Clinic mornings always start with a certain feeling of excitement and anticipation. VIDA staff are bustling around setting up, tables are adorned with purple tablecloths, glitter and nameplates, while bikes are set on display and apparel is hung up. VIDA participants mill around until check-in, looking over their bikes and making small tweaks on their bikes as they wait for morning check in to begin.
A little before 9 a.m. a warm welcome brings everyone into a tight circle for morning greetings and schedule for the weekend. “You have already done the hardest part, you’ve showed up,” says Rachel Gottfried, VIDA’s Director of Operations. Lead coaches offer a glimpse into their background while announcing their group for the weekend and assigning a meeting spot. Within fifteen minutes all nervous energy dissipates as each woman joins her crew for the weekend and finds herself surrounded by women with similar goals.
As the morning progresses, each group warms up with different skills - bike-body positioning, front and rear wheel lifts, braking, cornering, and starting to get their wheels off of the ground. Women practice these skills and get comfortable moving in different ways. There are occasional cheers, yahoos, and “I did it!” filtering through the morning dew. Purgatory Resort’s base area offers flat ground and slight inclines to practice, making it ideal for these skills.
Summer weather in the mountains can mean alpine monsoon season, and we were not spared this weekend. Saturday’s afternoon on-trail session quickly turned into time spent inside with Robert Plumb, Shimano Mountain Demo Driver, learning the ins and outs of bike maintenance and components. After two hours of rain, hail, and lightning, ladies jumped back on their bikes. While the day before had been dry, sunny, and hot, the air was a little brisk and trails were a little slicker.
Women finished their days of skills practice with feelings of accomplishment painted into their expressions. They didn’t know it, but they had an even bigger day ahead of them on Sunday.
Day 2 of a VIDA clinic is where the “ah-ha” moments happen. It is where skills turn into adventure as women ride through the most stunning backcountry of Colorado. A quick shuttle with Hermosa Tours dropped our groups at the trailheads of Molas Pass and Engineer Mountain Trail.
All of the nerves return as women pedal into the forested trails, glancing at storm clouds in the distance. Each group finds their challenge and stops to session the rock step, root drop, or steep corner that has them stymied. With time, nervous energy becomes exciting energy and after climbing for what seems like hours, it’s time for lunch and photo ops. Storm clouds linger in the distance, seeming to move in as groups begin their descents. Half of them smile and laugh as they make their way through the trees and roots of Engineer Mountain, while the additional women descend Molas Pass with the most phenomenal background views. Before they can realize, the women are returning to the resort to cap off the end of a full day of riding. The lingering storm clouds choose this final moment to roll in, creating a sunny downpour for the final hour of the day. The San Juan mountains offer the perfect background for the weekend, reminding us of how magnificent Colorado really is.
VIDA means life, but to us it is family. With the help of our most supportive sponsors we have built a community that brings new women into the sport, lifts one another up, and reminds us that together, we are stronger.