The scene at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus on Saturday looked like a cross between a World Cup ski race and a football game.
Sounds of cowbells, vuvuzela horns and even a few disco-themed songs floated in the pre-storm wind as more than 840 mountain bikers circled the rugged trails and fans lined up the courses, many of them in ’70s costumes, for the Colorado High School Cycling League Mountain Bike State Championships.
The winter storm that hit Saturday night and Sunday condensed what was supposed to be a two-day event into a single day.
Athletes representing 86 teams from across Colorado, as well as Cheyenne and Laramie, South Dakota, and Taos, NM, competed in boys’ and girls’ categories for freshmen, sophomores, junior colleges and renowned university races.
Locally, six varsity riders placed in the top 20 in their respective events, led by senior Glenwood Springs Dirt Demon Chloe Lutgring, who finished fourth in the girls. Roaring Fork-Carbondale senior Corbin Carpenter finished sixth in the boys’ race, closely followed by Colorado Rocky Mountain School sophomore Canyon Cherney and Roaring Fork junior Samuel Friday, who had a race in small groups to finish eighth.
“My goal was just to give it my all at the start because if you don’t have a good spot for the single track, you’re kind of screwed,” said Lutgring, who came third at the state championships.
She knew competing at the state level would be tougher and was not disappointed with her fourth-place finish on a dry, dusty and chewy course that presented additional challenges.
“I almost crashed on a lap, but managed to catch myself,” Lutgring said. “I tried not to focus on saving energy, just because there are so many places on the course to recover. But I was happy with my result and I didn’t forget anything. , so that’s all that matters.
Freshman phenom Kira Mullins of Columbine completed the three-lap, 14.4-mile course in 1 hour and 19.07 minutes to win the state championship. Riley Houston of Durango passed Rose Horning of Leadville in the finish chute to take second in 1:19:42 ahead of Horning in 1:19:43, and Lutgring was fourth in 1:19:49.
Roaring Fork’s Carpenter was the league point leader for boys entering state competition and was among the favorites to win a state championship.
After being sick last week, however, he entered the race at less than 100%.
“I gave it my all and I’m still pretty happy with it,” he said of his sixth-place finish in 1:06:29. “I just wanted to try and stay behind the front runners and see if I could make some moves, but it didn’t go to plan.”
Eventual champion Nicholas Konecny of Summit and independent rider Kade Kreikemeier fired off the barrel to take a decisive lead on the opening lap. Konecny eventually had the advantage with a time of 1:03:38, followed by Kreikemeier in 1:03:41, Landen Stovall of Eagle Valley in third (1:05:03), Aidan Haak of Steamboat in fourth (1:05:12), Benjamin Bravman of Golden in fifth (1:05:21), then Carpenter.
Carpenter said he was surprised and delighted to see Friday among the top runners.
“I’m so proud of him, he’s doing great,” Carpenter said of his teammate.
Friday eventually lost momentum, finishing eighth in 1:07:13, just behind CRMS’s Cherney in 1:07:01.
“I came in (ranked) 15th, so I just wanted to do a little better than that,” Friday said. “I had a good mindset to try to get out without thinking about it too much. Then I started thinking about it.”
With fatigue setting in, he passed out on the last lap but was happy to hold on to a top-10 spot.
“I was in so much pain,” he said. “My arms were sleeping, my legs were burning and it was really hard. But, yeah, I’m happy.
Other local competitors in the top 20 include CRMS sophomore Lucas Berry and Glenwood sophomore Dange Humphrey, 16th (1:08:26) and 17th (1:08:36) respectively. .
CMC Bike Boogie
Despite the weather challenges, the first mountain bike race venue was a success, said Jeanne Golay, Glenwood Springs Dirt Demons coach and regional development manager for the CMC Foundation.
“I would say it far exceeded our expectations,” Golay said. “We know what to expect now when this crazy, colorful circus comes to town.”
CMC has a verbal commitment from the league to hold another race next fall, maybe even state it again.
“The league is just amazing,” she said. “They come with their turnkey and say, ‘Show us your site, show us your fields and we’ll do the magic.
Going forward, the progressive trail system could allow for an easier course for lower racing divisions and a more difficult course for college students, Golay said.
And the setting was perfect for the spectator, she said, with the mass start on the north football pitch and the team camps set up in the middle.
“I’ve seen so many people from the Roaring Fork Valley who have come to check it out, from former team members and parents to business owners in the community and some people who have just moved here and don’t didn’t even know about Spring Valley,” she said.
At the post-race banquet, CMC President Carrie Hauser announced that the Spring Valley campus plans to host a college-level mountain bike team beginning next year.
The team would compete in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference, and it’s another opportunity for high school athletes to pursue their sport in college, Hauser said.
“We’ve had events on the campus in Leadville and in Spring Valley with its natural terrain and the work we’ve put into the trail system, it just makes a lot of sense,” she said.
Colorado High School Cycling League executive director Kate Rau of Boulder said Spring Valley is an ideal location for the state championships.
An ideal site should have challenging trails, a good place for teams, parking, emergency access, nearby camping and adequate infrastructure in town, she said.
“It couldn’t have gone better,” Rau said. “We’re so grateful to Colorado Mountain College for bringing this whole place together and really coming together for our needs.”
The league’s partnership with CMC as a race venue in Leadville began in 2015, and talks then began about building a race course in Spring Valley, she said.
“And that’s it, dreams come true,” Rau said. “We said, if you build it, we will come. And we did.