Thousands visit Eagle for MTB races Sunday
EAGLE — Hero dirt laced the trails Sunday at the Colorado Cycling League State Championship, but the true hero was the venue and the people behind it.
Bringing 40 volunteers and a 26-foot rental truck to town, the Colorado Cycling League race crew spent Saturday morning setting up a mountain-biking mecca on Eagle’s Haymaker Trail for the 600 or so students who would compete on it Sunday.
Those students brought a bevy of people with them, and the scene that resulted was unlike anything Eagle County sees all year.
“Pro races aren’t as good as this,” said Austin Smart, Colorado Cycling League operations manager. “These people who set it up, they’re all volunteers. They’re all avid cyclists, and they’re all excited about watching these kids and creating an environment for them that is unparalleled.”
Thousands were in attendance Sunday. Reade Warner, of Lakewood High School, had his grandparents from Nebraska with him, along with his mother, father, brother and aunt.
RIDING FAST, GROWING FASTER
The Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale had 50 to 60 teachers and students cheering on their 14 riders. That school is a good example of just how popular mountain biking has become among students in Colorado over the last few years. After starting a few years ago with six or seven athletes, they now have 22 cyclists on the team, a little less than 15 percent of the small school’s total student body. On Sunday, the school produced three state champions, including senior Henry Nadell, who was the overall winner of the boys event.
Colorado Rocky Mountain School sophomores Emi Bauer and Levi Gavette also won their respective divisions, sophomore and junior varsity.
“Henry has been inspiring me for two seasons now,” Bauer said. “He just has some great enthusiasm. Our team now has doubled in size and we have all these new riders who are psyched to ride.”
Henry Nadell’s father, Frank Nadell, said Henry just discovered the sport a few years ago and it has changed his life.
“I feel really blessed that he found (mountain biking),” Frank Nadell said. “He’s not hanging out at 7/11, he’s not buying a bag of dope, he’s not drinking, he worked really hard and trained really hard all summer and came into this year and started winning races.”
Frank Nadell said Henry got a job this summer with the goal of buying a better bike.
“We don’t have a lot of money but Mom and Dad Savings and Loan was able to lend him some money to buy the bike in the early part of the season, then he got a job and started wheeling and dealing on bike parts online and paid it all back.”
LOCAL TEAMS BOTH 3RD
Henry Nadell said winning the state championship had been his goal all summer long.
“I wanted to win so bad,” he said.
En route to obtaining that goal, he learned a lot about himself.
“I learned about sales and marketing from selling bike parts, and also learned a lot about sports science from competing,” he said. “Those are all things I’m looking at to major in college. What you learn in bike racing I think you can take to life.”
Henry Nadell attributes his victory to the Colorado Cycling League itself — without it he said he would have not been introduced to mountain biking — but he also said the Haymaker course was in great shape.
“Whoever came in and fixed the downhill, big ups to them,” he said.
The recipient of those big ups from the fastest rider on the day were the local teams — coaches Dan Weiland and Jay Henry and their athletes at Vail Mountain School, Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, Battle Mountain High School, Vail Christian and Eagle Valley High School, along with their parents.
“We got a group of about 10 or 15 of us together on Monday and came out and did some trail work to tune it up for the race,” Weiland said. “It was a group effort.”
Some of the top local athletes from Weiland’s teams were Luke Vickerman, who took third in the boys varsity division; Sarah Smith, who took second in the girls junior varsity division; Colin Wilson, who took second in the sophomore boys division; and Blake Bathum, who took third in the freshman boys division.
The local riders, which are divided into two squads — a Division I and a Division II team — both finished third overall in the team standings.