Celebrations, festivities, warm temperatures, and hard racing marked the third round of the five-race NorCal High School Mountain Bike Racing Series, at the new venue of Pilarcitos Canyon in Fort Ord last weekend.
According to organisers, 365 high school mountain bikers from 33 schools came from as far as Redding to compete in this race, a testament not only to the quality of the event, but to the commitment these riders and their families show to the sport.
"One thing that always gets me is these kids stop to check on each other when there's a crash. The kids and their families and the coaches are the life of the series. We just help to bring it all together on a challenging and fun course, in an organized structure, while keeping it enjoyable and safe," said Justin Morgan of the NorCal League.
In Division I, Drake Pirates increased their lead thanks to wins by Sofia Hamilton and Roman Brockley, and a fine third place by Leah Catlin. Drake now has 11,619 points, to San Rafael Bulldogs on 11,497, with Nevada Union Miners holding third on 11,350.
In Division II, a close battle rages between Marin Catholic on 5,887, and San Marin on 5,885. Victoria Yoham and Ryan Erler led the charge for Marin Catholic, while Herculaas Botha and Justin Ayala kept their team right on the pace. The impressive Monterey Bay Kingfishers team, now on 5,775, was kept in the hunt thanks to great rides by brother and sister Carter and Ashton Williams, as well as Chase Myers.
A new eight-mile loop that comprises a chunk of Sea Otter Classic trails provided a race course that riders variously described as fast, hilly, technical, not too technical. A climb of around two miles started the lap, and this helped break up the field, but some fast and technical descents gave the bike handlers something to work with, in addition to big smiles and white knuckles all round - in other words, it was classic mountain biking terrain.
John Bennett (El Cerrito) and Shayna Powless (Independent) won the varsity categories while Freshman Bryan Duke (Salinas) and Ruth Winder (Independent) won the Junior varsity division one categories. Andrew Taylor (Contra Costa composite) won the junior varsity boys division two category.
"There are a lot of fast riders here; I just had a good day." Which says it all - all it takes is a good day and those gaps close fast. Talking about his experience racing in the pro ranks of the national series, Bennett said "It's a big step up. We're by no means near the front yet. Hopefully in a few years."
Other winners included Roman Brockley of Drake (sophomore boys division one); Noah Hanagan of Independent (sophomore boys division two); Sofia Hamilton of Drake (sophomore girls); Isaiah Rapko of Berkeley (freshman boys division one); Nick Casaccia of Independent (freshman boys division two); and Sofia Gomez of Los Gatos (freshman girls).
Round four will take place at the Granite Bay Invitational II, in Folsom Lake, California on April 26.
For more information, visit www.norcalmtb.org.