Biking to State

Danica Wehr on her experience mountain biking at the Durango state championship


Courtesy of Danica Wehr

At the Durango state championships there were a total of 79 teams and 817 racers.

Eighty girls are all lined up at the start. Forced to sit with their nerves. All that is left is the sound of their heartbeats. It has to be some kind of torture. Thirty seconds are left and paper masks are shoved into pockets. Ten seconds left and the clicking sound of shoes being shoved into pedals fills the air. Five… four… three… two… one… GO! All of that practice, falling, getting back up again, pushing to the limit and then some, all of that training, all of that adrenaline catches them in that moment. The crown disappears. Nothing matters, it is just a girl and her bike. 

On October 23rd and 24th, the Colorado High School Mountain Bike League hosted state championships in Durango. It was a two-day race event for only the fastest kids in the state. On Saturday, freshman and juniors raced. Then on Sunday, sophomores and varsity. 

Conifer’s team had been to state championships in the past and I had already been to three races this year (Leadville, Snowmass, and Eagle), but I don’t remember any race I’ve ever been to being as big and intimidating as this one. What would have been my first year racing was canceled due to COVID-19. Honestly, I’m grateful for it sometimes. I don’t think I was ready to race last year. 

I think the biggest reason I felt prepared for state (Is anyone ever really prepared though?) were my coaches. They all believed in me. They helped me achieve my goal of standing on the podium. A couple of the coaches gave me a mantra to say: “just keep spinning.” It really helped, I repeated it over and over again in my head during the whole race. 

Students from Conifer who made it to Durango were senior Camille Deranleau, senior Ben Yenter, junior Alex Miller, junior Sawyer Gneiser, Sophomore Oscar Yann, Sophomore Tyler Swearengin, sophomore Luke Harnish, sophomore Hattie Carpenter, sophomore Danica Wehr, freshman Maddox Force, freshman Ryan Shaw, and freshman Luke Pesce. (Danica Wehr)

The race course seemed fun and easy during the pre-ride, but it’s never the same in a race. Every little uphill took a bit of my soul. I remember halfway through my second lap, me, fifth place, and fourth place at the time were biking next to each other. We were gaining on the girl who was in third place. Me and fourth place looked at each other and I said, “F*!k, this hurts.” She responded, “Yeah, how ’bout we catch up to her?” We both looked to third place. Then started spinning as fast as we could. 

We did end up catching and passing third place. All three of us passed the finish line within seconds of each other. I feel the only reason we pushed so hard was because we were together. 

I knew I was going to stand on that podium to represent not only my team but myself and other sophomore girls. I didn’t really care what place I got. I had stopped caring about getting first a long time ago. At state I got 5th. The girls I race are tough as nails, we know how to suffer. They are also the sweetest people I’ve ever met. I feel like we bonded, and for the rest of our high school racing careers we will be there supporting each other.