The Nevada Union mountain bike team put forth a strong effort in its final race of the regular season, finishing in third place and continuing this season’s podium streak as a team.
The Miners finished with 3,976 points collectively, just 15 points shy of second place.
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The race, held at Six Sigma Winery, is nicknamed the “Six Sigma Slinger.” It represented the final opportunity for riders to qualify for the state championships, where the NorCal riders will battle it out against SoCal in Lake Perris, Southern California.
This year was the NorCal league’s third ever time hosting in Six Sigma, a small winery just south of Clear Lake and the tiny town of Lower Lake. The league worked nonstop for many months to repair the trails and get them ready for this year’s venture, slightly changing the venue from last year’s race.
The course meanders through oak trees and up short, steep ascents, giving riders a gorgeous view of the landscape while creating a more technical trail system than has been previously seen in the NICA NorCal league.
Although the course is only around 5.5 miles long with 560 feet of elevation gain a lap, its sharp turns and rutted paths pushed riders to the limits.
“This was a pretty tough course, full of twist and turns, steep climbs and loose descents, but it’s what our team is good at,” said Miners coach Evan Smith. “Now that we’ve had a taste of what the course is like this year, I think we should be able to do even better at the next race which should be pretty similar to this one, although a slightly different course.”
This year’s race was made especially difficult due to the extreme heat, with temperatures reaching the high 80s — an anomaly for April. Several of the races, including the boys’ varsity event, were cut short because of the heat.
“This race was the warmest so far,” said rider parent Suzy Crabtree. “Rick Crabtree, a course marshall for the morning shift, had several riders drop out from heat exhaustion.”
Nevertheless, the Miners powered on. Varsity girls racer Morgan Smith snuck steadily closer to the top 10, finishing in 12th place. Teammate Zara Katzenstein rode to 14th place in girls junior varsity.
In the freshman boys division, Orion Minty rode again first place, solidifying his stance as freshman points leader with three first place finishes this season.
The sophomore boys were also on fire this race. Jonathan Schreiter finished out a perfect season with another first place medal, while teammate Ethan Hennessey grabbed a fourth place spot in the same division. Junior varsity rider Grayson Garton rode to a second place finish, a minute away from the top podium spot, and Eli Washburn rounded out the top 10 with an eighth place finish.
The competitive varsity boys division had some new additions to the podium this race. Skye Ricci, a junior, grabbed his first spot on the varsity podium this season, finishing in fifth place.
“At the beginning of my race I messed up my start and was sitting in 20th place going into the single track,” said Ricci. “But I started picking off riders one by one and by the end of the final lap, I was in striking position for the fifth place podium spot.”
Nevada Union Miners riders will now move on to race in the NICA High School Northern Conference race on May 11. They will compete against other Northern California high school racers for the conference title before moving on to the coveted State Championships later in May.
“We’re looking forward to coming back fully trained and showing these other teams what we’re made of,” said Evan Smith.
Now in its 16th year, the NICA League has a total of 60 mountain bike teams, with 35 teams in the Northern California conference and 25 teams in the Southern California conference. The Miners participate in Division I of the NorCal conference, racing against larger high school teams.
For more information about the races, teams and other NICA events, visit norcalmtb.org. For more on the team, visit the Nevada Union Mountain Bike Club’s Facebook page.
Mina Ricci is a freelance writer who contributes to The Union regularly.