Hardcore Summit County girls gear up to be youngest team to compete in 24 Hours of Moab
SUMMIT COUNTY – Barbie’s tiny little waist probably wouldn’t withstand a 24-hour mountain bike race, but the Wilderness Sports Barbies are up for the challenge.
The notion of putting a team together for 24 Hours of Moab wouldn’t occur to most girls between the ages of 13 and 16. But Kate Chapman, Lea Taylor, Jessica Oberriter and Whitney Henceroth have different ideas than most girls their age.
The four girls, plus backup rider Marie Oberriter, have their storm lights and trail mix ready to go for the 24-hour race which begins Saturday and ends Sunday in Moab, Utah. The eighth annual 24 Hours of Moab consists of continuous 13-mile loops, and features the best solo and team riders in the country. There are only three teams, however, signed up in the Junior Girls category, and, if they don’t win the race, the Wilderness Sports Barbies will at least boast the best attitude and ambience.
“Barbies are pretty girls and kind of prissy,” said Lea Taylor, 14, of Team Barbie, who at the age of 13 was the youngest girl to compete in 24 Hours of Moab last year as part of the support crew for her older brother’s team, and found herself stuck riding the two toughest nighttime loops. “Barbies are kind of ditzy, and they’re really fake,” she said. “We’re going to go out there and do something crazy that Barbie would never do. We’re going to dress all girly in pink, with baskets and pom poms on our bikes, and just do the best we can and have fun.”
A couple weeks ago, Team Barbie approached Wilderness Sports for sponsorship and began training together. A couple of the team’s original riders had to bow out due to a broken collarbone (sustained during a practice ride in Fruita) and prior engagements, but lucky for original team members Taylor and Chapman, Jessica Oberriter and Henceroth stepped up to the plate.
“My mom says I’m kind of extreme,” said 16-year-old Chapman, who is a native of Australia, a star player on the Summit High School soccer team and aspires to be a professional athlete. “There’s not many girls our age doing any kind of mountain biking, let along a simple ride from Frisco to Breck. When I saw how few (Junior Girls) were signed up for (24 Hours of Moab), it just astounded me that not more people did it. We wanted to work out a team of racers who did the Summit Mountain Challenge. We had to look for younger kids, even though the teams we’re going against are going to be 18-year-olds. I think we have the upper hand, biking in a place like Summit County. A lot of it is mental. It’s not just physical conditioning.”
Mentally, Team Barbie is dialed in. While many of Summit County’s top mountain bikers are on a strict training regimen and are carefully planning their food intake and aerodynamic riding attire, the Wilderness Barbies are going to Moab donning pink, without clipless pedals, and with the attitude that, no matter how they finish the race, they’ll blow the likes of Barbie out of the water.
“I just want to make it through the night,” said Henceroth, who at 13 is no stranger to hardcore competition. She completed 44 laps at the Arapahoe Basin Enduro race when she was 11 and 56 laps in the race last year, plus skis for Team Summit’s freestyle team and plays soccer. “I’m not a night person,” she said, “but my goal is to have fun. Bike riding is my summer thing, it gives me something to do.”
Jessica Oberriter, 16, and her 12-year-old sister, Marie, are aiming to make 24 Hours of Moab an annual event, and plan to one day surpass the limits of Team Barbie.
“I will work up to doing the race by myself some day,” Jessica said. “I’m so psyched for this race, plus, being the youngest team out there is an inspiration. Our name is kind of a joke. Barbies are so feminine and so opposite of what you think of for mountain biking. You don’t picture some Barbie out there doing this.”
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