Dirt Demons crush it in NICA series finale
The Glenwood Springs High School Dirt Demons mountain bike racing team closed out the regular season on top in several divisions Saturday in Nathrop. The fourth and final race of the National Scholastic Cycling Association (NICA) South Conference series regular season took place in perfect conditions in the shadow of the Collegiate Range in Chaffee County. The team brought 13 eager cyclists including one novice, proving it’s never too late to jump into bike racing.
The Chalk Creek Stampede, held on the private McMurry Ranch, featured a 6.1-mile loop, climbing 520 feet in elevation per lap, around the foothills of picturesque Mt. Princeton. Laps consisted of an initial double-track climb from the ranch’s flat grazing area which funneled down to a single-track climb with intermediate challenges. Following a technical descent down to Chalk Creek, riders wound through aspen and cottonwoods. The return was on a fast double-track mixed with some twisty narrows and a large mud bog obstacle.
Glenwood sophomore Lizzie Barsness kicked off the medal-haul with a third-place finish, just 10 days after a medical procedure. Proving that the surgery was a success, she stayed on pace with the leaders of the 45-rider-strong junior varsity girl’s field over two laps of the course, and finished just 16 seconds out of second place. Riding in her first-ever bike race, Nadia Shea was elated with her 32nd place finish in the Freshman Girls race, coming in a full 14 minutes ahead of the next rider.
Next up was the junior varsity boy’s race, covering three laps of the course. Elan Bouchet placed 30th, Mark Richardson 39th and Telford Underwood 42nd out of the crowded field of 124 racers.
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Four Glenwood riders contested the freshman boys division, with Erik Novy leading the pack in third-place despite a crash in the final 100 meters. He was sprinting for first place while overtaking a lapped rider and got bumped, throwing him into the fencing and ultimately down to the ground. He quickly got up, grabbed his bike and ran across the finish line, getting passed by just one rider, for a final result of third place. Though bruised and sore afterwards, Novy was accepting of the mishap.
“I’m disappointed about crashing, but happy that I was able to hang on for third place. It was a fun race,” he said.
The freshman boys division covered two laps of the course, with the large field of 131 riders divided into two heats. Novy’s teammates — Kawak Mirandam, Spencer Tuggle and Grant Anson — placed 13th, 88th and 93rd, respectively. Tuggle was positive at the conclusion of his first high school racing season.
“This was a fun course, it was fairly easy without a lot of climbing,” he said.
Glenwood native Ben Heim, racing as a freshman for Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning, finished in 75th place.
The final contests of the day were varsity and sophomore boys, which ran concurrently on the course. Varsity boys covered four laps of the course, making for over 90 minutes of grueling effort. Lucca Trapani scored yet another spot on the podium with a 5th-place finish. Glenwood senior Jacob Barsness finished in 20th place.
The varsity boys South series has been dominated by Zac Richardson of Douglas County who won three of the four races. Of his race strategy, Trapani explained, “I tried to ride tempo at the front and keep the pace high, but also be ready for the inevitable attack from Zac. He launched at the start of the third lap, and I was just too gassed to go with him. I’m looking forward to States where the North division riders will help to put some pressure on him.”
The sophomore boys covered two laps of the course with Lance Weidemann taking 5th place out of 115 competitors. Elijah Page finished in 94th place.
“I had an awesome time today. My first lap was pretty fast even though I had a bloody nose. I still went as hard as I could and had a good, fun race,” Page said.
Overall series awards were also given out, and the Dirt Demons took third overall in the Division II team standings. This is a notable accomplishment for the team in only its third year of existence, and is largely due to the devotion and support of head coach Randy Tuggle.
Four Dirt Demons placed in the top 10 in their respective division overall standings. Finishing in fourth overall were Trapani, Novy and Lizzie Barsness, while Weidemann was sixth overall. Riders in the top half of each division advance to the state championships where they will combine with the top North division riders for the overall Colorado state title.
The Eagle Haymaker State Championships race is Sunday, Oct. 22. The start/ finish is located at the WECMRD Pool and Ice Rink complex in Eagle.
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Kuba Bartnik and AJ Adams will leave a legacy at Glenwood Springs that’s hard to match after both signed to run and jump collegiately.