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Biking to new heights: Mountain Bike Team competes in first race of season

The Littleton High School Mountain Bike Team headed up to Frisco this past weekend to compete in their first of four bike races of the season. Ten LHS students competed in the race on Sunday and all had very strong opening performances; for many, this was their first ever mountain bike race.

“I didn’t really know what it would be like at first, so I just decided to give it a try. It’s a lot of fun because you get physical activity, and going along the course, you get to think what you want to do, and you don’t have to go along a designated route,” said freshman Zack Leaf who had not competed in a mountain bike race prior to Sunday, but finished strongly.

However, for others who have been mountain biking for a long time, this was their chance to go out, be competitive, and race as hard as they could.

One veteran rider in particular, junior Breighton Miller, was able to use past mountain biking experience to his advantage on Sunday, as he was ranked 81st at the start of the 18 mile JV race, but was able to pass over 50 competitors and finished the race in 27th place.

“I started almost in the back of the first wave, and I was able to make up a lot of time, and I just felt really good and on my game. I had a lot of energy, and I really felt motivated to drop those positions,” said Miller who is starting his third year of competitive mountain biking, but has been mountain biking in general for about 12 years. “My favorite thing is probably just the atmosphere of the whole thing and being able to go out there and have fun while still having that competitiveness to the race, but still doing something that I love.”

This was a huge feat for Miller, as lots of concentration and focus is expected from riders during a mountain bike race; physical strength, mental toughness, and technique on the bike are all important to achieving success.

“It’s all mental. You basically have to tell yourself you can keep going because you feel like your legs are going to give out but they’re not. It’s basically just challenging yourself,” said a female freshman on the team.

Not only are different skills required to mountain bike, but the layout of a mountain bike race is very different from that of normal sport competitions. Mountain bike races are divided into four different divisions, including a male and female race under each division. The divisions are freshman, sophomore, JV and varsity. Groups race anywhere from two-four laps around the course, some races even lasting for 18 or more miles. There are anywhere from 1500-2000 riders total at each competition.

Race morning, each participant is allowed a pre race run through where they can preview the course and practice riding, and then each division goes off one by one.  

“You get a lot of butterflies in your stomach waiting for your race, but once the race starts, you just go and you feel good,” said Leaf.

Leaf, along with many other freshmen, comprise the first class to get a full four years of mountain biking experience at Littleton High School. LHS mountain biking itself has just recently gone from being a shared sport with the other Littleton Public Schools in 2016 (a very small percentage of that team was LHS students) to an independent team of 16 this year, both underclassmen and upperclassmen represented. Science teacher Mike Montgomery sponsors the sport, but LHS shares the Heritage Mountain Bike coach. Both Littleton High School and Heritage High School’s teams travel up to the meets together in one big group.

“We want to maintain that friendship and sense of community for the Littleton schools,” said Miller.

The team’s next race will take place in Leadville, about two weeks from now. There are two more regular season races after that, and there is also a state meet for those who qualify.

“This year, I definitely feel like it’s a team instead of just ‘oh, I’m going to go to a race and then I’m going to go home,’” said Miller. “I am looking forward [to] just go[ing] out and have[ing] fun and be[ing] motivated to push myself even harder.”

The team goes on a pre run through of the course.

The team nervously prepares for their race to start.

The race is underway!

Competitors push it to their limits on the course.

The racers approach the finish line.