Eagle County prep mountain bikers take on Cloud City Challenge in Leadville
Aiden Brown claimed boys varsity silver as VSSA and Eagle Valley finished 1-2 as a team in the Division 3 standings
Leadville holds a special spot in Aiden Brown’s heart. The Eagle Valley senior’s first mountain bike race was on the Colorado Mountain College campus in North America’s highest incorporated city three years ago.
“I came out here and I won my first freshman race and I was like, ‘I got a shot at this thing. Let’s give it a go!'” he said on Sunday after placing second in the varsity boys race at the Cloud City Challenge, the third race weekend on the Colorado High School Cycling League calendar. With the departure of current Bear National Team athlete Landen Stovall, Brown has blossomed into Vail Junior Cycling’s top cyclist.
“Aiden Brown has come a really long way,” said coach Marshall Troutner, whose team pulls athletes from across Eagle County’s high schools and places them on either the Eagle Valley or Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy’s team at CHSCL meets.
“He’s a great example of a local young athlete — he started out trying to keep up with other recent successful athletes like Sam Brown and Landen Stovall. Now, he’s racing for a national team and stands out as one of the best 17-18 year-old mountain bike racers in the state.”
“I have big shoes to fill,” Brown, who also competes for a Tennessee-based national development team called Gravity Academy, said of Stovall. The 2023 Eagle Valley High School graduate often accompanies Brown on his long weekend training rides. “He definitely put us on the map for sure and I’m trying to keep that going.”
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Brown carried the Devils’ torch in Leadville, completing three 6.2-mile laps in a time of 1 hour, 21 minutes and 3.95 seconds to finish 2:28 behind Steamboat Spring’s Aidan Haack, the current season points leader. Haack made his move on a long double-track climb during the second lap.
“I was just waiting for him to look tired, and then I was going to go,” Haack said.
“I started to get a little knot in my gut and I started to panic and I feel like he saw it,” Brown said. “That’s when he made his move.”
Brown defeated Haack in Frisco to open the CHSCL season and was second to him in the Showdown at the Boat on Sept. 9. When Haack surged, he tried to go with.
“I’m like, ‘oh god, I’m going to die,'” Haack said when he realized Brown was still there.
“On the downhill, he stayed on the gas and I just couldn’t move,” Brown admitted.
Haack’s second lap — 25:57 — was the fastest of the day and put 84 seconds between the rivals. The senior, who hopes to race at Fort Lewis or Colorado Mesa next year, didn’t slow down much on the last revolution en route to a 1:18:35.12 finish.
“That’s what Aidan does,” Brown said. “He likes to make you work the first lap and then make his move. It’s what he did in Steamboat. I tried to mitigate it this race, but I just didn’t have the legs for it.”
The CHSCL splits its 90 teams — and over 2,000 riders — into four regions: Yampa, Platte, Piedra and Crystal. The 19 teams within the Yampa Region, which competed in Leadville on Sunday, are divided into three divisions. For the third straight weekend, VSSA and Eagle Valley went 1-2 in Division 3.
“Both teams showed up and did a great job, boys and girls,” Troutner said. “It doesn’t get any better than first and second.”
“It was sick. It was really dusty….but it was a ripper,” an excited Reiner Schmidt (1:22:40.49) said after leading VSSA in the boys varsity race with a fifth-place finish. Team scores are compiled using the school’s top-5 point earners (with a maximum of four boys) regardless of gender or category (freshman, sophomore, junior varsity, varsity), meaning every athlete has the potential to contribute to their team’s total.
VSSA received event wins from Landon Laverdiere and Freedom Bennett in the boys junior varsity and freshman boys races, respectively. Katie McDonald helped out with her second-place in the girls junior varsity and Jolene Edelmann (1:49:36.99), Keely Hendricks (1:49:43.86) and Lucy Perkins (1:54:06.41) placed eighth, ninth and 13th, respectively in girls varsity. In addition to Eric Asselin’s junior varsity silver, Eagle Valley also got a fourth-place finish from Vespera Steiner in the sophomore girls event.
- Boulder – 7600
- Green Mountain – 6180
- Lakewood – 6033
- Monarch – 5555
- Centaurus – 5413
- Silver Creek – 4874
- Steamboat Springs – 5214
- Summit – 4783
- Stargate – 3867
- VSSA – 2637
- Eagle Valley – 2464
- Nederland – 2328
- Compass Montessori – 2252
- Wheat Ridge – 1921
- Estes Park – 1879
- Denver Academy – 1482
- Legacy – 1297
- Denver Christian – 448
- Steamboat Mountain School – 357
Schmidt said the camaraderie between all the VJC athletes is fantastic, regardless of race-day kits.
“We’re all close friends. I love hanging out with those dudes,” he said. “It’s such a good crew.”
Troutner said the collaborative team chemistry was on full display Sunday. “Not only did athletes push through their challenges, but their teammates were always there for each other,” he said. “Teamwork, even in mountain bike racing, contributes to our teams’ successes every week.”
Schmidt is one of several mountain bikers who transitions to Nordic skiing in the winter. Though he participated in USA Cycling’s Olympic Development Academy last year, he decided to go all-in on skiing this summer.
“I was like, I don’t know if I can balance these two,” Schmidt said. “I was like, where I live, meant for skiing, right? And just, I don’t know, skiing makes me happy.”
Schmidt hopes time spent in the saddle builds fitness and mentally refreshes his competitive spirit for the long winter. He also said there is a physical, mental and tactical transfer of skills between both sports, which combine supra-anaerobic bouts with technical downhill recoveries, pack racing with solo breakaways and endurance exploits with exciting sprint finishes.
“Oh 100%. I’ve learned so much that I can use in Nordic this season as well,” he said. “I’m ready to rip it this season.”
Reiner Schmidt, 5th, 1:22:40.49
Andrew Lombardi, 9th, 1:28:05.78
Jolene Edelmann, 8th, 1:49:36.99
Keely Hendricks, 9th, 1:49:43.86
Lucy Perkins, 13th, 1:54:06.41
Junior varsity boys
Landon Laverdiere, 1st, 57:49.63
Alex Current, 4th, 59:41.78
Cody Worrell, 13th, 1:03:31.56
Brady McBride, 63, 1:19:48.62
Junior varsity girls
Katie McDonald, 2nd, 1:06:54.39
Freedom Bennett, 1st, 1:00:08.07
Katie Lombardi, 3rd, 1:16:50.99
Aiden Brown, 2nd, 1:21:03.95
Stella Sanders, 14th, 1:55:14.90
Junior varsity boys
Eric Asselin, 2nd, 58:22.16
Vespera Steiner, 4th, 1:16:37.29
Bode Cobb, 11th, 1:04:10.69
Jonah Barber, 18th, 1:06:03.94
Jack Sargent, 22, 1:07:22.45
Silas Lovgren, 49, 1:17:27.70
Ilan O’Donnell, 68, 1:44:39.79
Hudson Wyatt, 29th, 1:19:56.85
The CHSCL crescendos toward the state competition Oct. 21-22 in Glenwood Springs. From stacking 18-20-hour winter training weeks into early-spring UCI events, peaking for mountain bike nationals in July, and now racing CHSCL, Brown said he’s been “going full gas for the last 10 months.” His Gravity Academy coach expertly constructs his schedule the prior November, but planning, recovery and fueling only do so much in regard to maintaining prolonged high-level performance.
Passion is his true north.
“A lot of it is, I just like to ride my bike,” Brown said before navigating his thoughts back to his initial decision to join the bike team during the pandemic. And that first win.
“I owe a lot to VJC for getting me started,” he continued. “They were definitely the ones that fueled that fire for me.”