What caught my eye at the Valmont Bike Park's opening day on Saturday wasn't the riders soaring through the air off the biggest terrain the park has to offer -- it was the scores of wee ones.
Tots scooted Strider bikes alongside siblings and parents with pedals. One girl asked her dad to stay longer as he tried to coax her toward an exit. One mom, on foot, escorted her daughter, on training wheels, across a short, rocky terrain feature.
Another little boy declared Valmont "pretty much the coolest place on earth."
There were a few tears. But as my friend Cheryl, who served as a host for the day, said: Just like in baseball, there's no crying at the bike park.
Well. If I try to ride something too-big-for-me (read: small) and biff, I might shed a tear. And I suspect I'll be out there trying the stuff I'm scared of soon, because Valmont seems like the perfect place to advance your skills --regardless of age or ability.
But I think I'll go when there are no 10-year-olds around to say, "Is that old lady OK?" after I eat it on a pump track.
Nick Simcik was one of those guys flying off the XL terrain on Saturday (features are marked with sizes, and the first would stop you if you were about to get in over your head). But the pro rider wasn't too busy riding to notice the kiddos learning.
"The kids -- you can see them progressing throughout the day," he told me. "It's a pretty big transition to see them rolling over a roller and then going off a three-foot drop by the end of the day.
"As more kids realize they're going to have plenty of time, you're going to see more kids working through the lines. It's not going to be long before the park creates lots of higher-level riders."
The hub and I rode all of the trails, shouldered our bikes to sprint up the 5280' Run-Up -- the stairs are perfectly spaced for racing toward the top, and the hub won after a perfect cyclocross dismount, blast! -- and watched riders line up to hit the dirt jumps atop the hill.
There I ran into Kate Rau, of the Colorado High School Cycling League, who wore a huge grin and said she hoped to see a league race there one day.
Down in the Glades, an area packed with singletrack loops with optional rocks and bridges, I met Brian Bauer, of Louisville's Trek Bicycle Store. Bauer was riding with his boys, ages 4 and 7.
"We'll probably be out here a lot," he said. "We go to the Gunbarrel dirt jumps," -- Simcik is a frequent builder out there -- "Superior (Bike Park), Winter Park in the summer."
The boys rolled up after a lap with other friends and an adult. Bauer said he wasn't too worried about his kids riding at the park.
"Despite their young age, they are experienced riders," he said.
Soon, a lot more might be, too.