Pickleball, Kubb, and now youth mountain biking: the Chippewa Valley is home to unexpected—and increasingly popular—outdoor sports.
The Fall Creek Composite Mountain Bike Team is a newly-formed group for students; founder and head coach Tammy Somerville said she created the team when her son couldn’t find a mountain biking group in the area.
“We have twelve students from Chippewa, Eau Claire and Neillsville. Next year we’re going to more than likely double in size, if not triple,” Somerville said Wednesday.
The Fall Creek team is registered with the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, or NICA, which means it can compete in tournaments around Wisconsin in September and October. The team competed Sunday in Waukesha, where over 400 students raced; four of the Fall Creek athletes made it onto the winner’s podium.
It’s a great sport for kids who don’t like typical school sports, Somerville said. “What I love best about this sport, and why it’s growing so much, is that not everyone fits into the mold of a school sport. They’re all getting the same amount of time ‘on the field (as everyone else).’”
The sport occasionally involves rough terrain—hills, water and sharp turns—but safety is top priority, Somerville said. “We start out practicing the foundational skills in a wide-open field… the very basic fundamentals: where to hold your hands on the bars, how to brake safely, lean properly…we go through all those skills that a beginner biker would.”
The students commonly practice on tracks throughout the Chippewa Valley: Lowe’s Creek and Northwest Park in Eau Claire, and Area 178 in Chippewa Falls.
Students from all area schools can join the team even if they don’t wish to compete, Somerville said, and bike loaner programs are available through NICA. “Everyone on the team is having a blast, myself included. I’ve never had so much fun in my life than I’m having with these kids.”
The Fall Creek team’s next competition will take place in Mount Morris on Sunday. The team practices from July through September, and will compete in five total races in September and October. Upcoming races will take place in Waterloo, Hayward and Iola.
For more information, search “Fall Creek Composite Mountain Bike Team” on Facebook.