High school cycling league holds races in Snowmass for the first time
SNOWMASSIVE CHASE RESULTS
1. Mia Aseltine, Chatfield
2. Abbey Shepard, Animas
3. Olivia Gordon, Crested Butte
4. Sage Davis, Animas
5. Ruth Holcomb, Durango
1. Riley Amos, Animas
2. Robbie Day, Evergreen
3. Alex Purrington, Evergreen
4. George Beck, Aspen
5. George Poggemeyer, Chatfield
On the switchbacks of the Discovery Trail in Snowmass early Sunday morning, dozens of people were shouting, whistling and shaking cowbells at hundreds of high school mountain bikers.
First it was in support of the junior varsity, freshmen and sophomore girls, then the freshmen boys and varsity teams. Five waves and over 700 student athletes later, families and officials celebrated the first-ever Colorado High School Cycling League race in Snowmass and the third competition of the league’s 10th anniversary season.
“We’ve had rave reviews from the community and participants so far,” said Kate Rau, executive director of the Colorado High School Cycling League, about the Snowmassive Chase race.
Rau said she’s been exploring Snowmass as a race venue for the state’s high school mountain biking league since 2012. When the Discovery Trail, a beginner path that winds up Fanny Hill near Zeigler Reservoir, was completed in 2017, Rau said she was able to turn the potential race venue into a reality.
“This is the longest courtship I’ve had with any venue. … We are hugely grateful for the Discovery Trail,” Rau said.
Because the Discovery Trail is one of the more difficult league courses, Rau said the Snowmassive Chase was slated as the third of this year’s five-race season.
The first Colorado High School Cycling League race season was in 2010. A “decade of dirt” later, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association affiliate is celebrating its growing community and mission to build strong minds, bodies and character through cycling.
“This is such a cool sport because there is no bench. If you’re on the team, you’re in the game,” said Tyler Durham, managing director of Roaring Fork Cycling. “There is the camaraderie of the team but a lot of self-action and individual empowerment that makes (cycling) so unique.”
On Sunday, Durham could be found bouncing around the 4.8-mile Snowmassive Chase loop cheering on his student athletes and pumping his arms in excitement after they finished their two, three or four required laps, depending on their age group.
Durham explained that Roaring Fork Cycling supports a combined Aspen-Basalt high school team through coaching and other resources. Glenwood Springs High School has their own separate set of volunteer coaches.
Over the past three years, Durham said the Roaring Fork Cycling nonprofit has pushed to bring younger kids throughout the valley into the cycling community, hosting summer programming for middle school students out of the Snowmass Recreation Center and even strider, or pushbike, races for kids 2 and younger.
The group also is trying to make the sport more accessible and more inclusive by providing loaner helmets and mountain bikes to kids interested in competing and by hosting girls-only rides each week, Durham said.
“Our mission is to empower youth through cycling,” Durham said. “We want them to feel supported and encouraged and are lucky to have some of the best people helping us make that happen.”
And according to Durham and Ben Gottlieb, lead coach and director of operations for Roaring Fork Cycling, the summer programming and team culture focused on enthusiasm, stewardship, adaptation, commitment and teamwork is starting to pay off for the young athletes.
The Roaring Fork Valley area high school cyclers had a strong showing Sunday, with Aspen, Basalt and Glenwood Springs athletes stepping onto the podium in nearly every age group.
“The athletes who finish in the top five in Colorado could also place top five in the world. That’s what the level of riding is here,” Gottlieb said.
In the boys varsity race, George Beck of Aspen placed fourth after a sprint to the finish with George Poggemeyer of Chatfield, who placed fifth.
At the sophomore girls level, Emma Borchers of Basalt placed fourth and, at the freshmen girls level, Megan Heath of Basalt placed fifth. “It felt really good to be home for a race, hills are my strongest,” Borchers said after her race.
Both Borchers and Heath said that although they participate in other high school sports, mountain biking is different because of the family-like culture.
“Everyone just wants everyone to do their best,” Borchers said.
“Even when you get passed by someone they tell you you’re doing great. It’s just a very supportive community,” Heath added.
Finn Johnson, a 14-year-old from Aspen who placed first in the freshmen race, expressed similar thoughts.
Johnson said he felt strong and confident going into Sunday’s competition, and that he likes being pushed by the upperclassmen.
“It’s a really cool sport because even though you race as an individual you’re a part of a team,” Johnson said. “And our team dynamic is really good.”
But for Durham, Gottlieb and the other Roaring Fork Cycling coaches, it’s not just about the race results. The coaches said it’s more about watching their freshmen through senior cyclers grow as people and become passionate about a sport they can continue to participate in for most of the rest of their lives.
“There’s something truly magical about mountain biking that helps kids find their power,” Gottlieb said. “We (coaches) aren’t just seeing them become better cyclists, we truly see them becoming better people by doing what they’re doing.”