After a hot start, high school mountain bikers return to racing this weekend in Steamboat
After a hot start to the season, local mountain bikers participating in the high school cycling league were iced over the weekend.
The Colorado High School Cycling League’s North Conference race in Steamboat Springs has been postponed until Sunday, Sept. 17, due to the Deep Creek fire in Routt County, which had reached more than 4,000 acres as of Sept. 10, when the race was originally scheduled to take place. The decision was made after discussions with local town officials and careful consideration of the current situation.
The fire was 39 percent contained as of Sunday. It is burning approximately 16 miles northwest of Steamboat Springs and contributing to poor air quality. “Our paramount concern is the safety of racers, volunteers and emergency personnel,” league officials wrote in a release. “Our thoughts go out to all involved emergency personnel.”
Local athletes started off the season strong at the Frisco Bay Invite on Aug. 26, a race that saw 1,200 competitors. Eagle County’s varsity male athletes swept the podium.
“We’ve never done that before,” said Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Mountain Bike Program Director Dan Weiland. “They all started together and went 1-2-3.”
Sam Brown of the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy team won with a time of 1:24:05.5, and was followed by Wyatt Moehring and Calvin Trudeau, of the Battle Mountain team. Gaja Wilson was the top finishing local girl in the varsity division, taking 10th.
The Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy boys team also won the Division 2 category.
The Steamboat race was to be the second contest of the season for the North Conference; the South Conference’s race on Sunday went off as scheduled in Leadville.
In October, both conferences converge in Eagle for the state championships, which take place on the Haymaker course. The event is stationed out of the BMX and pump track courses near the Pool & Ice rink in Eagle, and has proven itself as a family friendly spectacular in recent years.
The local mountain biking program is organized and staffed by Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, although athletes compete on teams affiliated with various local high schools as determined by the Colorado High School Cycling League. Locally, racers are designated onto one of three teams: Battle Mountain High School and Vail Christian Academy, Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy and Vail Mountain School, and Eagle Valley High School and Red Canyon High School, which was formed as a team for the first time this year. All of the athletes, regardless of their designated team, train and compete under the club’s program.
“We’re operating three separate teams on a given race day,” said Weiland, who also runs the club’s Nordic program in the winter. “The program is growing. We have 42 on the roster. I think we had 34 or 35 last year. In the first event, they raced more than 1,200 athletes over the two days. It’s a big show.”
Weiland says it’s the categories which makes the racing unique.
“If you’re a freshman, you race against freshmen. If you’re a sophomore, you race against sophomores. And then there’s JV and varsity. I think it’s tiered really well to not be completely overwhelming for kids. A freshman who comes in who has never really ridden a bike before can actually compete, which is a pretty cool feature. The idea is for these athletes to develop as they go through their four years.”
For Ski & Snowboard Club Vail — an organization dedicated to, you guessed it, skiing and snowboarding — the benefits of supporting a mountain biking program are obvious, Weiland said.
“You’re competing, which is always a good thing, plus you’re going downhill at a high rate of speed, having to look around and move your bike around like you would move your skis,” Weiland said. “Certainly, for us, having an endurance sport oriented program helps.”