By Eddie Clark
(October 21, 2012) FRUITA, Colo—In high school racing, the kids are glad they're not just a side show of an adult race, and their numbers justify this. That was the sentiment echoed by long time cycling advocate Dave Wiens.
"It's awesome to be here. When this started three years ago, it felt like it would really grow, and it really has. They've added close to 100 riders a year. I think the NICA model is fantastic for Colorado and the nation. The races are the same, very professional, well marked courses, and the infrastructure of the whole race and venue is a big deal", said Wiens.
The validity of high school racing and its growth was backed up by league director Kate Rau, "The 2012 season has seen phenomenal growth. This year we've grown to 450 plus riders, and the girls racing has exploded to over 72 riders".
For the fourth and final race of the Colorado High School Cycling League's mountain bike race series, the dry dusty high desert north of Fruita provided an accommodating venue for 351 racers to contest the Colorado High School State Championships. It's worth noting that the Town of Fruita and Grand Junction BLM Field Office were awesome in partnering with the league to help make the race happen.
On Saturday morning race volunteers took to the desert to mark the course, and by afternoon the course was ready for racers to pre-ride it. While there were no significantly big climbs to bust up the race, there were numerous short punchy climbs to open a gap, and plenty of windswept sections that provided no shelter for lone breakaways. The 6.9 mile course featured 460 feet of climbing per lap, and consisted of double track and fast smooth singletrack which utilized some of the lower sections of the Chutes and Ladders trail and the Vegetarian Loop. Varsity Boys had an additional 1.3 mile loop per lap to ride for a total race distance of 24.6 miles.
Varsity Boys winner Sepp Kuss of Durango High commented on the course, "When it doesn't rain in Durango, it's a lot like this course, dry and dusty. It was a lot of pedaling and keeping a steady pace the whole time. Over the tops of the hills in the beginning I tried to make some time getting over those."
Kuss put his gears to use and stretched out a small lead on the first lap, which left Boulder High School's Garrett Gerchar going solo in second before being reeled back in by a chase group which contained the series points leader Michael Dessau. Kuss never let up and grew his winning margin to nearly 3 minutes with Dessau taking second and Henry Chapman (Ralston Valley High School) taking third. The victory also gave Kuss enough points to take the overall series win.
Sepp went on to add, "This is my first year doing this series, and I never realized that there's so many people that enjoy mountain biking and racing mountain bikes. It's cool that it's so popular. I definitely want to keep racing in college, but I still have to figure out where I want to go."
In the Varsity Girls race, series leader and junior racer from Animas High School, India Waller went to the front to lead out the first lap of the race. She was eventually passed by Durango High's Kaylee Blevins who went on to take the victory for the day. Ksenia Lepikhina of Fairview High School also had a great race to take second place with Waller coming in shortly behind for third place. Waller, who has competed in the league series since its beginning, used her consistent riding to finish in third and take the overall series win.
Fairview High School took top honors in the Division 1 team competition with second going to Vail Valley Composite and third to Boulder High School. Durango High beat out its neighbor Animas High School for first place team in the Division 2 class, and third went to Green Mountain Composite.