High school mountain bike team larger, more successful, more inclusive than ever
At Thursday afternoon’s practice, the high school mountain bike team gathered around head coach Blair Seymour. She commented on how good they all looked in their kits, which they all chose to wear for a team photo that day. Then, she let them know how their most recent race went.
The home time trial results were unofficial for almost two weeks, but finally, the Colorado High School Cycling League sorted the results and made them official. Steamboat won the division, an accomplishment Seymour said hasn’t happened for some time.
“We haven’t had racing in two years. I was trying to figure out what other teams had done, what we had done and what the kids had done over the course of COVID, 18 months,” Seymour said. “I knew a lot of these kids had still been riding their bikes and have been able to get on trails easily. I was expecting we could do fairly well, but I was surprised at how well we did.”
Not only is the team seemingly more successful than past teams, but it’s larger. The team has more than 30 members, including a large handful of eighth graders who can’t compete but wanted to train with the team.
“They saw how cool we were,” team captain Caleb Haack said.
Haack, a junior, said he wasn’t surprised that Steamboat won as a team. He said talent is distributed across all riders.
“There’s a lot of diversity,” he said. “Usually we have a really fast team and a really beginner team. This year we have kind of everything in between.”
Seymour said she’s working the team a little harder this year, with race-specific training like water bottle feeds and starts.
“But we still focus a lot on fun,” Seymour said. “These guys are just a bunch of goofballs and love having fun. They love giving me a hard time, and I don’t mind it.”
The spread of speed and ability probably makes newcomers feel a little less intimidated, but the squad does a good job of welcoming everyone regardless.
“I’m kind of the super introverted person so becoming the team captain was a strange thing, or I guess a surprising thing for me,” said team captain Aidan Kerrigan. “I think I work a lot on including people. Freshman year, I was little, and I wasn’t great at biking, and I had just come off the couch halfway through the season. … It was a little rough sometimes. … I’m really working on making sure no one feels like that, and everyone is included.”
The team and the sport are open to everyone regardless of athletic ability or how social they are. Steamboat has two cyclists with autism on its roster. They compete with and are treated just like everyone else.
Sept. 25: Eagle
Oct. 9: Granby
Oct. 23-24: State at Durango
The team is extremely supportive of each other, which helps athletes to realize they can overcome physical and mental battles. In a sport that is independent like mountain biking, the team atmosphere is what makes the sport worth it.
Haack, who participates in a lot of local races, is one of the speedier riders on the team, but he still doesn’t like to say he takes mountain biking seriously.
It’s that attitude that he hopes keeps the team together for years to come. He said in the past, seniors don’t return to the team very often. He hopes to change that and encourage even more people to join the team.
“It’s not just a crazy competitive team,” he said. “They can just show up and have fun.”
“At the end of the day, we all have a love for mountain biking,” Kerrigan said. “But what actually keeps us coming back every day, doing all these intervals that all of us want to die halfway through, is the team and the energy. It’s so fun.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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