Early Morning Pre-ride Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs Coach Randy Tuggle warms up rider as sun rises.

Over 800 High School Mountain Bikers Celebrate Season of Competitive Camaraderie at Durango Mesa Pursuit

Colorado League State Championships Race #5 Report

Contributed by Matt Muir, edited and produced by Kate Rau
Contact: Kate Rau, Colorado League Director,, 720.272.9282


The Colorado High School Cycling League held its 2018 Championship at the Durango Mesa Pursuit on October 20th and 21st. A total of 824 student-athletes raced on the purpose-built course sitting right above mountain bike mad Durango, Colorado. All of the 74 teams were represented. The land’s anonymous owner was one of many local individuals and organizations to work together in order to host what local Ed Zink said was, “More riders and more spectators than at 1990 World Championships here in Durango.”

Concerns about dry, dusty conditions vanished with the arrival of rain earlier in the week making for minimal dust on Saturday and mildly dusty conditions on Sunday. The restrictions on riding the private land kept the singletrack largely free of ruts and braking bumps resulting in good soils for racing on the 7-mile figure eight loop connected by a wooden flyover bridge containing with 647 feet of climbing per lap.

Luminaries Sweep

Ned Overend (World Champ), Rotem Ishay (Israeli National Champ), and Travis Brown (Olympian) volunteered to sweep the 89 Varsity boys.

Deciding the League Championship race site is no light affair and the list of contributing partners that stepped up in Durango is long. Central among them was the Town of Durango, the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, Fort Lewis College, Alpine Bank, and Centura Health. Downtown Durango’s Tim Walsworth said, “The Durango Business Improvement District is proud to be a local sponsor of the High School Mountain Bike State Championships…We can’t wait to have the championships back next year!” The Iron Horse’s Gaige Sippy said, “It was a multi-year effort to get the Championships here, we’re thrilled to have them. It was our hope to bring our 47 years of cycling event history to bear so that the League could simply show up and race without worrying about details.”

In fields of more than 100, riders repeatedly sprinted to the finish line to gain a single individual placement. These efforts were very commendable and boosted team scores. Hundreds of spectators cheered on riders from all teams whether they finished 10th or 110th. A Durango medic on site said, “This has got to be a Guinness Book of World Records record for the number of teenagers outside, having fun.” Kate Rau, Colorado League Executive Director commented, "I am always struck by the incredible efforts of all the student-athletes throughout the season. They are truly inspiring! We are extremely grateful to the Coaches, parents, volunteers, and sponsors who believe in the mission to support all youth to shine from the saddle of a mountain bike."

The Hawaiian weekend theme enhanced the festive conclusion to the 9th season of the Colorado League. The Pagosa Springs team was new to the program and their team won the spirit contest for the weekend. Fort Lewis College hosted the annual End of Season Picnic feeding over 1,300 people who gathered at the campus with a stunning view of the La Plata range. Saturday's race opened with a soulful National Anthem performed by Durango High School Senior Sofia Maya Hughes. Animas High School Freshmen, Naima Van Tyn, and Sailor Kabeary performed an upbeat duet on Sunday.

2018COHS STATES venue-4746-X2

Middle Park riders spread the Aloha spirit cheering on teammates.

Chatfield Aloha

Chatfield Freshman Nathan Gangelhoff, placed 7th with his Dad, Coach Todd Gangelhoff join the Hawaiian theme.

With a goal of increasing female participation, the State Championship race included 266 girls comprising 32 percent of the total 824 contenders. The largest girls' field included 85 JV racers. Salida a South Conference Division 1 team placed 6th with 12 female point-earners of the total 15, the most allowed. Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS) earned a 6th place as a result of their strong female squad with 8 scorers of the 10, another team filling the maximum permitted. VSSA topped the Division 3 teams with 4 females of the 5 point-earners. Coincidentally, seeing a podium photo of athletes she had coached while they were in middle school, former National Champion Heather (Irmiger) Nova responded, “Girl power!”

The large school Division 1 team competition went to the League’s three giants, Boulder, Fairview, and Golden respectively. A stalwart in the League since 2010, with 126 kids on his roster Boulder Coach Ben Boyer was overjoyed to share the vibe with his 89-year-old father. It was a wonderful culmination to the season for Varsity racer Annika Boyer to have her grandfather witness her in action placing 22nd in the powerful field of 53. Summit, North surpassed Cheyenne Mountain, South by only 151 points. While South teams Chatfield and Evergreen were separated by a mere 47 points.

Colby Fans Finish Line

Cobe Freeburn, Durango enjoys his Varsity victory.

Animas Summit Varsity Girls Celebrate

Varsity Seniors Sadie Schafer, Animas and Grace Karoly, Summit celebrate.

Durango and Animas went 1-2 in the Division 2 team competition with Highlander Composite beating out North Conference bastion Battle Mountain for the third spot. Though smaller in size than the Front Range schools, Durango itself supplied a full three of eight individual champions on the weekend.

The small school Division 3 podium was Vail Ski And Snowboard Academy (VSSA) followed by its sibling Eagle Valley and Montrose in 3rd. Montrose stayed ahead of 4th place Estes Park that has punched above its weight all season. VSSA Coach Mark Nesline gave one more encouraging boost to team members in the start chute, “Give it all you got!" Nesline said “I am so proud to coach such an incredibly talented group of student-athletes. Although training is important, at the end of the day, I want the kids to just love riding bikes, and I think we accomplished that this year.”

Varsity Boy in Tutu

Max Kreidl, Varsity Boulder flies down descent celebrating State Champ race with a tutu.

Alma Wolfe Tutu

Animas Legacy Varsity, Alma Wolf shows descending skills while recovering from major knee surgery.

The 53-person Varsity girls' race which may have been the weekend’s best race, if not the most exciting of the 2018 season. It turned into ten girls in a train at the end of lap one. At the end of lap two, it was down to Fairview’s Ada Urist, Boulder’s Madigan Munro, Green Mountain’s Sofia Forney, and Durango’s Ruth Holcomb. Like many of the races, the last climb up the gully after riding under the flyover determined the final moves. Holcomb attacked hard to the front right after the flyover, Urist and Munro got on Holcomb’s wheel up the climb, near the top and in the braided two track.

Urist countered on the left in an all-out sprint for the singletrack resulting in Urist, Holcomb, and Munro leading in that order. Forney, gapped on the climb, would bridge back into third of the lead group. At the foot of the last uphill grade going into the final singletrack section before the finish, Holcomb attempted to pass, handlebars touched resulting in Holcomb veering into the softer soils off the line. Munro and Forney shot in behind Urist while Holcomb had to work to recover the line. With the pace critical, Urist and Munro got away by themselves into the finish chute. Urist used her lead to stay on the packed, best line while Munro surged right coming near even falling 0.16 seconds shy of Urist’s own sprint. Forney arrived 3rd and Holcomb salvaged 4th. Munro clocked the fastest female lap at 31:09 for a 3rd lap negative split.

In a sporting gesture, 5th place Tai-Lee Smith, Summit commented at the finish to one of 79 legacy riders to have raced all four years and late bloomer Abigail Carron, Boulder, “I feel so sorry for you, this was your day.” Carron spent her Senior season moving up the results until Eagle where she was working into fifth and possibly fourth place—a place usually held by Smith—before suffering a mechanical. Hoping for one final chance in Durango, Carron’s rear derailleur went into her spokes shortly after the start leaving her fighting her way through the field to 17th, nursing a clicking rear derailleur the entire race and being the last rider to score for Boulder’s team victory.

Varsity Girls Lap 1

Pack of 10 Varsity Girls driving into the second of three laps.

The 4-lap boys' Varsity race was a 5-rider battle of attrition. The first to pop off the pace was North Conference Champion Bjorn Riley, Boulder. Recovering from a cold, the pace stung Riley too much but he managed to maintain 5th. Cobe Freeburn, Durango, Ryan Campbell, Golden, Jared Scott, Boulder, and Riley Amos, Animas persisted in a medley of suffering at the splintered front of the race. Scott recovered on the last lap to get 3rd and laid down the fastest male lap of the day, 25:52.

Campbell crossed the line elated in second. Amos, who missed his start call-up, launched to 4th. It was Freeburn who, again on the gully climb, attacked, got a gap, kept his attacking pace, and finished his race alone for the win by 28 seconds. Freeburn's victory proved a full recovery from a car-bike accident resulting in a broken leg excatly 6 months ago.

Ethan Cefus, Varsity Legacy, Highlander Composite, commented, "Everyone wished the rider next to them good luck in the start chute." This emulates the positive sporting behavior amont the 89 Varsity racers from both conferences as they had not competed against one another since the opener in Frisco. Tensions were reduced before the start as everyone sang along to John Denver's "Country Roads", Bjorn Riley's song request as the season points leader.

Flyover Varsity Boys

Varsity riders cross the flyover. Legacy Natrona County - WY, Oskar Pedersen, CRMS, Cole Stevens, Columbine.

With many racers graduating, major sponsor and picnic host Fort Lewis college president Dr. Tom Stritikus stated “We are thrilled at the opportunity to have these bright and talented high school students riding our local trails and taking a look at Fort Lewis College. All weekend long, we were impressed by the tight-knit community of riders, parents, coaches, and volunteers, and glad that we got to meet so many from the Colorado League. We look forward to hosting the Colorado League racers in Durango in 2019!”

Fort Lewis Cycling Team Director Dave Hagen added “The Fort Lewis College Cycling Team is all about young people having fun racing bikes in a team environment and to experience 800 plus high school mountain bikers doing that was amazing. Durango, Fort Lewis College, and our cycling community were over the moon with having the Colorado League State Champs in our hometown.”

Varsity Trio

Varsity Legacy riders Campbell Watson, Monarch is chased by Talus Lantz, Boulder.

Reilly Mewborn Sabrina Morgan

JV Legacy riders Reilly Mewborn, Steamboat and Sabrina Morgan, Lakewood.

The Hometown Toyota Stores Slingshot Awards acknowledge the most improved male and female relative to their call-up and field sized each day of racing. Saturday's male recipient was Freshman, Jack Shalz, Douglas County. There was a tie in the female category between JV racers Sara Bauermeister, Legacy, Columbine and Grace Ryan, JV, Chatfield. On Sunday, the Toyota sponsored award went to Ponderosa, Sophomore, Evan Scholz and Taylor Johnson, Varsity, Centaurus. Johnson broke her collarbone in August, spent eight weeks in recovery, raced the two remaining conference races, petitioned successfully to race in Durango, and improved 27 places over her previous race by finishing 26th in the Varsity girls race. Sholz was staged 164th and passed 125 competitors to finish 39th for the day.

JV Girls

JV girls celebrate their efforts. Mia Aseltine, Chatfield, and Cheyenne Mountain riders Asher Bursnall, Grace Babcock, and Olivia King.

The JV boys" field was 159 deep and was split into two waves based on ranking. After some ups and downs during conference racing, Steamboat’s Cam Owens got away from all his pursuers to hold a steady lead for the win. Owens commented, “Never stop trying!” Golden’s Connor Logan and Aiden Berk finished 2nd and 3rd followed by Fairview’s Luke Elphingstone and Eli Bennett of Manitou Springs.

The JV girls' race came down to three girls shortly after the start, undefeated South Conference Champion Chatfield’s Mia Aseltine, independent rider Cassie Hickey, and North Conference Champion Boulder’s, Elliote Muir. Over the gully climb’s summit, Aseltine put in a few hard pedal strokes and held her gap to the finish, leaving ten seconds back to Hickey, and twenty more seconds back to Muir.

VSSA’s Bayli McSpadden finished 4th, riding an admirable race spent in no man's land the entire time. Michaela Thompson, Boulder pushed for 5th and was one of five Boulder girls in the top ten. Aseltine said “The Colorado League is awesome! I have made so many friends this year. I had so much fun meeting and racing with all of the JV girls and my team.” Stephanie Reveles, JV Senior from Leadville, showed exceptional grit. She cut open her leg during Friday's pre-ride. After receiving stitches, she rallied to finish out her career racing in Durango.

Torrey Carroll CB

Torrey Carroll, Crested Butte, South Coach of the Year welcomes student-athlete at finish line.

Stephanie Reveles Bruce celebrate

Stephanie Reveles, Leadville with Coach Bruce Kelly is overjoyed that she race .

Many sponsors observed the action and connected with participants. Alpine Bank awarded $500 team travel scholarships to support attending the race. Of the many applicants, the lucky winners were 7220 Laramie, WY; Casper, WY, and Lakewood. Mike Burns, Regional President presented the funds and said, “Colorado offers some of the best mountain bike terrain in the country and Alpine Bank is proud to partner with the Colorado High School Cycling League to promote this growing sport by underwriting the statewide competitions, providing travel, and collegiate scholarships and encouraging young cyclists to do their best.”

Local Centura Health Mercy Regional Hospital provided Elevation Legs recovery sessions. Centura Health Sports Medicine physician, Tom Maino, MD, who is an avid mountain biker and has been involved with the League for a number of years shared, "The Colorado League is a stellar operation that allows students of all abilities to discover mountain biking. The mentoring and coaching of the league transforms many youth into safe riders. We are proud to support the league!"

Travel Scholarship Winners

Mike Burns, Alpine Bank presents three travel scholarships.

Sophomore girls' was won by Durango’s Aleah Austin followed by Harley Blevins, Battle Mountain, Cassidy Gillis, Salida, Beth Schwartz, Gunnison, and North Conference Champion Maya Altland, Kelly Walsh in Casper, Wyoming—a twelve-hour drive away. Austin said “I moved to Durango in fifth grade and had never mountain biked. I had many amazing coaches to help me. In fifth grade I couldn't even imagine me winning states, or even racing.”

Sophomore boys' winner Peyton Wilkerson of Estes Park spent most of the two weeks leading up to Durango training in the snow and cold that hit the Front Range and Estes Park at 7500 feet. "Training was very cold but it was definitely worth it.” Wilkerson stayed clear for the entire race ahead of Zach Footer, Evergreen, Thorin Howell, High Desert Composite, Ethan Ash, East, and Oliver Boyd, Fairview.

Sophomore Boys Descending Carbon Junction

Sophomore Preston Parks, Natrona County-WY and Cooper Frey, Evergreen descend Carbon Junction.

Freshman Durango

Freshman Bailey Cioppa, Durango focuses on the finish line past Honey Stinger Feed Zone

In another of the weekend’s great races, Durango’s Colby Simmons and Boulder’s Vin Hludzinski took turns in the lead for the duration of their race. Simmons said “I was sitting on Vin’s wheel after the flyover headed into the final loop, the wind had been pretty strong on the first loop. This made it so when we were coming back to the finish I had the energy to make a pretty strong pass to get a little bit of a gap. I was able to hold the gap until the last corner and sprinted to the finish line.” The scene repeated itself two and a half minutes later as Durango’s Ivan Sippy edged Boulder’s Chuck Jones in another sprint. “Speed Goat” Tristan Smith of 7220 Laramie, Wyoming took 5th.

Fairview’s Keira Bond won Freshman girls, commenting on a theme among riders, Bond said that her team, “Kind-of feels like a second family.” Bond resisted Crested Butte Sarah Bivens’s attacks, finally putting just under 30 seconds on Bivens after her last charge on the uphill kicker to the saddle bordering the mesa. Summit’s Victoria Uglyar, Boulder’s Chloe Fraser, and Durango’s Lauren Aggeler finished in the top five.

Driving home after the race, a parent reported hearing a little sniffle from their racer in the backseat. When the parent asked if their child was okay, the racer responded, “I’m sad that the season is over.”

The Colorado High School Cycling League enters its tenth anniversary year in 2019, visit Colorado League for more information.

Fans on Finish Line

Fans welcome riders at finish line.


November 3rd
Annual Shift Primal Art Party Fundraiser, Denver, CO

2019 Race Schedule - TENTATIVE, Locations TBD:
Race #1 August 24-25
Race #2 September 7-8
Race #3 September 21-22
Race #4 October 5-6, Conference Championships
Race #5 October 19 - 20 State Championships, Durango


2018 CO Footer Final
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