By Lucy Frost-Helms, Copy editor
The University of Montevallo officially opened its long-awaited mountain biking course on Oct. 26. The course, which is located at the former site of Montevallo’s city golf course, includes trails of various terrain, twisting turns into the woods and ramps for gravity-defying jumps. The course accompanies the founding of UM’s Cycling team, which will be coached by Jennifer Nichols, former director of Helena High School’s Mountain Bike Team.
Among those present at the ribbon cutting were UM President Dr. John Stewart, Montevallo Mayor Rusty Nix, UM Athletics Director Mark Richard, Alabama Senator April Weaver, trail-builder Preston York, UM Cycling Team Captain John Thomas Arnold and other faculty and staff from the UM community.
Local mountain biking teams from Vestavia Hills, Hoover, Helena and Hewitt-Trussville High Schools also attended the ribbon cutting, and were given a chance to test out the new trails.
Stewart began the ceremony with a welcome speech and thanked those in attendance for their support. He then acknowledged that, not only will this facility be able to host UM’s cycling team, but will also be a site that gives back to the Montevallo community.
“I can’t wait for the day when this facility becomes an economic boom for our community. We’re going to have two to three thousand people here for events, I’m told, for the future. Not to mention a really great group of riders here at Montevallo,” said Stewart.
Funding for the park was done in partnership with Discover Shelby, which promotes tourist opportunities that are available across the county. Shelby County Commissioner Jon Parker explained that the course was made possible through this partnership and a tourism fund.
“This was funded by, not your tax dollars, by any kind of sales tax, but through a tourism, lodging tax. So, that’s how we’re able to fund stuff with the university,” said Parker.
Parker then went on to acknowledge Preston York of FlowMotion Trail Builders, who was the primary designer and constructor of the course. York said, “This is one of the best, possibly in the nation, courses.”
The team is predicted to have a bright future. Weaver spoke prior to the ribbon cutting, saying, “I know it’s not going to be long—we’re going to be standing right here celebrating a national championship for our mountain bike team from Montevallo.”
Among the final speakers was UM Cycling Team Captain John Thomas Arnold. Arnold, the team’s first ever leader, said, “Today is an exciting day as we unveil our freshly built mountain bike course. I’m extremely excited about it.”
Arnold continued, “We’re so fortunate to have access to these facilities which include a dedicated short-track-cross-country dual slalom and downhill courses. These courses will give us the opportunity to host races in just about every level in every discipline.”
A dual slalom course is a course of two, parallel tracks that mirror each other in a way that competitors can compete evenly while being timed.
Before the ribbon cutting, Stewart clarified that “I always blow this,” in reference to the timing of the actual cutting of the ribbon. “If everyone could do 1, 2, 3 with me, that would be awesome,” he said.
After the large scissors sliced through the banner, cheers and claps followed. Even more cheers and claps came when mountain bikers rode down the centerpiece ramp that the ribbon was cut from, flying into the air.
In a post-ribbon cutting interview, Stewart shared his thoughts on the benefits of the course, with an emphasis on the fulfillment of students.
“We’re serving students. This is something that students have wanted and we were able to deliver it in a top-shelf way. I’m told it’ll be one of the best mountain bike courses in the East. That’s number one,” said Stewart.
Stewart also said about the course’s construction, “In a geeky administrators way, I’m excited that we were able to take something that wasn’t really great, an antiquated golf course that wasn’t exactly a championship-caliber golf course, and make it into something that is championship-caliber—that’s one of the best in the country, as far as I know.”
Following the opening, riders from local high school teams as well as UM team members took a sunset test drive through the dips and twists of the new course.
Mountain biking is one of three new sports added to UM’s roster in recent years, along with men’s wrestling and tumbling and acrobatics.
Lucy Frost-Helms is the copy editor of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in social science and minoring in philosophy. She enjoys being a goober, eating chicken salad for breakfast, watching “National Treasure” and telling you that she will “definitely pay you back for that.” Lucy has the worst memory of all time and will forget major, important details of stories you tell her.