“Rattler” racing series on a roll

Riders of all ages and levels gather for monthly “party”

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The afternoon sun was hot, and the trails dusty as dozens of men and women gathered at the start line of the Rattler “Pure Venom” mountain bike race in Bear Creek Lake Park, on July 10.

“My goal is to just pass one person,” said Rob Ford, the only entrant in the “fat bike” category.

A nearby rider laughed and said he’d probably be the one to pass.

“Try to kick my chain off when you pass though, so I have an excuse!” the rider joked.

Then the race began, with wave after wave of bikers out to conquer the 17.8-mile singletrack course.

At the lap/finish line emcee Steve Oberembt called out each racer’s name with enthusiasm, as a crowd of supporters and earlier competitors cheered, and enjoyed complimentary beer and hot dogs.

Teens and younger, many of whom had competed earlier in the afternoon, milled around the finish line, occasionally cheering on a parent as they passed by, or trying to answer the emcee’s occasional quiz to win free prizes.

Oberembt, who said he’s seen the Rattler series grow from 105 participants to more than 285 in the four years it has operated, says he loves seeing the local mountain bike community in action, “just to see people come together, smile, laugh have a good time promoting a healthy sport.”

On the course, the mood is cordial.

“Passing on your left, thanks!” says the leader of a pack of women, all wearing the same team jersey.

“Hey nice job, keep it up!” says a route marshal at the top of a particularly nasty climb.

“Ughuuuugh,” says a distinctly out of shape journalist who was experiencing a calf cramp generating excruciating amounts of pain. At some point, Ford on his fat bike does indeed pass him by.

The Rattler series features several competition categories, ranging in age from the “8 and under” riders who race around a 1.3-mile course, to the senior division, with special divisions in between for different skill levels and different types of bikes. On July 10, the youngest racer was 4 years old, and the oldest was 57.

“The range is terrific,” said Oberembt. “You’ve got your 8-year-old future Olympians out here racing around and having fun, alongside some of the top athletes in the state, Thomas Herman to name one.”

Herman, a Lakewood resident, won the Grand Traverse 41-mile mountain bike race between Crested Butte and Aspen last year, and took first place in this year’s Bailey HUNDitO, before winning the Men’s Open division on July 10.

Oberembt says there’s one man responsible for the Rattler series.

“It’s totally Dave’s creation — Dave’s work of art,” he says, referring to Dave Nuscianisi.

According to Nuscianisi, who is currently a mountain bike coach for Highlands Ranch High School, the racing series started initially as a “more low-key” event to help get area high school mountain bike racers some experience before state competition.

For his part, Nuscianisi says the growth of the cycling series has been one of natural progression.

“All I’m doing is hosting a party and everybody shows up,” he said. “It’s a friendly group of people, very supportive, that’s why it’s grown like this.”

Part of the credit for the race series’ popularity also belongs to the scenery and trails of Bear Creek Lake Park, and the city of Lakewood’s Regional Park Supervisor Drew Sprafke, according to Nuscianisi.

“They’ve been so easy to work with,” said Nuscianisi. “They’re the best land managers we’ve worked with.”

That’s saying something, because Nuscianisi has expanded into organizing a junior racing cup in Bailey Colorado, and a three-day mountain bike stage race in Winter Park.

Nuscianisi says he hopes the sport, and the race series continues to grow in popularity.

“The neatest thing,” he said, “is just getting to see more kids get out there and get into this sport.”

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