s always wipe-outs,” said sophomore Nick Overbeek. “It’s a difficult sport, you get hurt, but you just have to get back on the bike and ride.”
This was the first year Minnesota has had mountain biking as a high school sport. And the Prior Lake team is one of about 20 in the state.
Varsity racers do four to five laps — the equivalent of about 20 miles. And sometimes they race on elevations that can reach up to 700 feet per lap.
“You’ve got single track, hills, obstacles, bridges, rocks, logs to go over,” said coach Mike Binkowski.
Erik Binkowski took second at last weekend’s state meet at Buck Hill. He says the team can put in 50 miles a week just practicing. But as their bikes climb, so does their confidence.
“It’s a really cool feeling, because you know people want you to do well,” Binkowski said. “It really helps you push yourself harder.”
Minnesota is the sixth state in the country to have mountain biking as a club sport, and it’s also co-ed. Each team has at least one girl on it.
There are plenty of spills, but more thrills in a sport that has nowhere to go but up.
Coaches expect the schools sponsoring the sport to double next year. And athletes always wear helmets and protective gear.