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November 12, 2019

South County’s Mountain Bike High

History has been made with the formation of the South County Composite Mountain Bike Team. Never before has the South Valley had a high school program compete in the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) and the NorCal High School Cycling League. The South County Composite Mountain Bike Team has a roster of 13 riders, with the majority coming from Live Oak and Sobrato. 

In putting the program together, team founder Doug Hall had one big goal in mind. 

“My whole life now is getting more people on bikes, get them excited about mountain biking and introducing to them a lifelong sport,” said Hall, who is the co-owner of Bike Therapy in Morgan Hill. “It’s awesome, the kids are enthusiastic and their butts hurt, but they’re still showing up with smile on their face, too.”

Shane Sawyer, a junior at Sobrato High, is one of the team’s top riders and echoed similar sentiments in wanting to share his passion for biking to others. 

“When I saw this team get up and going, I was super pumped up and stoked and saw it as an opportunity to get friends into mountain biking,” he said. “It was kind of unique to see my friends at school who I never thought would be on a bike at the meeting (to get the team formed).” 

The roster includes advanced level riders Sawyer, Trevor King, Wyatt King, and Manuel Aldana; intermediate level riders Cayden Hauge, Christian Keller, Jack Howard, Joe Carroll, and Marcus Schoepe; and beginner level riders Hunter Stocksick, Jake Weisz, Noah Salcido, and Sohan Singh. The coaching roster includes Hall, head coach Kristi Garrison, Carl Cadenasso, Chris Hauge, Julie Yetso, Kamaljit Banwait, Matt Akin, Missy Madrigal-Walters, Patrick Walters, Rod Acord, and Sean Carroll.   

The NICA season runs from February through May, and includes five races and a state championship. Hall said the team will miss the season-opening race, but is scheduled to compete for the first time on March 16 at the Granite Bay Recreation Area in Folsom. Hall said what on the surface seems to be an annoyance—traveling for long stretches to get to the races—actually benefits the riders in the program.

“Probably one of the coolest things for these kids and parents is the majority of these races we’re going to stay overnight and camp, so the social aspect of this is huge,” he said. “The relationships these kids will build with each other will last long after they’re done competing.”

The team practices three times a week, with strength-training sessions on Tuesday and training rides on Thursday and Saturday. The recent rainy weather has forced the team to make liberal use of the Coyote Creek Trail. The squad also does hill repeats at Anderson Lake Dam, rides at Harvey Bear and Calero with a possible training ride at Henry Coe State Park in the near future. 

Sawyer is one of the most experienced riders in the group, having started his riding career on the road before transitioning to the dirt. His best results have come in downhill races, and he’s gone on a variety of training rides with semipro cyclists, including the Tuesday Night Ride starting from the Bike Therapy shop. The Tuesday Night Ride features approximately 20 riders, many of whom are experienced and worthy role models. 

“There is a guy in his 60s or something and he’s out there dropping me,” said Sawyer, who is also a swimming and water polo standout. “He’s way more fit than me and seeing that gave me a goal that I want to be that guy when I’m 60. Riding with a guy like him has helped me build my endurance. The Tuesday Night Rides have been key in getting my fitness up. The semipro and professional guys (who I’ve ridden with in Santa Cruz) have taught me to stay within my limits, but still go fast and that has been huge in getting me into the upper class of my age group.”

Sawyer’s goal to make the state championship will require a lot of seat time, as he said he will average around five rides a week for the duration of the season. Hall said he’s been proud of all the riders and that Sawyer, Keller and Wyatt King have plenty of talent and upside. 

“Shane is a great rider,” Hall said. “He’s hanging with the fast guys on some of these Tuesday Night Rides, has great mountain bike skills and has got a really good opportunity to make it to the state championship and do well. Christian is also an amazing athlete who I think will do really well. Freshman Wyatt King comes from a family who bikes, and his future is more of a downhill type of kid who will make it to the race podium. His cousin, Trevor King, also has a similar biking background.”

Depending on the course layout, each race will be anywhere from 12 to 24 miles. Hall said the NorCal League has about 1500 student-athletes coming from 50 teams, with girls making up roughly 20 percent of the participants. The South County Composite Mountain Bike Team have no girls as of yet, something that Hall hopes to change in the coming years. 

“We’re actively recruiting to try to get girls on the team,” he said. 

Hall said it’s nice to know the biking community has gotten behind the South County Composite Mountain Bike Team, which has set up an online fundraiser through everydayhero.com, with any money raised being matched by Specialized Bicycles. The 50-year-old Hall is a lifelong cyclist and unbelievably enthusiastic about starting this team which has received tremendous support from the community. 

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Emanuel Lee
Sports Editor of the Hollister Free Lance, crazy for JC, health and workout fanatic.

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