Mankato, Minn.-- From 16 teams and 151 riders to over 1,600 on 60 teams, the Minnesota High School Cycling League has grown over the years. The 7th season wraps up this weekend at Mount Kato.

Student athletes in grades 7-12 compete in ability based mountain biking against riders from all over the state.
 
"The whole motivation behind this is to get kids riding bikes." said Josh Kleve, executive director of Minnesota High School Cycling League, "It's to build a strong body, strong mind and strong character through cycling."

The racing series has expanded from 4 races in 2012 to 7 in 2018, with the final event being the state championships.

"This is the big race." Kleve said, "We have six other races around the state of Minnesota but this is the only one where everyone comes together and we actually race over two days."

Today's races featured freshman and junior varsity boys and girls. The boy's races were broken up into two divisions and included experienced athletes as well as newcomers.

"Kids out here, some of them are three sport athletes." said Kleve, "Others, some of them may have tried sports but have never found something that they've connected with."

For the kids, the thrill of competition and riding meets socializing with friends.
 
"I enjoy it because I can get away from a lot of things and I like riding with my friends." said Renn Corley, who bikes with the Mankato Composite Cycling Team.
 
"Just the thrill of going fast. Love to be on my bike. It's my favorite activity that I do during the week." said Markus Rupnow, Renn's teammate.

Both were introduced to the sport by older brothers and have been around the sport for a while.

"This is my first year racing and it's really exciting because I've been doing pretty well and I've finished all the races." said Corley.

After races in Detroit Lakes and Duluth, the Mankato team wraps up the year on familiar turf.

"I'm really excited because it's our home course. We have a really good team." Rupnow said.

Whether for winning trophies or hanging out with other kids, the student athletes all have a reason to love the sport.

"Cycling is one of those things we can all enjoy. We're going to go play in dirt. We're going to ride through the woods. We're going to enjoy nature. We're going to do it with our friends and it's just fun!" concluded Kleve.

Tomorrow will conclude another mountain biking season, with varsity and middle school closing out the series. 

--KEYC News 12.