By Amanda Gadomski
Special to The SUN
DUST2 finished the season with the Pagosa Springs DUST2 mountain biking team competing at the Colorado High School Mountain Bike State Championships in Durango last weekend, finishing 14th out of 30 Division 3 teams.
The team qualified six riders for this year’s championships: freshmen Carter Kasson, Ethan Bergdolt and Tucker Mashue; sophomores Sawyer Blakemore and Davis Parker; and junior Brae Bergdolt.
In all, over 800 high school athletes raced through the 6.5-mile loops on Saturday and Sunday in sunny but cold weather. The Durango course hosted the event for the second year in a row, taking riders over private trail built just last year as well as public trails that are part of the Telegraph trail system. With the lack of recent moisture, the course was dry and dusty, challenging riders’ abilities to maintain control on sharp corners and build up speed during straight sections of trail.
Brae Bergdolt, racing his first year in the varsity category, capped a strong weekend for the Pagosa team, finishing his four laps totaling 26 miles in 31st place. His time of one hour, 54 minutes and 21 seconds put him 15 spots above his starting position. He overcame a crash on one of the dusty, loose corners in which he flew over his handlebars. Despite the crash, he had one of his best rides of the season and has positioned himself well to move up the varsity ranks in his senior year.
When asked about his race, Brae Bergdolt responded, “I was proud to represent the South Conference and Pagosa Springs as varsity rider at state. This is a sport that you get out what you are willing to put into it.”
He finished by adding, “I was happy to end the season with such a strong finish.”
Brae Bergdolt, along with the rest of the field, spent the race chasing Riley Amos of Animas High School in Durango and Robbie Day of Evergreen High School. This summer, both Amos and Day were named to the USA Cycling team to represent the country at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Canada. While the two U.S. teammates battled throughout the race, trading leads over the first 20 miles, Amos pulled away to win the race in the last few miles, leaving Day to settle for second place.
Sophomores Blakemore and Parker rode earlier Sunday morning, finishing in 45th and 61st place out of a field of 150 riders.
Parker was particularly happy with his race, saying, “I felt like I left it all out there today.”
Before the race, he set a goal of “holding my spot and finishing as good or higher than I start,” which he accomplished by finishing 14 places in front of his starting position.
Blakemore noted that he really enjoyed the race because he was able to work with a rider from another team.
“We both took turns drafting off each other coming up the hill in the wind,” he recalled. “It made the hill a lot easier, both because of the break from the wind, but also to have someone to talk to makes the uphill go by faster.”
DUST2’s freshman riders kicked off the weekend on a chilly Saturday morning with Kasson turning in one of his best races of the year and Ethan Bergdolt and Mashue battling their health.
Kasson used his starting position at the front of the second wave to pick up 19 spots, moving from 97th all the way up to 78th place.
“The race course was a good mixture of climbing and downhill,” said Kasson. “I was fortunate enough to be in the front of the second wave to start. This helped me avoid a bottleneck with all the other riders behind me,” he added. “I felt like I had a good race and placed well, which will help going into next year.”
Ethan Bergdolt and Mashue both came down with illnesses last week, but fought through them to complete the 13-mile race.
“I could tell they were hurting, but I was really proud of each of them to go out there and finish the race,” coach Andy Guinn said. “That’s not an easy course if you’re healthy with all the uphill and dust. It takes a lot of heart to push yourself through that extra pain of racing sick.”
This wraps up the season for the DUST2 team, its second year of high school competition.
Team Director Janine Emmets was excited about the sustained success of the team, noting, “We gain more middle schoolers every year to grow our high school racers.”
Emmets is already looking forward to building on this year’s momentum, saying, “It has been inspiring how our high schoolers have gotten stronger and faster every year, pushing their limits. The coaches are all really proud of all they have accomplished this season.”
Emmets explained that the DUST2 team is open to all fifth- through 12th-graders and no prior experience is necessary. She also noted that all ages participate in practices and high school riders can choose to compete in races. DUST2 offers scholarships and bikes to athletes who need them, and Emmets added that the team is particularly looking to add more female riders next year.
Registration for the 2020 season opens in May and information can be found at dustx2.com.