Los Alamos High School junior Esther Grow earns a 4th place finish at Arizona Nordic Village during the second National Interscholastic Cycling Association race of the season. Courtesy photoL
Esther Grow lines up with fellow female competitors at the start for the second NICA race of the season. Courtesy photo
Los Alamos High School junior James Tyldesley jockeys for an advantageous position at the front of the pack early in the race. Courtesy photo
BY PAULA KNEPPER
Los Alamos Mountain Bike Team
Esther Grow and James Tyldesley, juniors at Los Alamos High School, have been bitten by the mountain bike racing bug. There is no ointment to relieve this bite, only quality time training and competing scratch this itch. Esther Grow and James Tyldesley, along with coaches, journeyed to the Arizona Nordic Village to compete in the second National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) mountain bike race of the season on Saturday. Los Alamos Mountain Bike Team members compete in the northern Arizona NICA conference against athletes representing 40 teams from Arizona and New Mexico. Arizona Nordic Village is a year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts consisting of an intricate web of stacked-loops perfect for mountain bikers and Nordic skiers located in a high alpine environment 16 miles northwest of downtown Flagstaff.
Some 400 competitors raced up to four laps on a five-mile loop course depending on age, gender, and ability. Starting at nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, athletes had half a mile to jockey for position in the pack before they began a two-mile air sucking ascent. The thin dry air amplified the effects of the excruciating climb leaving athletes with no time for refueling or hydration, rather they focused on breathing and filling their lungs with as much oxygen as possible. Athletes passed by a canvas and timber constructed yurt village before nearing the midpoint of the figure eight-shaped loop.
Finding a second wind at the summit, Esther Grow and James Tyldesley adjusted into an attack position. The final half of the loop was a steep descent over singletrack and eroded doubletrack challenging athletes with deep wheel-bending ruts. The key to descending fast on a mountain bike is to be smooth. Looking ahead for faster lines, pushing out of turns, pumping rollers, taking inside lines on corners, and soaking up the terrain by standing on the pedals are all techniques practiced by Los Alamos Mountain Bike Team members so that they are comfortable, relaxed, and loose on blistering paced descents. There were few opportunities to pass competitors during the descent so any fuel remaining in the tank was exhausted during the final sprint to the finish line on a smooth wide doubletrack.
Esther Grow sprinted through the finish line in a photo finish. Esther took the 4th place finish for the day in an extremely narrow race. James Tyldesley cracked the top ten with a 9th place finish in an exceptionally competitive field.
Esther Grow and James Tyldesley are both fortunate to have discovered a lifetime sport early in their lives. The athletes on Los Alamos High and Middle School Mountain Bike team are amped up by their successful season. These athletes are enjoying frequently finding themselves on the podium; however, these athletes will ultimately appreciate the physical and mental health benefits of a lifetime sport. The Los Alamos Mountain Bike team hopes to include even more athletes in future seasons of cycling fun.
For those interested, the team is currently selling t-shirts as a fundraiser. Please consider supporting the team by purchasing a t-shirt perfect for riding around town or showing off your community spirit at https://www.customink.com/fundraising/la-mtn-bike-team-shirts-2906
Los Alamos high and middle school mountain bike team members next compete on Oct. 9 at Pioneer Park near Prescott, Ariz. For more information about NICA, race results, and upcoming races please see https://arizonacycling.org/races-results/