Race #2 | Rattlesnake Roundup

Hidden Valley Regional Park, Reno NV
September 9th, 2018

On the chilly Sunday morning of September 9th, Sparks, Nevada experienced the start of the second Nevada Interscholastic Cycling League (NICL) race of the 2018 season. The Rattlesnake Roundup, as the race was suitably re-named when the slithering reptiles made their appearance a few years back, brought almost 200 riders to participate in the event, with easily hundreds more speckling the desert to assist riders, cheer, and volunteer.

The team jerseys and smiles on the children’s faces throughout the day said it all. We have found our place!

For many riders, this is the first time they have had the opportunity to participate in any type of sport, and with the prevalence of scholastic mountain biking infiltrating every corner of the US, we’re bound to see the sport continue to grow at an immense rate. The team jerseys and smiles on the children’s faces throughout the day said it all. We have found our place! Inclusivity is one of the core principles of National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), and a united, inclusive organization is what the Nevada League has formed.

The extraordinarily unexpected thing about this race was the sense of community. Everyone from riders, to coaches, to parents and many volunteers came together to make the day a success. Complete awe in how much of a “real deal” every event is- with a large start line, school tents and jerseys, course marshals, cow bells, music, food, and of course bikes- is surely how every new-comer feels! “This is my second race ever, with the race a few weeks ago being my first, and I am amazed by this sport, the support for the teams and riders, the coaching and the organization of the events,” Leslie Amato stated as she gazed out to her boy Luke adjusting his bike with the help his coach.

Walking around every unique tent and visiting with the riders and spectators alike, I gained a strong sense that this sport is truly for everyone. Interscholastic mountain biking is undeniably the coolest sport, with the coolest, happiest, most supportive group of contributors. It distinguishes itself from traditional sports in so many ways, with the most apparent being that mountain biking is a sport that can ride with a participant for a lifetime. It has no age limit, it doesn’t end upon graduation, and older riders are more than happy to give time to support those upcoming partakers. Varsity girl’s leader Emma Herschbach from Galena felt the sentiment when she stated “The people here are always super supportive and super sweet- even the competitors. We’ve all become friends and I like it that way.”

Excitement was profound as the riders entered the staging area and prepared to compete. The chilly morning starts gave way to red faces and dripping wet bodies as one by one the riders pedal through an open air course. To say the demographics of the Rattlesnake Roundup is different than the previous forest laden skyline that brought relief of shade to the riders and spectators alike, is an understatement. There is no protection from the piercing heat of the sun’s rays, and the dry, hot desert that lies beneath. When asked how she felt about this race, JV leader Hayden McJunkin stated, “It was a fun race, but for me and most of these riders, we wish there were more trees in Reno. The single track had a few loose corners; I’m really looking forward to the Mammoth Race.”

As the course transfers from a blacktop, gravel laden start to dirt, only one word describes what it is like: dusty… Particles of fine dirt suspended and floating lifelessly through the hot air. As riders penetrate through the cloud of dirty fog, they emerge on the track coated in the powder. It doesn’t take long for space to be created between the strokes of competing pedals. The smiles that laced the faces of the riders prior to the countdown, have transformed into determined expressions. A stare engrossed with focus was cast upon the eyes of each competitor.

The day was not immune to crashes, injuries and pain. The middle school boys class felt the wrath of the course’s uneven terrain, sandy patches, rocky (and at times gravely) stents and slippery slopes as they turned the first sharp left corner up a short uphill. The leading riders missed the pack pile up by just a few pedals. Rider after rider toppled over, scrambling to get their feet back under them and bikes upright, with many riders having no choice than to revert to running their bikes up the hill to get past the mess.

Nevada League racer, Reno Huskie’s Freshman Maia Beaulieu was carried from the finish line (covered head to toe in dirt) to her tent by two moms. “My tires slipped out as I was at the bottom of the section that transgresses back and forth; then, I flattened out again when I locked handle bars with another rider near the end.” I was struck by admiration of the fact that this determined rider could not walk from the finish line to her team upon completing the battle without assistance, but that didn’t deter her from getting back on her bike after each crash and finishing the race- ending up in second place.

“I love to ride my bike and my strategy is the same – ride, pedal and don’t give up.” – Joshua Bodenstein (Alta Alpina)

And with that I realized, you fail not by falling and crashing in a race, but by staying down and refusing to fight to the finish. Middle school boys leader Joshua Bodenstein (Alta Alpina) may have stated the underlying theme of every competitor out there simply when asked what he loves about the sport and his strategy out on the course, he looked back toward the finish line and said, “I love to ride my bike and my strategy is the same – ride, pedal and don’t give up.” Strong body, strong mind and strong character.

Kimberly Bodenstein – Student Athlete Mom and Race Reporter

Complete event results of all the amazing athletes who participated in the “Roundup” can be found at https://my6.raceresult.com/107195/
Complete photo documentation of the event provided by student photographer Owen Swall can be found here – Race / Podium

For the Nevada League’s next race, we head high, high, high into the eastern Sierra to Mammoth, a favorite stop for all of our racers, coaches, and families.  Until then, check out the Interbike cycling events listed in the newsletter and happy trails!