Put finishing touches on great season
by Than Acuff
The Crested Butte Devo high school bike team wrapped up what has been a transformative season at the state championships in Eagle on Saturday, October 21.
Transformative for a number of reasons: First of all, they topped out at 32 riders this year for the largest turnout to date for the team. Second, they called upon local professional racers to help out with the coaching, not only bringing in additional technical and endurance expertise, but also adding in a nutritional and recovery element to the training.
Ultimately, the increased numbers on the team and on the coaching staff played out as hoped, as the team moved up both in regional and state results, finishing third in the Southern Region three weeks ago and then finishing the season ninth overall in the state, up from 10th place last year.
When the dust settled from the regular season of racing, 23 of the 32 Crested Butte riders qualified for state and lined up Saturday at the Eagle course to match wits with the heavily favored teams from the Northern Division. The course is geared toward high school racing and spectating and recent weather had the trails in prime conditions on race day.
“There’s a really fun downhill into the finish line, making for great spectating and lots of other fun singletrack,” explains head coach Torrey Carroll. “Friday night the area got some snow, making the course really tacky, which was great because it can get pretty dusty.”
The day opened with the freshmen boys race. The Crested Butte Devo team had four riders lining up at 8 a.m. for the first time, with temperatures hovering in the low 20s.
“They looked a little bit nervous and wide-eyed,” says Carroll. “It didn’t help that it was early and cold.”
Gus Bullock led the charge for the Crested Butte freshmen finishing the two-lap race in 17th place. Max Shull, Nate Ball and Otis McLoughlin were packed together tight in the mid-50s with McLoughlin losing his front wheel over the lip of a berm on the final downhill and crashing but recovered to finish.
The JV and freshmen girls then lined up with around 130 riders between the two race classes. Senior Emily Knight joined the team this year and closed out her high school racing career moving up several spots throughout the race to place 37th in the JV class.
Meanwhile, four Crested Butte Devo freshmen girls rolled their way to a slew of solid results. Olivia Wilson led the young guns placing 14th, Lily Hanna placed 21st, EmmaJean Lovett was three spots back in 24th and Nori Veit battled to a 25th-place finish despite suffering mechanicals throughout the race.
“Nori dropped her chain five times and still had a good result, that was impressive,” says Carroll.
With three of the seven races out of the way, Carroll could tell it was going to be a good day for the team.
“It was a beautiful day, the kids were riding hard and holding their own, the vibe was good,” says Carroll.
Next up were the JV boys. Five Crested Butte boys carried the team colors, including two seniors who closed out their careers. Dane De Frates had the top result in the class finishing 29th with senior Finn Wilson closing things out with a 39th-place finish.
Dylan Alagna crashed on the second lap and with such a competitive field racing by, lost numerous spots to come across in 61st. Senior Elior Bilow went out with a bang climbing 30 spots throughout the race and Ethan Carroll had a strong first two laps but faded on the third and final lap yet still soaked up the energy and the course.
“He was super pumped on the downhills,” says Carroll.
The sophomore girls were next and it was time for Olivia Gordon to prove her mettle at the state level. Gordon placed second in every race throughout the Southern Division and continued with her consistency to finish seventh overall in the state battling against a slew of strong riders from the Northern Division.
“She rode well, had a great race and was so close to the podium,” says Carroll.
Ruby Laemmel had a rough day. After laying down a great first lap, she succumbed to an asthma attack on the second lap and had to drop out of the race to receive medical attention.
“That was a little scary,” says Carroll. “Mountain bike racing is really hard and even harder when you can’t breathe.”
The day wrapped up with the varsity and sophomore boys racing. The varsity boys’ race is a showcase of the up-and-coming talent with clean lungs and fresh legs charging around the course.
“It’s kind of like watching the pros,” says Carroll. “They come flying down wheel-to-wheel and are all great descenders. The ones that aren’t then make up time on the uphills.”
Senior Ian Eldridge closed out his high school racing career leading the Crested Butte Devo team with a 35th-place finish.
“He rode four super-consistent laps,” says Carroll.
Senior JC Patterson started the race in 60th place but pulled himself through the throngs of top riders to finish the race in 47th place. Senior James Bivens was in the mix through two laps but the pace and energy wore on him, leaving him to suffer through the third and fourth laps.
“He just didn’t have the legs or fuel for the third and fourth lap,” says Carroll. “It was a bitter pill to swallow.”
The sophomore boys rounded out the effort for the Crested Butte Devo team. Robby Oberling placed 19th with Josiah Tunkey close behind in 20th. Marko Alling suffered a flat but fixed it to finish and Holden Bradford moved up several spots throughout the race for a solid end to the season.
When the points were tallied, the Crested Butte Devo team finished the day ninth overall, up from 10th place last year, proving that the team continues to gain ground on the rest of the state.
“They all did their best and rode super hard. It was a solid effort,” says Carroll. “We had our best results in the history of the program so far and it was a great season. I think we will continue to improve.”