High school cyclists in Roseville have pedals and mettle
Jim Winne positions himself near the death trap of the course: the sand pit. Most riders see their tire rotation stop dead in their tracks, their bikes twisting out of control.
Many riders tumble and are forced to walk their bikes through the trap. The gung-ho, stronger kids just quit while they’re ahead, pick up their bikes and run right through it.
But Winne, the head coach of the Woodcreek Cycling Team, is there to make sure his riders stay on their seats through it all. He coaches his riders through the pit, making sure their legs pump vigorously to conquer the cycling nightmare.
“My coaching philosophy is pretty much two-fold,” Winne said. “We have an obligation to get kids excited about cycling, get them into sports and get them outside; get them into the fitness and good nutrition lifestyle. The second portion is that we have a group of kids that are elite-level athletes. We give them the tools they need to succeed and be highly competitive in cycling.”
The club started in the fall of 2006, making this the seventh full year of Timberwolf cycling. Woodcreek has almost doubled the size of its team to 26 this season, bumping up from Division II to Division I, and it races in the NorCal High School Cycling League, a chapter of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. They are entirely self-funded.
“Kids love riding bikes,” Winne said, adding that recruiting athletes on campus is pretty easy. “We find kids who are endurance athletes and enjoy the outdoors. We don’t have any problem recruiting kids. They usually find us.”
More than 30 teams competed Sunday in the Granite Bay Challenge, a NorCal season opener at Folsom Lake. The popular trails created a treacherous path. Tight pathways curled all over steep hills with just a single strip of roadway connecting mountainous terrain. The sand pit was like a booby trap.
Granite Bay also was present, led by coach Wes Murer. Another self-funded team, the Grizzlies are in their first season of competition. Murer began assembling the team last March. Woodcreek and Granite Bay train at Folsom Lake.
“This course is indicative of mountain biking,” Murer said. “You never know what it’s going to be. We ride out here every week, but just by changing your start-finish line here, it can make the course look completely different. That’s mountain biking in general.”
Races were divided into varsity, junior varsity, sophomore and freshman heats. The sophomore boys had two heats, and Woodcreek had a great showing in the first with Austin Wolfe placing second and Trevor Johnson finishing fourth.
“I kind of heard about mountain biking in the eighth grade,” Johnson said. “At first, I was against doing it because they were all wearing spandex. But then I came out and tried it, and I loved it.”
Varsity cyclist Tess Wenning of Woodcreek finished ninth and enjoyed racing on the home course.
“It was really fun,” Wenning said. “It was my home course, so I was used to it.”