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Mountain biking team overcomes bumps in the road

Last year, the mountain biking team failed to bring home the state race championship for the first time in three seasons, but this year it remains optimistic while looking to build the team for the future.

Dave Carbonell, who is in his third year advising the team and his first year as one of the head coaches, said he is excited for the upcoming season given the quality and experience of the returning team, although three of its top performing bikers from last year have graduated: Drake Murphy, Daniel Bernstein and Annika Weiss.

He also discussed the advantages that the loss at the state race has created for the team.

“I think that not getting first place is actually a pretty good lesson for the riders,” Carbonell said. “It is inspiration and motivation to work harder.”

The team’s experience at the state race last season will also help to shape its training for the season, according to Carbonell.

“You think about what went right in the previous season, what didn’t go right, and how to fix the things that weren’t ideal to improve for the next season,” he said. “I don’t see it as any failure. It is more for self improvement.”

Junior Phillip Platek pumps up his tires before a weekday practice at Phoenix Lake.
Junior Filip Platek pumps up his tires before a weekday practice at Phoenix Lake.

Senior team captain Harrison Jantze spoke about the importance of this season for the team’s future.

“While we may not win this year, I think that in the next couple of years we will start to get really strong again,” Jantze said.

Jantze said that this future is built around the current group of new riders and experienced riders like himself.

“Everyone else is growing around you,” he said. “Being able to help the new riders and the kids who are newer to the team is important.”

Junior Viveka Brockman talked about her experience trying to learn from the more experienced riders.

“When I was a freshman I got to ride with seniors and older riders who were faster than me, and I learned a lot from them,” she said.

Brockman also commented on the relatively small number of girls on the team, which can impact the team’s score.

In a race, the top eight finishers from a team score points, but two of these finishers must be girls in order to count.

“We used to have a lot of strong girls, but a lot of them graduated,” Brockman said. “This year we only have four girls on the whole team.”

The team also lost senior Kelsey Urban, one of its top female racers. Urban now attends Tamiscal and dedicates most of her time to mountain biking for the United States National team.

While expectations for the team at state may not be as high as they have been in the past, the team still believes they have the tools to put together a deep postseason run.

“It has to be the right conditions, riders have to be peaking in their training program, and no mechanical issues,” Carbonell said. “It all has to come together on race day.”

Another aspect of the team that has helped its development has been the commitment of some riders to continue mountain biking outside the team through private practices and coaching.

Brockman is one of these riders. She has been working with a private coach for the first time this year.

“It’s very different,” she said. “Rather than just riding for fun, now it is more training based.”

Brockman has only participated in one race so far this year, but she said that she has seen significant improvement in her results compared to last year.

“I get so much information from every ride that it is easy for me to see how I am improving,” she added.

Jantze, on the other hand, said that he only trains based on the training plan that the team puts out.

“You can be very competitive with [the team training plan],” Jantze said. “I have seen significant growth from the team training plan.”

Carbonell said that regardless of where the training plan comes from, consistent practice is what will make the difference in a rider’s performance .

“The more practice and time you put in on the bike, the more fit and skilled you are going to be as a rider,” he said.

The team has also created more rules to help improve in the future.

“We made the rules a little more strict this year. We were having some trouble with attendance, so this year we are being a lot more strict with that,” Jantze said. “Our goal is that over the next two or three years we will have a stronger team because we have stricter rules.”

Carbonell added that having a club team rather than being a part of a varsity sport gives the team certain advantages, such as not having to follow MCAL offseason practice rules.

“Because it is a club sport, our training can start a little earlier, so we have rides that start in December,” he said.

However, Carbonell also said that the expectations for their athletes are the same as any other sport.

The 32-rider team practices three times a week, usually going on two-to-three hour rides for endurance and working on skill-based drills to help riders with the mechanics of racing.

It will be practice and individual time put in that will make the difference in the team’s performance for the whole season, according to Carbonell.

“We have some super talented riders on our team and everybody works hard, so if everything works out, I absolutely think it is a possibility [to win state],” Carbonell said.

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Jason Fieber, Author