Koby Vargas crosses the finish line Sept. 8 in the sophomore category at a high school mountain bike race at Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park. This is the first year for a Steamboat high school mountain bike team, and 14 athletes signed up to participate.

David Wallace/courtesy

Koby Vargas crosses the finish line Sept. 8 in the sophomore category at a high school mountain bike race at Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park. This is the first year for a Steamboat high school mountain bike team, and 14 athletes signed up to participate.

Steamboat Springs High School mountain bike team gets gears turning

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— For Steamboat Springs High School sophomore Koby Vargas, the focus is Nordic combined.

“I’m hoping we get a lot of snow,” he said Sunday, looking forward to the winter.

A new high school mountain bike team hasn’t changed that for Vargas, but it has changed how he is spending his late summer days. A regular on local mountain bike trails and in the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race Series throughout the summer since he was 6 years old, Vargas typically puts the bike away come school time. His September free time typically has been devoted to dryland training.

This year, however, he’s happy to still be pedaling even as the days cool.

“It’s great to have races at the end of the year, not just throughout the whole summer,” he said. “It’s really something to look forward to, and it gives you an extra boost of excitement.”

Starting a high school team was a priority for Blair Seymour as soon as she stepped in as the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s cycling director before the summer.

In this town, and with the Winter Sports Club’s help, it wasn’t too difficult to get traction.

Steamboat Springs High School didn’t want to be directly involved because it already is facing annual funding shortfalls for the multitude of sports it does offer. The school did grant access to its athletes, and that helped in the plan to set up a Steamboat composite team, allowing athletes to participate no matter what school they attend.

Seymour helped bring together a group of 14 athletes, 13 boys and one girl, and the team joined the Colorado High School Cycling League with 40 other teams.

“The traditional sports don’t fit the needs of many of the kids in the high school,” Seymour said. This is a low-key sport that anyone can be involved in. There are kids with no cycling background who are doing it and elite kids doing it.

“Plus, if we’re going to be Bike Town USA, we’d better have a high school team. We have such a passion for cycling in Steamboat.”

The sport shares several of its athletes with other fall sports, something made possible thanks in large part to Sunday competitions. They practice three times per week, swapping between endurance-building workouts and building technical skills on rocky sections of area trails.

“They take it pretty seriously,” Seymour said. “The kids show up for training and are focused, but it’s fun. We have a good time.”

The team has four competitions this season, and the first came last weekend at Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park.

The league is split into two divisions, and Steamboat is in the smaller Division 2. It found plenty of success in that division in its first competition.

Tanner Visnick was 11th to lead the way for four Steamboat finishers in the 85-racer junior varsity field. Andreas Foulk was 27th, Jack Rosenthal was 39th, and Dylan Wallace was 65th.

Lesley Miller was fifth out of 52 in the girls JV race. Vargas, meanwhile, was fourth in the sophomore boys race. Simon Zink was eighth, Peter Myller was 23rd, and Tristan Fischer was 24th.

Jett Seymour finished second in the freshman boys race. Evan Barbier was sixth, and Jack McNamara was 36th.

It all added up to a third-place team finish in the division.

“The high school races have so many more kids starting and there are so many different riding level variations that it’s a really fun environment,” Vargas said. “It doesn’t feel extremely competitive all the time, but it’s a lot of fun.”

The team competes every two weeks, traveling Sept. 22 for a race at Leadville. It will ride at Elbert Oct. 6, then travel to Eagle on Oct. 20 for the state championships.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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