Fifth season of Dirt Demons starts Sunday in Nathrop
Special to the Post Independent
The Glenwood Springs High School mountain bike team lines up for its fifth season Sunday at the Chalk Creek Stampede in Nathrop. Glenwood’s wildly popular program continues to grow, with 26 Dirt Demons slated to take the start line. Glenwood is in the South Conference of the Colorado League, in the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA).
The popular race venue on McMurry Ranch is nestled in the foothills of the Collegiate Range. The demanding course is 6.1 miles long with 520 vertical feet of elevation gained per lap. The initial double-track climb narrows to technical single-track atop a picturesque plateau, before dropping down to Chalk Creek and returning on a fast, twisty double-track to the finish area. Race distances will vary from two laps for freshman to four laps for varsity riders.
Registration for Sunday’s race is closed, but Glenwood Springs High School students can still sign up for the three remaining races and have a chance to qualify for the state championships.
Since its inception in the 2015-16 school year, Glenwood’s team has grown from five racers to last year’s record-setting 30-member squad. Thirteen of Sunday’s 26 starters are freshman. Just as Glenwood’s program has grown, participation on the state and national level has too. NICA boasts a 40 percent annual growth rate, with 18 states now serving nearly 12,000 student-athletes, supported by 4,500 licensed coaches. NICA’s mission is to provide all teens across America with the opportunity to grow strong body, mind and character through participation in school-based cycling clubs.
The program is especially inviting to girls, which make up 25 percent of the competitors. Glenwood junior Nadia Shea signed up in her freshman year, despite never having mountain bike raced before.
“Joining the Dirt Demons was one of the best decisions of my life,” she said. “It’s a super cool and unique sport where I’ve made some awesome friends. To all incoming freshman girls, I would say to sign up and you’ll have fun. Everyone on the team is really nice and supportive, and the coaches do everything for us so all we have to do is race our hardest.”
As a testament to the strength of the Glenwood program, three Dirt Demons are racing up in more competitive divisions. Glenwood juniors Erik Novy and Kawak Miranda will race in the Varsity Boys division, due to consistent top 10 results in 2018. Sophomore Emma Barsness will join her peers in Junior Varsity Girls.
The team is especially excited about having a new venue on the circuit when the inaugural Snowmassive Chase comes to the valley on Sept. 22. The Dirt Demons should have a home-mountain advantage, racing on familiar terrain like the Discovery, Sleigh Ride and Ditch trails on Snowmass Ski Area.
In addition to athletic performance, the high school cycling scene will bring an influx to our local economy, as the valley can expect nearly 600 racers and their families, traveling from 43 Colorado high school teams to enjoy area lodging and restaurants on their way to the races.
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