In a city with deep cycling history and tradition, 11 June 2011, may well go down as the most important day of all. It was on that sunny Saturday afternoon that Boulder, Colorado saw the long-awaited opening of Valmont Bike Park, a 40-acre paradise for the two-wheeled sect.
Fifteen years in the making, Valmont includes something for everyone: cross-country trails, dual slalom, a UCI-worthy cyclocross circuit, pump tracks, dirt jumps and a slopestyle course that wowed the crowds on opening day when a cadre of local pros were turned loose on the mix of dirt and fabricated features.
Best of all, the park is free and open to the public.
“This is an incredible day for this community. It’s so awesome to see all these people out here riding and having a good time,” said Bobby Noyes to BikeRadar. Noyes is widely credited as being the driving force in keeping the project moving forward during its long on-again-off-again journey to completion.
Noyes titled himself lead advocate of Boulder’s cycling community, which raised approximately US$500,000 in private funding. All told, the bike specific portions of the park cost approximately $1.2 million, with the entire project’s price tag settling just north of $3 million.
But if Saturday’s celebration was any indication, it was money well spent. About 500 people turned out for the opening ceremony that included speeches and a ribbon cutting, plus a vendor expo, slopestyle exhibition and countless mile-wide smiles.
Noyes tabbed two places as his favorites within the park: the dirt jumps, which include beginner, intermediate and expert lines; and the 5280 cyclocross steps, which top out at exactly one mile above sea level, and are sure to be a park hallmark when ’cross season begins.
That season may also mark the beginning of pro-level events within the park. Mike Eubank, the park’s post-construction manager, said the goal is to host “two to five events” before the end of the year, and acknowledged that the famed Boulder Cup cyclocross weekend would be the perfect international coming out party for the park.
“We just posted a request for proposals and we’ll be looking at mountain bike, gravity and definitely cyclocross events,” explained Eubank. “And yes, the Boulder Cup ought to be here. That would truly represent the capacity of this park. We want to make sure that the events we bring here are good partnerships, and good representations of what Boulder is and what this community can support at this park.”
Valmont’s genesis is traceable to 1996 when the City of Boulder purchased 132 acres of land and started asking its residents for ideas about what to do with it. Noyes and fellow passionate Boulder cyclists Chris Grealish and Pete Webber helped get cycling to the top of that list. But after preliminary planning began, the dotcom bubble of the early 2000s forced the project’s postponement.
It wasn’t until 2006 that the project truly came back to life. Ground breaking came several years later.
“We started out here on May 8, 2010,” said Judd de Vall, who owns and runs Alpine Bike Parks, the Whistler, Canada-based company that handled construction of the park’s cycling features. “Seeing all the hard work come to fruition is pretty amazing. Today, we are watching the next generation of constituents that will truly invest in cycling.”
The park is slated to be open year round, with the dirt and trails designed to drain quickly and not be negatively impacted by precipitation. It’s also completely accessible via bike paths, meaning you don’t have to drive a car to get to the bike park.
“Today is exactly what we were looking for,” said Eubank, pointing toward the park’s high point where crowds of cyclists were cued up, waiting their turn to drop into the slalom and slopestyle areas. “We have such a great cross-section of user groups – kids, families, teens, adults – and they’re all on bikes. This truly represents where Boulder is as a city.”