by Than Acuff
The task was at-hand for the Crested Butte High School mountain bike team as they headed to Nathrop last weekend for the conference finals, dubbed the Chalk Creek Stampede.
The team was sitting in third place in the South Division overall standings with the fourth-place team hot on their heels, and they would need a standout performance to hold on to the podium spot. In the end, they mashed their way as a team to finish in third place that day and move up a spot in the overall standings, finishing in second place in the conference standings.
Varsity rider Kai Sherman has been gaining ground all season and finished in ninth place the past two races. Things looked dubious for Sherman heading into the race, though, as illness appeared to set in the night before. But he rallied and took another huge step forward to finish the day in fifth place and earn serious team points for the Crested Butte team.
“We told him to just go out there and start, and if you’re feeling woozy just pull the plug,” says coach Torrey Carroll. “He ended up having his best race of the year.”
James Bivens equaled Sherman’s result in the sophomore race, taking fifth place. While he has posted a couple of second-place finishes this season, his game was a bit off in Nathrop but he still managed a great result in the end.
“That’s how bike racing goes, some days the legs are there, some days they’re not,” says Carroll. “He was still right in there, though, and had a strong result.”
Sophomore riders Ian Eldridge and Finn Wilson had their own crosses to bear in the race. Eldridge was riding strong in the top 10 until he got caught up in a crash and had to do some quick repairs. After losing several spots in the debacle, Eldridge still managed to battle his way back into 13th place by the finish line. Meanwhile, Wilson was forced to start the race toward the back of the pack but pushed his way into the top 20 by the end to take 14th place.
“He was riding really strong leading up to the race and he did really well,” says Carroll.
Marion Chater was questionable heading into the day, missing an entire week of practice due to injury. Fortunately, she was able to line up and then equaled her previous best result of the season to place 10th among the freshmen girls.
“She had a good day and without her finishing, we don’t make the podium as a team,” says Carroll.
Tanner Perkins had his hands full in the freshmen boys race in Nathrop. He’s been consistently top three but missed the previous race, dropping him into the 30s for the start order. Nevertheless Perkins made quick work of the field, battling through dust and avoiding cacti to finish the race in second place, 45 seconds out of first.
Liam Elliott crashed but rallied to finish in 17th and Ethan Carroll remained consistent to post another solid result, coming in 23rd.
The effort of all of the riders earned the Crested Butte team a third-place finish on the day and bumped them up to second place overall in the final conference standings.
“Everybody rode super-hard so we had a really good day for the team,” says Carroll. “We had two trips to the podium.”
The team will now prepare for the state championships in Eagle on Sunday, October 25. All but one Crested Butte rider qualified and they will now match wits with their Southern Division counterparts as well as teams from the Northern Conference. Carroll feels that the team has two, maybe three, riders with a shot at a title and is looking forward to the final race.
“It’ll be really exciting to be racing against teams we haven’t seen yet,” says Carroll.