Prep cycling: New league offers mountain bikers chance to compete
Park City sophomore Brenna Egan went screaming down the final straightaway at Round Valley while serenaded by the ringing of cowbells and cheering fans last Saturday.
Not only was her race time of 1 hour, 5 minutes, 40 seconds the fastest in the girls varsity class, but it helped secure the team title for the Miners at the inaugural Utah High School Cycling League event.
"I had a blast," Egan said. "It was a great course and a lot of fun."
Park City's Matt Turner, Ralf Carestia and Daniel Riley finished in the top 10 in the boys varsity race. Alta and Summit Academy finished second and third.
"Being the first race in the state and being at home, it was exciting for Park City to win it," Turner said.
The 4.5-mile course at Round Valley was the first of four races UHSCL will host this year. With 287 riders forming 24 teams from Northern Utah, race promoter Alex Strickland believes this is the beginning of a great tradition for mountain bikers in the state.
"I wish we had this when I was a kid," Strickland said. "Riding mountain bikes as a kid, I would have killed for something like this."
UHSCL organizers spent a year working with the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) to prepare coaches and riders for the task of hosting high-school races. NICA hosted weekend training seminars that taught risk management, sponsorship, recruiting and gender-specific classes.
Park City coach Evan Hyde said the classes were a benefit for his team and helped prepare Park City for this season. Hyde is adamant that inclusivity is one of the tenets of the program with boys and girls racing on the same team. No student would be turned away because of skill level, experience or even if he or she didn't own a bike.
"We want as many kids as possible out there riding bikes," Hyde said. "This league is about having fun and getting everybody excited."
The UHSCL is very competitive for the top kids. It's an opportunity to ride for scholarships at the college level, but the league is structured to give riders at all levels a chance to participate. All the riders race according to their level and move up according to their age.
"Nobody rides the pine at these races," Strickland said. "Part of our mission is to get riders at all levels to be able to compete."
The next race will be the Sherwood Hills Showdown in Wellsville on Sept. 22.
Zach Peterson of South Davis won the boys individual at 1 hour, 11 minutes, 19 seconds.
Matt Turner is a pro-class racer with Utah/Summit Bike Club-UT.