Local youth shine in USA Cycling State Champs at Copper

Finn Veit wins state titles

By Than Acuff

While most of us have been enjoying the local mountain bike trails at a leisurely pace, several local kids have been hammering away and put their skills and fitness to the test at the USA Cycling Colorado State Championships at Copper Mountain on Saturday and Sunday, July 22–23. Once the two-day mountain bike mashfest concluded, Finn Veit rolled away with state titles in two events while a host of other Crested Butte riders posted some additional impressive results.

CB Devo high school mountain bike coach Jenny Smith rallied to the Copper event with a vanload of 10 local athletes looking to expose the kids to another aspect of mountain bike racing that extends beyond the high school race world. She and CB Devo executive director Amy Nolan started it by offering some training during the summer months for their u19 riders. The program included participating in the local Junior Bike Week races, as well as the USA Cycling races in Copper.

“Amy and I have wanted to keep evolving the team and looking for ways to do that and delve a little more into the racing world,” says Smith. “We wanted them to experience a USA Cycling race.”

Smith also put on a slightly different hat for the races. While in the fall she takes on the role as a high school mountain bike coach, she approached the USA Cycling race more as an experienced athlete with a legacy of success in mountain bike racing.

“It was just a different experience,” explains Smith. “Because of my race background, I was coaching more as Jenny the athlete.”

The riders loaded up Friday and headed to Copper to get a pre-ride on the course, then retired with families and friends to a campground in Leadville set to depart Saturday at 6:45 a.m. for the first day of racing.

The weekend kicked off with the cross-country short track race on Saturday, and while most of the kids have raced cross-country races before, the short track format was new to them. It’s basically a mass start all-out sprint around a course that includes full sprint straightaways mixed in with quick climbs, quick descents and a variety of tight corners keeping riders redlined and hyper-focused while surrounded by their opponents.

“That was a first for everyone on the team,” says Veit. “Jenny basically told us, go until you blow and if you blow up, you blow up.”

“The course is a two-minute lap and you try to get in as many laps as possible during a 20-minute time period,” says Smith. “They call it the hurricane of pain.”

Veit led the charge for the older kids as he won the state title in the 15–16-year-old age class, while Ty Nolan and Sam and Kenny Bullock cracked the top 20. Lance Lakoski, who placed 12th at a 100-mile bike race in Telluride earlier this summer, placed third among the 17–18-year-olds. Temple Robertson stepped onto the podium among the younger kids, placing second in the short track, with several other Crested Butte kids placing top 10 in their categories, including Finley Nolan and Brie Bender who rallied to fifth and sixth place finishes respectively.

“The girls did amazing,” says Smith. “It was their first race and they were really nervous.”

Smith didn’t just talk the talk, she walked the walk too as she took second place in the women’s pro race while her husband Brian, who was there to coach some as well, placed fourth among the pro men.

“It was super cool, we don’t ever get to race like that,” says Veit. “It was definitely a different experience and cool to watch everyone race like that.”

The kids all headed back to Leadville to recover from the intense and new experience, and then loaded back up Sunday at 6:45 a.m. to return to Copper for slightly more familiar territory, a cross-country race. Helping with the familiarity was the course itself having a more “old school” feel to it.

“It was partly on the Colorado Trail, so it was in the woods and technical in spots, sort of like Baxter’s (Gulch),” says Smith. 

It also had its share of “old school” climbing with 1500 vertical feet of grinding for the first part of the seven-mile loop for the older kids and 1000 feet of climbing on a five-mile loop for the younger kids.

“It went straight up for four miles with a mix of technical singletrack at the start,” says Veit.

Veit continued his winning ways, jumping out in front of the pack and riding his way to another state title posting a time that would have won the 17–18-year-old category as well. Ty finished eighth in the same group, with Kenny and Sam cracking top 20 once again.

“I didn’t have much of a plan going in,” says Veit. “Just get out there and race my own race.”

Robertson posted another podium result coming in third place in his age category, while Bender and Finley placed fifth and seventh in their age group, and others finished the weekend with another new race experience under their belt.

“It was just cool to be there with the team getting new riders into racing and just remembering how to do it,” says Veit.

The kids have a week until they turn their attention back to the high school racing scene with the CB Devo high school team starting preseason training on August 1.

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