Summit County is often called the mecca of outdoors sports, and that label is no different for youth wanting to hop on some singletrack or cruise along the roadways.
For those wanting to ride the fat tire, a passionate few have put together an opportunity to ride beyond Maverick Sports' summer junior mountain bike league. Coaches Thane Wright and Marla Dyer-Diggin have attracted 14 riders to continue to compete this fall in the Colorado High School Cycling League, which had its first race, the Chalk Creek Challenge, on Sept. 9 in Nathrop, near Buena Vista.
The Summit High School riders fared well, with Meagan Collins placing first in the freshman girls category, Taeler McCrerey landing first for sophomore girls and Henry Trowbridge finishing first among sophomore boys.
Other racers finished inside the top 10 of their categories, with Claire Vanderyacht placing fourth and Christa Gutzel placing 10th - out of 17 - in the sophomore girls category. Liam McDonnell raced junior varsity and came in 9th of 68 in his junior boys category.
The team brought 13 of its 14 riders, which included junior varsity racers Cameron Bob, who had a double flat and didn't finish the junior boys' race. Wade Rosko finished 34th of 68 in the senior boys class.
In the sophomore boys category, Derek Hill finished 27th of 48, while the freshmen boys saw Logan Ramsay finish 15th, Connor Hintgen roll in at 19th and Wyatt LaFrankie finish 22nd. Thirty-six riders were in the race. Marcus Sandberg didn't finish, as he had a broken saddle.
The mountain bike team isn't sanctioned by the Colorado High School Activities Association - yet.
That's something the coaches hope will change in the near future, but for now, the 2-year-old high school mountain biking program is considered a club sport and depends on volunteer help and sponsorships.
The sport could blow up in Colorado, Dyer-Diggin said. Earlier this summer, she chatted with Junior Mountain Biking Series participants to get a list of possible riders, which helped the program double this year from last.
Last year, there were seven.
Before that, there was one.
The sport isn't just growing in Summit County. In its first year, the Colorado Mountain Biking League had roughly 150 riders. Last year, the organizer had enough riders to divide it into two divisions.
"This thing is just going to explode," Dyer-Diggin said. She explained that Colorado is among the first states to start up the school-year mountain biking league, following California's lead. Now, Washington, Minnesota and Texas are among those joining the ranks.
"The goal is to get them out learning to ride, building skills and then getting together to race," Dyer-Diggin said. "Some of it is very competitive and some of it's very casual."
To date, the league hasn't had many coordinated group rides, but Dyer-Diggin and head coach Thane Wright plan to change that this year. They've been leading group rides for their team on Monday afternoons to help them continue to build skills they learned through the Maverick Sports program during summer.
Four races round out the season, with the next being the Sept. 23 Snow Mountain Ranch Stampede at Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA in Tabernash, near Granby. On Oct. 7, riders will travel to the Peaceful Valley Invitational in Elbert and on Oct. 21, qualifiers will compete in the North Fruita Desert Classic State Championships in Fruita.
For more information on the league, visit www.coloradomtb.org.