Diggin’ the dirt: Glenwood, Carbondale riders lead strong local contingent to next week’s state high school mountain bike championships at CMC Spring Valley
Chloe Lutgring is all about taking her pursuit of competitive mountain biking to the next level, while always keeping in mind the fun aspect of her favorite thing to do in the outdoors.
“The whole reason my friends and I did this in the first place was just to have some fun going out on the trails on our bikes,” Lutgring said of the growing contingent of high school athletes who are taking up mountain biking through local club programs, including her Glenwood Springs High School Dirt Demons.
“The biggest thing I always tell people is to just try it and enjoy riding, and don’t think about the stress and pressure of racing,” Lutgring said. “I love just having fun on my bike, and that’s also why I enjoy racing and pushing myself as far as I think I can go, and even further.”
“Further” she has taken it, indeed, having competed internationally on the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) circuit for the past two years, and getting her first European racing experience this past summer.
Lutgring, along with Roaring Fork Fork High School mountain bike team member and former teammate Corbin Carpenter, are among the favorites of the varsity girls and boys going into the Oct. 22-23 Colorado High School Cycling League (CHSCL) mountain biking state championships.
And this year, the championships are right in their backyard, on the relatively new trail system at the Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley campus southeast of Glenwood Springs.
Carpenter is the boys varsity points leader going into state, and Lutgring sits in third among the varsity girls after a pair of young, talented riders from Columbine High School, sophomore Ella Kearney-Turner and freshman Kira Mullins, advanced to the varsity ranks this season.
Together, Lutgring and Carpenter have helped to build the mountain biking culture within the area high schools, as several schools now host teams.
In addition to Glenwood Springs and Roaring Fork, Basalt and Aspen have a combined team, Colorado Rocky Mountain School has a team and a few students from Coal Ridge and Rifle have joined up with the Dirt Demons.
Lutgring and Carpenter, both seniors, are Legacy riders, a designation given for riders who compete all four years of high school through the freshman/sophomore/junior varsity and varsity ranks. That included their sophomore years when the pandemic canceled the season, but a series of small, informal “challenge” events counted as a season.
“My family got me into biking at a pretty young age, so I’ve ridden bikes pretty much my whole life,” said Carpenter, who is also a competitive Nordic ski racer with the Aspen Valley Ski Club.
Before the Roaring Fork High mountain bike program got started, Carpenter raced with the Dirt Demons then started talking it up at his own school to get a team together his sophomore year.
The pandemic disrupted plans for a competitive season, but the program took off nonetheless.
What started as a group of about five or six riders on the Carbondale team that first year has grown to 19 this fall.
“To have a team at my own school it feels like we can build more community around it,” Carpenter said. “We have a pretty tight-knit group, and it’s been awesome to watch it grow.”
Roaring Fork coach Kyle Crawley said Carpenter and fellow senior co-captain Henry Cole have been a big part of developing the fledgling program and build that culture.
“They bring great leadership skills, and even led a camp this year with some of the younger riders to teach them some basic mountain biking skills,” Crawley said.
Mountain biking offers an alternative high school sports experience, and fits in with the area’s outdoors culture, he said.
“It’s just great to get out on our local trails and visit other trails around the state,” Crawley said.
The CHSCL season includes five races around the state, including Snowmass, Eagle, Steamboat Springs, Leadville and then the state championships, which the local teams are fortunate to host this year.
“It’s a really supportive environment for the kids, and the vibe at the races is pretty unique,” Crawley said of the competitions. “The races are also spread over two days, so families make a weekend out of it.”
The Glenwood Dirt Demons program, meanwhile, has grown to more than 40 student riders since it began in 2015. This year, Glenwood has advanced 14 athletes to the state championships under the direction of coach and former Olympic cyclist Jeanne Golay.
Lutgring has been a big part of bringing some of the younger riders along, Golay said.
“She’s really tried to challenge herself, especially this last year with some international races. That’s a big step, and she has a lot of family support,” said Golay, who connected Lutgring with USA Cycling so she could obtain a scholarship to attend a cycling academy before going to the European event.
Ultimately, the program is about “keeping it fun,” she said.
“There is a certain level of competitiveness for some of the kids, but my goal is for them to learn skills, to be safe on the bike and to develop a love for a sport that they can keep for the rest of their life,” Golay said.
Loving the trails
Lutgring certainly echoes that.
“I just love being out in nature, and that’s where I feel most at home, whether I’m on a bike, or hiking, or skiing,” said the former competitive alpine ski racer. “They’re all just as beautiful and just as amazing.”
Lutgring said it was good for her to have some stiff competition within the high school ranks this season, after having won all of her races her junior year and taking second at state.
“I’ve actually enjoyed it,” she said of the younger athletes who’ve pushed the pace this season. “I believe riding with people who are faster than you, or just as fast, makes you a better rider every single race.”
She’s also enjoyed watching the Dirt Demons program grow.
“I’m glad people are getting out to ride bikes. Even if they’re just racing for fun they’re still out challenging themselves, and it’s been fun to help show them the ropes, too.”
Carpenter also wants to finish his senior season on a high note, and is in prime position to win state.
“My primary goal was just to have fun in my final season, but I definitely wanted to win going into this season,” he said.
After a string of second-place finishes his freshman year and again his junior year after the suspended season, he said he wanted to take that next step.
Home tracks advantage
Being the points leader going into state puts a target on his back as the front-line starter. But the fact that state is so close to home for both Carpenter and Lutgring will be a huge advantage.
“It’s good to have a chance to go up and ride it and practice the course a little bit more than the other riders,” Lutgring said, adding the trail system itself is just coming into its own.
“There’s not really any big berms yet, so it needs to be ridden a lot to break it in some more,” she said. “It’s got some good ups and downs, so it will be fun.”
Added Carpenter, “We’re trying to get some kids from our school to show up and help cheer us on, so hopefully it’ll be a super electrifying community event. I’m really excited for it.”
Hosting the state championships is also huge for the broader community and for CMC, said Golay, who works as the regional development officer with the CMC Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the college.
The races, which include the freshman, sophomore and junior varsity divisions on Saturday and Sunday morning and conclude with the varsity races on Sunday afternoon, are expected to draw upwards of 1,500 people, including 870 competitors.
“CMC is thrilled to be hosting this, and it’s a really great fit with the college’s mission to get high school kids on our campuses,” Golay said. “It was a pretty easy sell for me.”
In addition to filling the area lodges, the Roaring Fork School District is allowing use of a vacant parcel that it owns in Spring Valley for camping that weekend.
“It’s huge to be able to represent locally, and show off some of our local trails,” Crawley said. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase what we have going on locally.”
Carpenter and Lutgring are both looking to take their athletic pursuits beyond high school into college, but Carpenter said he’ll most likely lean toward Nordic skiing. Lutgring said she has already been accepted to Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, which has a Division 1 mountain biking team.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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