Kate Rau is one of those people who's name pops into conversations I have with fellow cyclists all the time. The phrase "...surely you've met Kate", was one I heard many times before I actually DID meet her. She is spunky, and full of energy. Her eyes shine with enthusiasm and kindness. In short, she's perfect for her position as Executive Director of the Colorado High School Cycling Association. Her bio on their site says, "She is passionate about the benefits of positive youth development from the saddle of a mountain bike." That's putting it lightly. Kate is a positive force of epic proportions when it comes to kids on bikes.
We wanted to get Kate's take on the uber-successful Fall 2013 High School Mtb State Championship in Eagle, CO. How it started, who was involved, and just how amazing the town of Eagle and it's Mayor, Yuri Kostick was and continues to be.
[303Cycling]: The town of Eagle made Nationwide news last Spring when they announced they'd spend $60,000 to build a multi-use trail that would be open to the public (but with the 2013 CO High School Mtb Championships specifically in mind). Tell us your initial reaction to this news.
Kate Rau: I was delighted to see that Eagle received this recognition given we had been working on the project since October of 2012. I looked for courses in the Vail Valley since 2010 and nothing had quite met our needs. Chris Cook and Scott Turnipseed reached out to me in 2010 and 2011. I rode a few courses and they weren't quite right. In the fall of 2012 the plan for the Haymaker course was hatched. Chris's son was the Freshman state champion in 2012.
[303Cycling]: How was the 2013 Season Finale? Were people surprised at the level of professionalism the park/trails offered?
Kate Rau: The welcome support provided by the Town of Eagle was incredible from the banners hung in town to the signs directing people to the race venue was unprecedented (a word I use often in relation to this experience). There were 39 teams represented with 479 racers.
[303Cycling]: Tell us about Eagle's Mayor, Yuri Kostick?
Kate Rau: The "Honorable Mayor" Yuri Kostick is "casually intense". He is very personable, focused, and dedicated to creating a family friendly environment in Eagle. He is a landscape architect by trade, and understands sustainable trail building. He is an Energy Smart Advisor and a former Sustainability Coordinator. From what I've observed, Yuri is highly respected by many Eagle residents.
He had the utmost faith that he could garner the resources necessary to complete the trail project on time and according to the specific requirements of a high school cross-country mountain bike racecourse and venue. I believed him because I was familiar with the area and knew a few locals from past reconnaissance missions. He was very conscientious and wanted to deliver 200% and he did! He helped all weekend. He organized and welcomed visitors to a locals’ guided ride that oriented people to the many great trails easily accessed from town. He helped mark the course and was available all day Sunday on his ATV to trouble shoot as needed.
[303Cycling]: Who else was instrumental in getting this accomplished?
Kate Rau: Ric Neuman the private landowner embraced the idea and allowed the trail to be built. He negotiated a public easement permitting the community to use this valuable resource from April to November. Amy Cassidy the Marketing and Events Coordinator and John Staight, Open Space Coordinator were integral to coordinating the weekend and rolling out the red carpet for us. John worked countless hours with the trail contractors, precisely tracked and mapped the route, coordinated parking, and signage.
They created an event map identifying parking, hotels, the area for camping and our annual celebration picnic, and the race venue. The map had a trail map on the other side – it was brilliant! Posters and maps were distributed to the local businesses and hotels so the racers and families really felt welcome. A special “Boneshaker” character was designed to coincide with the event. Welcome banners hung across two major roads and a highway sign was lit up announcing our event. Amy’s attention to detail is astounding. I cannot imagine how many hours were devoted to insuring our teams and families felt special.
John Bailey and Jay Henry, both involved with the Vail Valley team and Eagle residents, were valuable course consultants. Momentum Trail Concepts expertly cut the new trail and were open to various feedback and specific requests to refine the course. The Hard Scrabble Trails coalition put in many hours of work and built a super sturdy bridge over an irrigation ditch that was necessary. The Town Manager, John Staveny, public works employees, police, and local business owners were incredibly accommodating. There were so many people excited about the new trail and our event. One of my site visits at least 10 people came out to ride the trail and welcome me!
[303Cycling]: This is a great addition to the town of Eagle (and our state in general), but can you tell us how much it meant to the CO High School Cycling League?
Kate Rau: In 2012, the State Championship race was in Fruita, which was our first venue west of the continental divide. Michelle Melgares, Board Member of the Fruita Chamber, was a fantastic hostess and surprised us with a welcome banner that replicated a Colorado League facebook image created by Austin Smart that paralleled the “FU” and “WTF” campaigns for Fruita.
The Grand Valley Composite team (includes Palisade, Grand Junction and Fruita) and BLM were very hospitable and accommodating. Michelle made every effort to engage the local community and wholeheartedly believed in the benefits of hosting our race.
The Eagle partnership is unprecedented in the Colorado League’s experience and I believe in other NICA Leagues thus far. Eagle raised the bar and set the “gold standard” for how a community can support our events. I think Leadville will mobilize even more for our event in 2014 because that team experienced this premier example.
Eagle is an outstanding illustration of how a town can support a Colorado League race. Eagle communicated loud and clear that our event is valuable under Yuri’s leadership. More importantly the town has a new multi-use trail. I often joke that we now have the opportunity to be the next “Pro Cycling Challenge” in 2015, by asking for more specific support from locations that want to host a Colorado League race. I suspect what Eagle did will be replicated in other NICA states.
[303Cycling]: Anything else you'd like our readers to know?
Kate Rau: I chose Eagle as the venue for our upcoming Coaches Summit in April for obvious reasons. They have great trails, are providing facilities, and are centrally located.
I am incredibly grateful to the exceptional leadership exhibited by the volunteer coaches, who keep the athletes safe and motivated. I am very fortunate to have a very talented race crew who commits countless hours, loyal sponsors, a dedicated board of directors, and cooperative land managers since we started in 2010. The camaraderie and teamwork to put on this race series race is phenomenal!
I invite everyone to witness the amazing energy associated with 500 high school student-athletes converging in the outdoors to push their personal limits in a supportive environment. Volunteering a few hours during a race weekend will be very uplifting and you will be leave optimistic about the next generation’s ability to tackle the future with compassionate ingenuity. I guarantee that these teenagers will impress you. I encourage people to donate to the Colorado League in an effort to expand access to more youth by increasing the number of scholarships we provide.
*303Cycling would like to thank Kate Rau for taking time out of her insane schedule to do this interview. Huge kudos to the CO High school Cycling League, all the racers and families who are involved. And finally, to Mayor Yuri Kostick and the town of Eagle: thanks for being a shining example in our community and beyond!