The Cycle Effect 1
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Community Impact Spotlight: Grand Junction Rides and Vibes: Belonging on the starting line

Community spotlight from 2024 Everyone Rides Community Impact Grant recipient The Cycle Effect.

Author: Jasmine Oeinck “Coach Jaz”

Belonging: a strong word and an even more powerful feeling. Belonging is one of the six core values of The Cycle Effect, a Colorado nonprofit that mentors through mountain biking. Because of its emphasis on belonging, the Girls Mountain Bike Program creates a space where our 10-18 year-old riders can be themselves, let their strengths shine and feel supported as they discover how powerful they are.

As part of each session, we provide a race experience for participants to challenge themselves. In May 2024, The Cycle Effect’s Mesa County athletes competed side-by-side with professional bikers at the Grand Junction Rides & Vibes Race. The world-class Lunch Loops trail system is technical, rocky, exposed and lined with cactus. Both fun and incredibly challenging, these trails are the real deal.

Across The Cycle Effect’s programs, 87% of athletes identify social, emotional and economic obstacles that impact their wellbeing. The young women that took on the Rides & Vibes race have overcome unbelievable barriers but The Cycle Effect believes that these risk factors don’t define its riders; participants are empowered to forge their own paths.

The pre-race hangout was special. Watching these girls put glitter under their eyes and in their hair, while having sweet conversations and giggling about completely random things showed their bond as teammates, and a moment of them just being kids. After everyone was glittered and we stuffed our pockets to the brim with gummy bears, we found a spot near the back of the starting line. The skies were moody and a calm nervousness was present, but the mixture of starting line anticipation and excitement was building and starting to take over. I offered some brief words of encouragement, ultimately reminding these girls that they can do hard things.

BOOM. The sound of the starting gun, and they were on their way to conquer their own challenges and carve their own journey. On their way to discover their courage, tenacity and strength. On their way to continue to grow, not just as mountain bikers, but as individuals in a world filled with obstacles.

Three out of four athletes finished the race, with one placing 2nd in her age group! The rider that was unable to finish had a bad crash about 10 miles into the race, but through her tears she told me, “Coach Jaz, I still want to finish.” Unfortunately, she had broken one of her brake levers in the crash and wasn’t able to do so. Regardless, she made sure she was at the finish line to cheer on her teammates.

Coaching these athletes is nothing short of inspiring and humbling. When I reflect on this day and think about how proud I am of all of these young women, it makes me tear up in the happiest of ways. These riders completed a remarkable athletic feat, no doubt about it. Even more impressive, though, is how these young women towed the starting line and represented themselves. They showed themselves and everyone there that not only do they belong at the starting line - they will thrive when given the opportunity.