BOULDER -- Growing up just outside of Estes Park, Erin Huck routinely rode her bicycle from place to place as a way to see her friends.
Huck used to ride a bike recreationally, even socially. Now the Boulder resident rides one professionally, and quite well as of late.
This past week, Huck won her first national titles in both the short track and cross country events at the Volkswagen Mountain Bike National Championships at Mammoth Mountain in California. At 35 years old, she won the women's pro cross country race in 1 hour, 40 minutes, 33.7 seconds. She won the short track race in 25:10.3.
"Up until this year, I've been working full-time and I have been one of the only women in the pro division who has done that," Huck said. "I've recently decided to take a leave of absence from work and focus on biking full-time. When I was nominated for the US team a while back, that was a real eye-opener for me. At that point, I decided to train exclusively for mountain biking and to see how good I could become."
Huck's full-time approach has since paid dividends in her mountain biking career. Though she began competing internationally in 2012, she had a breakthrough at the international level this summer. In the Czech Republic on July 2, Huck placed a personal-best 11th at the UCI World Championships.
A member of Team USA's long team, she was one of four riders who were invited to the Rio Olympics test course. She just missed the cut for the Rio Olympic team.
"The international races are so much more challenging and therefore rewarding," Huck said. "I've been able to travel the world and see so many places and make so many friends. It's pretty awesome."
A bit of a late bloomer at 35, Huck said she doesn't know if she'll be able to make another run at an Olympic qualification in four years. She does, after all, have to return to her job as a mechanical engineer in September. But she has set the goal of cracking the top 10 at one of six World Cup events or even the world championships within the next year.
Whatever happens in the next year and for the rest of Huck's career, she did what she needed in order to claim two national titles this summer.
"She is very humble and wants to stay low key," Erin's father Albert Huck said. "But her wins this past weekend are worthy of acknowledgement."
Erin Huck is a graduate of the University of Colorado, where she met her husband Ari Opdahl.