Colorado High School Mountain Bike League roars through Steamboat
September 17, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Birds chirped. Wind rustled yellowing leaves, a few dropping away from nearby trees, and, far off in the distance, the traffic of U.S. Highway 40 and Steamboat Springs offered only the slightest buzz.
Peace enveloped the southwest flank of Emerald Mountain, momentarily at least.
A moment later, the first rider popped over a hill on the Bluffs Loop Trail and hot on his back wheel dozens more riders, charging down the trail seemingly with the force of a locomotive, gears grinding as riders hammered the pedals and chains chattering as they shifted to adjust to the new terrain.
They didn't say a word but grunted plenty, drowning out the birds and the wind and the far-off traffic for about 60 seconds until the last rider crested the rise and pedaled on, up and away on the winding trails of Emerald Mountain.
The Colorado High School Mountain Bike League whooshed into Steamboat Springs Sunday, sprawling across the base of Howelsen Hill and launching more than 500 riders from the league's North Division up Emerald's trails.
When it was all over, Steamboat Springs' high school mountain bike team had the best finishes of its four-year existence, and the city's trail system had a big group of new fans.
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"They loved the course and loved the venue," Steamboat coach Blair Seymour said. "It went really smoothly. It was a super great venue. The weather was perfect — the trails were tacky and awesome. It was a complete success."
The venue stretched from one end of the Howelsen Hill base area to the other. The racers started in the Romick Rodeo Arena, then rode up around Bluffs Loop before eventually descending to a finish area in the landing flats beneath Howelsen's ski jumps, a five-mile loop.
Team tents and work stations filled the parking lot around Howelsen, and hundreds of fans cheered along much of the route.
Finishing in front
Steamboat's team finished third in Division 1, its best-ever team result.
It got its best-ever individual result from senior Ethan Moyer, who crushed the competition in the boys varsity race, winning in 1 hour, 41 minutes, 25.52 seconds, nearly two full minutes faster than anyone else.
"I had the greatest time today," Moyer said. "It helped a lot racing at home. I knew what was coming around every single corner."
It was a long road to the front of the pack for Moyer, thanks entirely to a bit of really bad luck three weeks ago, the last time the teams raced. He was leading the boys varsity division that day, too, ahead after one lap and pulling even further ahead on the second lap, all until a flat tire blunted his progress.
It wasn't any old flat tire, though. A stick in the trail ripped through the bottom of his tire, then up and through the sidewall, as well. The equipment he did have was inadequate to fix the double puncture, so he had to hike several hundred yards to a course marshall for help. That brought its own five-minute penalty, and he ended up dead last among in his race.
Bygones refused to be bygones, and Sunday, as the lowest-ranked varsity rider, he had to start last on his home course in Steamboat. So, he had to pass the entire field.
He picked his spots on the five-mile single-track loop, charging through grass to make up a spot here, rolling over gravel to cut a few riders off there, but by the third lap, he was back in front, building his lead, and by the time he came into the finish chutes, set up in the jump flats beneath Howelsen Hill, he was way out in front, clearly the day's top rider.
It amounted to a curious collection of announcements later at the day's awards ceremony. Moyer was obviously noted for winning the boys varsity division but also for running the days fastest lap and for winning the "slingshot" award, given to the boys rider who makes up the most difference from his starting spot to his finish.
Moyer gained 36 spots, No. 37 to No. 1. The winner on the girls side for the slingshot award started 15th and placed ninth.
"It's hard to pass on single track. You have to go into the grass, so it zaps your speed. You have to wait for the right opportunities," Moyer said. "I had to make my way around the whole group, and after that it was basically an individual time trial to the finish."
Moyer was one of five Steamboat riders to crack the podium, which varied from three riders to 10 riders for each division depending on how many had entered.
Emi Cooper was second in the freshman girls race and Eliza Fox fourth. Cam Owens was third, and Alden Wade was seventh in the freshman boys race.
Steamboat finished with 4,745 points, giving it an oh-so-narrow advantage over Golden, fourth with 4,739.
Fairview won Division 1 with 5,256 points, and Boulder was second with 5,170.
Golden's Madelynn Gerritsen won the girls varsity race, finishing five full minutes ahead of her competition. Tai-Lee Smith of Summit won the JV girls race, Bjorn Riley of Boulder the boys JV race, Wren Taylor of Boulder the sophomore girls race, Cooper Lull of Boulder the sophomore boys race, Bayli McSpadden of Vail the freshman girls race and Liam Graves-VanGilder of Golden the freshman boys race.