Biking

Montana Interscholastic Cycling League is hosting a bike race for high schoolers and middle schoolers at Crosscut Mountain Sports Center.

Growing up, Sam Schultz didn’t have many convenient opportunities at competitive cycling.

He didn’t have many friends to bike with either. But his parents were supportive and drove him around the state and the country so he could race.

Then he traveled around the world for a 10-year professional career that included biking in the 2012 Olympics in London.

So when Schultz saw how National Interscholastic Cycling Association motivated kids to bike, he thought it “was a cool thing” and decided to bring that same inspiration to his home state.

Now the Montana Interscholastic Cycling League is hosting the Crosscut Classic, the first of a four-race series for high schoolers and middle schoolers at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Crosscut Mountain Sports Center. With an estimated 200 racers and about 310 registered for Montana’s league, Schultz, the league’s director, claimed this is the largest inaugural race for a NICA league.

“It’s all about inclusivity,” Schultz said, “and it’s a good way to get into the sport.”

The course was open for pre-riding Friday afternoon and will be Saturday morning. It’s 3.8 miles long with 500 feet of climbing. The course was designed by Crosscut Mountain to be mellow, Schultz said, so it’s enjoyable for all levels of competition.

“It gives some of those kids somewhere to go,” Schultz said. “It’s just about getting out there and having fun on a bike.”

Schultz said the organization by other volunteers and him in order to host a race like this lasted two years. It included submitting a bid to NICA to show the organizers were prepared for it. They had to gather donations and sponsor pledges, line up venues and get communities on board.

“A lot of resources go into that,” Schultz said.

But the bid was approved. The Montana Interscholastic Cycling League was considered an emergent league last year, so organizers began outreach including presentations and coaches had to train in order to start teams, which are in charge of their own fundraising.

But Schultz has been impressed with the momentum of the Montana league.

“It’s crazy. It’s pretty cool to see it grow as quick as it has,” Schultz said. “It was hard to get people to fully buy into it. There’s a lot of questions, and it’s hard to get the buy-in at first, but we’ve been blown away by how many kids have signed up.”

Teams have been practicing since July for two to three days a week. Schultz stressed the importance cycling can have in young people’s lives.

“It empowers the kids to get outside and stay active with a cool community of like-minded people, getting them outside, off of computers, off of phones,” Schultz said, “and doing something they love.”

More information, go to montanamtb.org.

Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.