Eagle hosts top high school biking event
EAGLE — Indeed, the world’s best producer would have trouble creating a better event for our area than the High School Cycling League State Championships.
Taking place in the heart of the offseason every year, the event draws thousands to Eagle for a weekend of families celebrating their kids’ love of mountain biking.
From their hotel room in Vail on Saturday night, the Jenkins brothers talked about the incredible possibility of them both making the podium in the varsity boys division. Nic, a senior, and Nolan, a sophomore, said they won’t get a chance to compete with — and against — each other at this level again unless they become pros.
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“We were just saying wouldn’t it be so cool if we could just come across this together,” Nolan Jenkins said following the race on Sunday. “We didn’t know if it could happen but, I don’t know, somehow it worked.”
The boys’ parents, Chris and Sharon Jenkins, were there to share the moment from the bottom of Eagle’s Haymaker course. They knew the boys were going for the win but had no expectations of the race, they said, adding that they are just happy the boys are part of the healthy scene that is the Colorado High School Cycling League.
“They encourage each other but they talk a lot of garbage,” Sharon Jenkins said with a laugh, about the family’s ride up from Colorado Springs, adding that Sunday was far from the boys’ last race against each other. “They’ll be competing against each other on our street this weekend, too.”
VSSA’S FREEBURN IN 2ND
On the girls side, Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy senior Katja Freeburn was edged out by Harper Powell, of Salida, and had to settle for second place in the varsity race. Originally from Durango, Freeburn has been an impressive addition to the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy team this year, winning the north conference in the High School Cycling League. Powell won the south conference.
Powell said she really likes Freeburn as a racer and wanted her to win or, in this case, take second. She said she could feel Freeburn pushing her in the beginning of the race, which prompted her to make efforts to up her pace early on in an effort that would end up leading to her win.
“It was great racing with you, and getting to start with you,” Powell said to Freeburn following the race.
Freeburn transferred to Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy to focus on Nordic skiing, but she also happens to be pretty good at mountain biking. Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s Nordic program director, Dan Weiland, is also the head coach of the mountain biking team at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy. Weiland said most of the local kids on the high school cycling team have another pursuit which they are just as serious about.
“There’s very few kids that are solely focused on cycling,” he said. “It’s hard with all the things that we do in this community. (Second-place finisher for the freshmen girls) Berit Frischholz is an alpine skier, Izzy Sargent (fourth-place finisher for the freshmen girls) is a BMX racer, the list goes on.”
Like Freeburn , Frischholz, Sargent and so many others who participate in the high school cycling league, the Jenkins brothers are also quite busy with other endeavors. Nic Jenkins took the ACT test for college on Saturday morning before heading up to Vail. A multi-sport athlete, last weekend Nolan Jenkins helped his high school cross-country running team qualify for next weekend’s state championships, he said on Sunday.
“He didn’t even ride his bike all week,” Nic Jenkins said of Nolan Jenkins.
Rounding out the boys varsity podium was Levi Gavette, of Colorado Rocky Mountain School, in Carbondale.
“He was just not going anywhere,” Nolan Jenkins said of Gavette. “We would have little accelerations just to see if we could shake him but he never left. Finally on the last laps, I tried to attack just to see what would happen and we got a small gap.”
ALL IN TOGETHER
The Colorado High School Cycling League compiles the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity scores for both boys and girls into a total by which the teams are scored for the season. Teams of 15 athletes or more are in Division 1, 14 or less are in Division 2. While they consider themselves one team, Eagle County’s youth riders are divided into the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy team and the Battle Mountain team. The Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy Team has 14 riders and dominated the Division 2 ranks this season, winning every race leading up to Sunday’s state championships and finishing first at state. The Battle Mountain team is in Division 1 and was hoping to finish the season in a top-five position. After an impressive performance on Sunday, they finished third.
“The girls were the highlight of the day, for sure,” Weiland said. “They all rode above their starting position, all girls, all the way through. It was really impressive; that’s what you definitely want.”
The top finishing guys in the varsity division were Sam Brown, of the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy team, and Wyatt Moehring, of the Battle Mountain team, who finished 12th and 13th, respectively. Moehring said the race ended up being just another local race for him and Brown.
“In the town series, we’re always racing against each other, usually I can’t keep up,” Moehring said. “I didn’t pass him because I had a feeling that he was holding something in, and I didn’t want to get ahead of that.”
Moehring said he could feel the home field advantage making a difference.
“Isaac (Nagel-Brice, the sixth-place finisher) from Boulder, he was behind me for the first two laps, and I could definitely tell that I was gaining some time on him at certain points of the course,” Moehring said. “I could definitely tell that he wasn’t as familiar with it as I was, so I definitely had an advantage there.”
In a triumphant moment, 10th-place finisher Rainer Barth, of Boulder, crossed the finish line running alongside his bike. It was the 17-year-old’s final high school cycling race, and he had set a goal for himself to finish in the top 10.
“At the end, I slipped my chain on the last switchbacks, and had to run probably like a half mile,” he said.
As he was nearing the finish line, it looked like Will McBryde, of East High School, was on pace to pass him. Barth gave it a final effort and edged out McBryde.
“He caught me right at the end,” Barth said. “I got lucky.”