Youth stands out for Aspen/Basalt mountain bikers in fifth-place finish |

Youth stands out for Aspen/Basalt mountain bikers in fifth-place finish

Basalt High School freshmen riders, from left, Monte Musselman, Cole Chism and Liam Heath pose for a photo during the state championships this past weekend in Durango.
Courtesy photo

While the Aspen/Basalt composite mountain bike team couldn’t defend its state championship, it did get a strong showing from its youngest riders this past weekend in the Colorado High School Cycling League finale in Durango.

The team finished fifth in Division 3, the smallest of the three divisions, with 1,967 points scored over the two days. Laramie (Wyoming) won the division with 2,188 points, followed in second by Leadville and in third by Crested Butte. Roaring Fork finished 13th, while Colorado Rocky Mountain School and Glenwood Springs finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in the larger Division 1.

The Aspen/Basalt team entered the weekend as the defending Division 3 champions, having won it all in 2019. The 2020 season did not take place because of the pandemic.

Standing out in the 2021 championship event for the Aspen/Basalt team was its trio of freshmen boys, all Basalt High School students. Liam Heath led the group by finishing seventh in the roughly 150-rider field in the freshman boys race, while Monte Musselman was 43rd and Cole Chism was 78th. CRMS’s Canyon Cherney was second.

“Those guys did great,” Aspen/Basalt coach Scott Leonard said. “They are new to this and doing really well. The season inspired them. They are all psyched to get more into cross-country racing. That’s always encouraging when your youngest riders are motivated and improving fast and doing well.”

What especially stood out about their finish is where they came into the event ranked: Heath was ranked 17th, Musselman 114th and Chism 118th, meaning all three finished significantly higher than expected.

The varsity boys race wasn’t as noteworthy for the Aspen/Basalt team. They were already missing two of their top riders from the fall season — Levi Logan and Finn Johnson — each not competing at state for different reasons, while senior Markus Dewire did not finish after deciding to pull out about 20 minutes into the hour-plus-long race due to asthma, caused by the dusty course.

Fairview’s Liam Baartman won the varsity boys race.

Racers compete in the 2021 Colorado High School Cycling League state championships in Durango.
Courtesy photo

“We started kind of on the backfoot,” Leonard said. “Most of it’s on private land, so it’s track that only gets ridden for this one event and the dirt there is incredibly silty. It’s almost like talcum powder … it’s just dust, like bottomless dust.”

Other results included Brody Fox finishing 40th in the sophomore boys race, Miles Johnson coming in 79th in the junior varsity boys race and Harrison White in 100th for the JV boys.

Emma Borchers, a Basalt student, led the girls by finishing 11th in the varsity girls race, a race won by Durango’s Bailey Cioppa with Chloe Lutgring of Glenwood Springs coming in second.

“She rode an aggressive race,” Leonard said of Borchers. “Was in the front group for the first lap and a half and then started to fade a little bit. But went for it.”

Aspen/Basalt’s Megan Heath was 17th in the JV girls race.

Complete results can be found here.

From left, Glenwood’s Chloe Lutgring, Durango’s Bailey Cioppa and Basalt’s Emma Borchers compete in the varsity girls race of the state championships on Sunday in Durango.
Courtesy photo

Home sweet home?

This was Durango’s last time hosting the state championship in this cycle — sites typically host for a couple of years at a time — and there is momentum building that the Roaring Fork Valley could potentially host in the near future.

Construction recently got underway for a new trail system near the CMC Spring Valley campus, which is being eyed as a likely host site as soon as next fall. The announcement on next year’s state championship venue is expected in January or February.

“We actually trained on the trail — there is a cross-country loop that is on the parcel of land where this course would go and we trained on it the Saturday before states,” Leonard said of the CMC Spring Valley trails. “It’s good riding. It’s very similar to the upper loops at Red Hill. It’s basically the same terrain. They could make miles and miles of good trails up there and with a variety of difficulty.”

Creating elite riders

The success of the Aspen/Basalt high school program — which is administered by Roaring Fork Cycling and not the actual schools — paved the way for Leonard to create the RFC Pinnacle Junior Race Team, an advanced-level group that begins training as early as February and competes nationwide throughout the spring and summer months.

The team started in 2020 but did not get much racing in because of the pandemic, but did log plenty of miles this past summer. Dewire, Borchers and Roaring Fork’s Corbin Carpenter were among the main athletes who opted to compete outside of the Colorado high school circuit.

“Expanding that program is a goal of mine,” Leonard said. “We really do in this valley have the potential of having a world-class junior development program.”

For more on both programs, visit