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MPHS mountain bike team places 7th at Granby Ranch

The Colorado High School Mountain Bike League racing at  Granby Ranch.

The Colorado High School Mountain Bike League racing at Granby Ranch.

Last weekend the Colorado High School Mountain Bike League came to Granby Ranch for the third race of the five-race series.

Our Middle Park High School Mountain Bike Club proved that hard work really does pay off as all of our racers had great races and represented the club very well.

The Colorado High School Mountain Bike League was not a small event. This was one of the largest events to come to Grand County. Nearly 900 racers compete over the weekend (the event is divided up into a north and south division). In addition over 2,000 support staff (parents, family, coaches etc.) were in attendance. Add those together and we had a conservative estimate of nearly 3,000 people for one of the best run cycling events in the industry.

Friday night greeted the riders with our first real taste of winter. Snow, cold and wind made an appearance as if to let us know that if the course wasn’t hard enough Mother Nature would help add a bit if difficulty as well.

Saturday morning began cold and slightly overcast. While other riders were calling the day winter, our team was tough as nails and to them this was just another Saturday. Event organizers delayed the start one hour to let the trails dry and temperatures warm just a bit. The end result was a cool day with almost perfect trail conditions. The dust was gone and replaced with very tacky dirt. The heat from the Indian Summer was now a cool fall day that was perfect for racing.

The team’s first racer of the day was Kimo Sullivan. Kimo conquered the hardest course of the year by putting in a huge effort in the Freshman field to place 21st. Kimo’s race was one lap on the difficult course. Kimo never let up from the start resulting in one of the fastest times of the day! Next up was Junior Varsity rider Cole Wettersten who rode two hard laps with one of his best results of the year. On tap next were the Sophomore Boys. Tyler Scholl, Aaron Sanders, Brendan Droll, Nelson Oxley and Jake Wollan represented our athletes in one of the largest and most competitive fields. Tyler Scholl and Nelson Oxley went in the first wave (large fields are broken up into multiple start waves). Tyler quickly went to the front of the group and formed a gap with 2 other riders. Tyler held on to place 3rd overall. Nelson kept the hammer down for the entire race earning him a well deserved 31st place. The second wave contained the rest of our Sophomore Boy athletes. Brendan Droll lead out the start with a huge effort to reach the singletrack ahead of the field. The rest of the team was not far behind. Aaron Sanders had one of his best results of the year placing 45th overall (overall place is from all fields) after passing 40+ racers. Brendan held on to 72nd, with Jake Wollan not far behind.

The Middle Park High School Mountain Bike Club was well represented by the ladies as well! Darby Howard took on a very competitive Junior Varsity field with one of her best efforts of the year at 18th place. Emma Ladue not only took on the Freshman Girls but sprinted for the finish to place 30th!! Both of these ladies worked very hard to conquer the course and compete in their fields.

All of these hard efforts resulted in a 7th place overall team finish! In addition each race has a team theme. This race’s theme was a team cheer. Our team tied for 1st in the team cheer competition. Among the several prizes awarded for team cheer was four pounds of bacon.

I’ve been to hundreds of mountain bike races. One thing that was very clear to me is that Granby Ranch and the Colorado High School Mountain Bike League put on one of the best races that I have ever seen. I have to say that I rarely make this statement as most other events I have attended could use a lesson from this one. Not only did the race come off without a hitch but the efforts to accommodate the roughly 80 teams by setting up staging areas for each team creates an expo like feel.

On the flip side I’ll put on my marketing hat. The Colorado High School Mountain Bike League is one of the largest mountain bike events in the country. Almost everyone stays overnight and are avid mountain bikers as well as outdoor enthusiasts. This creates the exact demographic that we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to attract. These are the exact people that will travel and recreate multiple times a year at destinations. What was missing was any presence by any of our local marketing representatives. Missing was the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce aka Mountain Bike Capital USA. The Grand County Tourism Board could have showcased the entire county’s trails and recreational options as well. Granby had a great opportunity to highlight the Granby area. Not only were they not in attendance but very little was done to leverage the event and area through social media or other marketing venues. I looked at the Facebook pages for the Winter Park Chamber, Mountain Bike Capital USA ,Granby and the Grand County Tourism Board and there were no mentions of this event. Should this event come back in 2017 I would hope that our communities can recognize this low hanging fruit opportunity and make an effort to showcase and promote our area.

Keith Sanders is the President of the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance, 3x US National Mountain Bike Champion and owner of Beavers Sports Shop. You can reach me at keith@winterparkskirental.com