Cycling can be a tough sport to break into. (Check out my recent article in Blue Ridge Outdoors, Cycling’s Secret Handshake) Development for many years has been a misused word, often referring to cherry picking already blossomed talent and providing high level racing opportunities to those few.Grassroots level programs are the foundation for growing a broader base in cycling. How can we encourage young kids to try cycling? How can we provide a safe, spectator friendly environment for everyone? Here in Virginia, a mountain bike series was created to address just that.The Virginia High School Mountain Bike Series (VAHSMTB) originally began as a launchpad for high school aged students but has since grown to include middle school and even upper elementary students!The 2014 season just kicked off in Richmond, VA setting record level attendance with over 130 kids competing for top honors. With Elementary School, Middle School, Junior Varsity, and Varsity events for boys and girls there is something for everybody.How To Enter a VAHSMTB EventThe VAHSMTB Series is NOT a closed series – all public and private school students are invited to attend! The series is limited to five events held in Richmond, Roanoke, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg and St George VA.If you are a first time racer, simply show up to any of the venues on race day with a bike and a helmet, purchase a number and go! For you seasoned bike racers, early online registration is also available. All event information and the “How To’s” of the sport can be found on the VAHSMTB website.A Growth ModelHigh School cycling has grown tremendously in the United States because of programs similar to VAHSMTB. In mainstreaming the sport, and connecting events to schools, more and more junior aged kids are finding that cycling is the sport for them. After four years of growing success, VAHSMTB will be taking another giant leap forward in the fall of 2014, joining many other states in the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA.)With help from professional bike racers, like Jeremiah Bishop, and a dedicated team of volunteers, we hope to expand the series into other areas of the state to encourage even more students to race.Richmond Brief Recap – Race 1 – April 1st 2014With many new schools and new students participating in the season opener held at Forest Hill Park in Richmond, over 130 racers took part. Many of the races were closely decided by inches in final sprints to the finishing banner. Taking the boys Varsity Tuesday night race was 14 year old standout, Adam Croft, while women’s Varsity champion Mason Hopkins added to her list of accomplishments. In the JV category, Ryan Cullen and Ellie Girardi stood atop the podium. Winning the boys and girl elementary divisions were Robert Berry and Autumn Bartels respectively.The next race is in Roanoke, VA, on April 12.Young juniors can get their feet wet in the elementary division.