A mountain bike team has made its way to the area, giving local youths of all skill levels in grades 6-12 a chance to compete in a sport that’s hiked in popularity across Nebraska.
The Maskenthine Composite Angry Owls mountain bike team is inviting riders from Norfolk and the surrounding area to register and compete on the team — which was formed by a group of locals, including Jason Tollefson and owners at Cleveland Bike and Sport. The team rides and races in the Nebraska Interscholastic Cycling League and is a program of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA).
The team’s philosophy, according to Tollefson, is fun first, with a central goal of helping students develop a strong body, mind and character through mountain biking. The Angry Owls mountain bike team does not require tryouts, as everyone is encouraged to join regardless of skill level or experience, Tollefson said.
“A big thing is to help these kids develop a team attitude and learn how to support the teammates they have around them,” Tollefson said. “Everyone is kind of out on their own when they’re biking, but they still compete as a team and support each other.”
The fee to register for the Angry Owls mountain bike team is $195, which covers two league races, insurance, practices and member benefits and discounts. Riders are responsible for having their own mountain bikes, Tollefson said, and helmets and closed-toe shoes are required when riding. Riders also must carry their own spare tube, mini-pump and water at all practices.
Parents and students are responsible for providing transportation to and from all races, Tollefson said. Most families and coaches camp on-site at the races.
Tollefson encouraged those wishing to join Angry Owls to establish a relationship with a local bike shop for bike tunes, equipment maintenance and questions. Many local shops offer discounts to team members for equipment and repairs, Tollefson said.
The coronavirus significantly altered this year’s race schedule, as practices would typically start in July and participants normally would compete in four to six races throughout a six- to eight-week period in the fall. Angry Owls now has two races on its schedule, which team members are encouraged but not required to compete in upon joining the team.
The first of the two races is the Arkfeld Acres Time Trial near Omaha on Saturday, Sept. 12, and the second is the Branched Oak Area 7 Time Trial near Raymond on Saturday, Oct. 24. Tollefson said participants are encouraged to register as soon as possible to be eligible for the races, with a goal of having at least six team members this season.
If enough interest is generated, a third race will be scheduled at a later date that will take place at Maskenthine State Recreation Area north of Stanton, Tollefson said.
Practices will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and on Saturday mornings beginning Sept. 19 either at a location in Norfolk or at Maskenthine.
Tollefson has mountain biked for 25 years, bringing a significant amount of experience in the sport to Angry Owls. The team also will have other assistants who have been screened and trained on teaching students how to mountain bike.
“The endurance is a big part of it, and you have to be fairly physically fit,” Tollefson said. “But I'd say the technical skills are what take the longest time to develop and usually strike the most fear in young riders. But that’s all stuff we teach you and are willing to work with you on. There’s a lot more to mountain biking that someone can learn than you might think.”
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Interested in registering?
Call Cleveland Bike and Sport at 402-371-3325, or email Jason Tollefson at email@example.com.