While places like Winter Park’s Trestle Bike Park are shutting down operations for the year, and many of us may be looking ahead to winter, 15 area high schoolers are just hitting their mountain-biking stride as the Summit Mountain Bike Team heads into its second race of the season, the Cloud City Challenge, Sunday in Leadville.
Currently ranked fourth in the state, the team has come a long way since its one-member inaugural season in 2010.
“It was history in the making that first year,” said team director Marla Dyer-Biggin.
Her son Oliver, who has since graduated, was the team’s only member.
Although not a Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) sanctioned sport, the team runs as a loosely school-affiliated club team.
Now with 15 members, it continues to grow each year.
“It’s not the easiest thing to find out about us. We are getting more known,” Dyer-Biggin said. “I’m very proud of what it’s been built into.”
The Colorado High School Cycling League also had its inaugural season back in 2010, and it, too, has grown considerably since.
The first race this season had around 500 participants, and Dyer-Biggin said the league continues to expand year after year, so much so that it’s discussing the possibility of splitting into eastern and western divisions.
While the Summit team doesn’t have the membership numbers of some of the larger clubs, like Boulder’s, which is currently ranked ahead of them, it may have a competitive advantage, according to one of the team’s coaches, Thane Wright.
“Our Summit kids are way above the curve. They’re fitness junkies like the rest of us,” he said.
And Wright would know. In the summers he’s in charge of the popular Rocky Mountain Endurance Series mountain races.
“These children grow up with exposure to this,” Biggin agreed.
Wright credits Jeff Westcott’s Summit Mountain Challenge junior racing series for helping to develop the racers he coaches.
“Our kids have been blessed by the Summit Mountain series,” Wright said, calling the junior league program “phenomenal.”
At Sunday’s Cloud City Challenge in Leadville — the team’s second race — Biggin hopes the riders have another advantage.
“It will be a little more challenging than the last race. I think because it’s up at altitude we might have an advantage.”
Beyond that, neither team director nor coach could say much about this weekend’s race in Leadville.
“I don’t know a darn thing about it,” Wright said. “I’m not worried about it. We’ll have a chance to pre-ride.”
He went on to say that the he did know the course would be similar to those of previous races.
Each race in the series includes a 5- to 6-mile lap that is run two to four times depending on rider classification.
The Leadville course and the state championship course in Eagle are new to the Colorado High School Cycling League schedule this year.
In each of the last three years, the high school mountain bike racing season has included three races and a state championship.
Wright said he is excited about the team going forward.
“Many of them got a lot of confidence from that first race,” he said.
The Summit team’s co-captain, Liam McDonnell, echoed the sentiment: “Summit’s team this year is killer and we should have a great season,” he said.