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Farewell, Medicine Man

February 28th, 2012

One of the greatest medicine men of the cycling community walked off into the woods this winter.   We at Criterium expect him to come through the front door on Saturday, stealthy, circling, waiting to see how all of us are going about the mission of helping people to ride mountain bikes.   In a very quiet way, Josh Osterhoudt made the conditions for mountain biking what they are today in the Pikes Peak Region.

I remember meeting Josh at the counter in the downtown Criterium in the early 90’s.  He stopped by with a business card to introduce himself as a mountain bike advocate.  It sounded good to me, but I had to ask him to explain what it was that he did.   Over the next twenty years, I gradually figured out that attending meetings with public lands managers was as meaningful to him as organizing a team for Medicine Wheel members to swing picks and shovels.   He understood the direct-connect between public policy and having fun, as no other person has ever understood it.

Before anyone called it a ‘tipping point,’ Josh intuitively knew how to get the right thing done at exactly the right time.  He didn’t generally require any funding, which is unusual for an activist.  But there was a time when the County Parks Board could not find the $600 to secure the Section 16 lease, and Medicine Wheel was able to round up the funds in a few hours.  Without that intervention, Section 16 would have reverted to its owner–the State School Board–which was poised to sell it off.  We all learned that if Josh needed funds, we would be able to buy something well beyond our wildest dreams.   Today, Section 16 remains as it was, linking up the new Red Rocks Park with Bear Creek Park.

Josh believed implicitly in the power of riding single track trails.  He loved the idea that a trail could be created by simply using it, maintained by folks who cared about it, and reclaimed without much fuss.  He worked to keep single track on the agenda when land managers were thinking about trail construction that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars per mile.   While other communities (think Boulder) have lost single track access and replaced it with big infrastructure (Valmont Bike Park), the Pikes Peak Region added miles of single track in the same period of time.  Our Medicine Man was always on duty.

Josh worked at Criterium as our Marketing Director between careers at Pepsi and Bristol Brewery.  He insisted that Criterium’s logo had to include an image of the bridge.  He ordered bottled water with a private label.  He insisted on a pictorial trail map on the outside of the building for trail users, and he made me advertise our clean restrooms to trail users.   These were not expensive marketing initiatives, but they all worked to establish Criterium as a kind of oasis for everybody on the trail.    At a time when we were complacent, he insisted on a higher standard of customer service to each and every visitor to this business.   There is no more important marketing than service delivery, and he always brought us back to our core business.  Even after moving on to Bristol, Josh came by to check up on Criterium.  This store has never had a greater friend.

–Kay and the entire Criterium crew