What: CU Short Track series
When: Wednesday nights through Aug. 14
Where: Valmont Bike Park
More info: cushorttrack.blogspot.com/
Dan Marshall and June Stoltman pedaled around the dirt trails at Valmont Bike Park wearing their bright green helmets and matching lime green City of Boulder jerseys.
Though there were only two competitors in their category on Wednesday night at the weekly CU Short Track Series, off-road handcycling is catching on in Boulder. A crowd of spectators stood watching the two bright green blurs pedal by along the course.
Marshall and Stoltman raced their off-road handcycles in the adaptive category, new this summer to the CU Short Track series hosted by the University of Colorado club cycling team.
Marshall, 43, won easily on his Explorer II bike, a three-wheeled handcycle made in Poland. When he rides the bike, his feet are tucked behind his body, which is pitched forward as he grasps the pedals with his hands. It feels similar to what riding his mountain bike used to feel like, he said.
"That was the reason why I fell in love with (handcycling)," he said. "When I come down the hill I'm almost in a mountain biker stance. Having that thrill of coming down a singletrack in that position, going as fast as I can, was it for me."
Marshall injured his L1 vertebrae almost 10 years ago in an airplane accident that left him partially paralyzed from the waist down, he said. He now travels primarily by wheelchair -- when he's not riding his bike. Marshall rides three to four times a week on trails near his home in Larimer County between Lyons and Estes Park.
He helped city officials map out a course for the adaptive category at Valmont Bike Park earlier this summer.
"We came out after work one night and rode the course all over the place so we could see what we could and couldn't do," Marshall said, "and there was nothing that we couldn't do. This is a great course."
The adaptive race category is the result of a partnership between the City of Boulder, which runs and maintains the bike course, the CU cycling team and EXPAND, a city program that works with people with disabilities.
Jennifer Heilveil coordinates EXPAND's adaptive sports programming, which started in 2005 and includes rugby, waterskiing, kayaking, track and field, soccer and cycling.
Heilveil said Boulder is one of the few, if not only, community that's hosting adaptive mountain bike races. Since this is the first year EXPAND has partnered with the CU cycling team at the short track series, the adaptive field was small, but Heilveil said she hopes the race grows in popularity as more handcyclists hear about it.
Stoltman, whose left leg was amputated 14 years ago, rides a recumbent tandem bike with her husband almost every weekend. She's more of a leisure rider, and though she doesn't consider herself a bike racer, Stoltman said she competes at Valmont to help handcycling gain exposure.
"It's a way to promote this and to show people you can do this too, regardless of what your disability is ... just get out there and do it," she said.
For the CU cycling team, hosting an adaptive race category makes sense. The club tries to make cycling more affordable and accessible to students, so opening the short track series to all types of cyclists furthers that mission.
"College students don't have a whole lot of money to dedicate to racing," said CU cycling team member Tony Carfang. "Making it accessible to them is one thing. Making it accessible to those with disabilities makes it even better."
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.