When you go downhill fast and you get scared don’t hit the brakes just pedal faster. It sounds crazy, but you got to ride it all the way through.
Metaphor for life? No, just the advice of 15-year-old Evergreen freshman Wyatt Guernsey about how to survive a mountain bike race.
Guernsey is one of 16 kids from Evergreen, Conifer and Chatfield high schools that make up the Evergreen Composite Mountain Bike Team (ECT). Guernsey and his teammate are gearing up for their fourth and final race of the season when they take on the North Fruita Desert Classic — the state championship — on Oct. 21 in Fruita.
Ironically, ECT students from Chatfield could, theoretically, be part of Columbine High School’s team. It would be closer, but each team in the Colorado High School Cycling League has its own attributes and characteristics, and the practice territory for ECT is rather alluring.
The ECT has a great vantage point for practices with so many Jeffco Open Space parks so close by. Students can ride their bikes to school, hit the trail after school and then ride home from practice. It sounds grueling, but building up endurance and key muscle groups before a big race is important.
Evergreen senior Cooper Sclar said riding gorgeous trails on beautiful days with his friends and his dad, Randy Sclar, who volunteers for the team, is what keeps him coming to practices.
“I mean look at it out here,” said Sclar, holding his arms open to the Elk Meadow Open Space trail on a sunny, warm afternoon practice. “This is amazing.”
Sclar said mountain bike racing isn’t all happy, sunny trails because unlike riding on the road, racers have to navigate narrow dirt and gravel trails with obstacles like rocks and roots. Tires can slide from side-to-side as racers speed down the trail, over obstacles and around one another in a fight to cross the finish line first.
During a race the team’s points are based off of each person’s finish time. The faster the finish, the higher the points. If someone doesn’t finish, the team gets points from them. There are no exceptions.
If the weather turns nasty, the bike fails or if they fall, they have to deal with it. So far ECT has dealt with it well, ranking fifth in Division II entering the final race.
And since high school mountain biking has only existed in its current organized fashion for the past two years and there is a broad variety of rider abilities, courses are generally made up of a single track path (like a hiking trail) and tend to be more of a rolling hill than sheer vertical climb.
“Since we have such a diverse group of kids (in ability), we tend to stick with courses that are not too technical,” coach Mike Haley said.
ECT has a strong team, but they are counting on a good showing from the Boulder and Salida teams at state, according to Haley.
“We are doing our best to prepare for Fruita,” said Haley, noting that it could be very unlike the terrain they are used to practicing on. “But I think we have some strong racers. It sound be fun.”