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Bainbridge Gear Grinders finish their first year on top
Putting the pedal to the cleat and kicking up dust, Bainbridge’s own mountain biking team proved to be tough competition during its initial year.
With the formation of the Bainbridge Gear Grinders, the high school team joined a small number of cycling teams emerging throughout the state who compete in mountain biking races.
The team, which is not affiliated with the high school, formed when coach Gordon Black noticed the success of the California high school mountain biking leagues. The fervor for the sport was spreading to Washington and he wanted the island to be a part of it.
“When I got news that they had set up in Washington, I went out and started doing some ground work to get a team going,” Black said.
It wasn’t long until he was able to link together a team of eight cyclists keen on hitting the trails, even in winter.
“We were very much riding in the rain and the mud,” Black said. “It definitely shows their commitment to the sport.”
Lydia Weyand was one such student.
Weyand has been in love with mountain biking all her life. Biking has always played a big part in family trips for years. At home, she would often take to a park or trail on her bike. So when a competitive mountain biking team began on Bainbridge, she jumped at the opportunity to join.
“Something sparked a deeper interest for me to start competing in mountain bike races,” Weyand said. “And I am excited to see where the sport will lead me.”
She has always been athletic and active, but cycling provided a more vigorous draw.
“The intensity and speed of mountain biking is really awesome for me so that’s why it is one of my favorite sports,” she said.
Competitive mountain biking takes cyclists through mountain and country trails, crossing over varied terrain from gravel, mud and even rivers. Many ride for mere pleasure, but others race.
Bikers keep track of lap times and points earned through different races; laps can range from three to five miles, and a race can run up to 10-25 accumulative miles.
This year, the inaugural Gear Grinders proved to be tough competition.
At the end of the 2012 state championships for the Washington High School Cycling League, held in late May at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, four Spartan Gear Grinders placed in the top five rankings for their division.
In all, eight Bainbridge cyclists placed in the competition.
Bainbridge’s own Weyand took home the state championship title for JV girls.
“I got second place in the state championship race at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but I had the most overall race points,” Weyand explained. “So I won the overall state championship.”
While cyclist don’t have to compete, Black was happy to see his cyclists eager to hit the trails against other teams.
“I had no expectations how well the team would do. I was happy they were excited to race, they were having a great time,” Black said. “They clearly showed an aptitude to master the skills of mountain biking.”
Winning riders at the state level became eligible to compete in the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-Country National Championships July 5-8 in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Weyand isn’t able to attend due to a scheduling conflict, but another rider who placed fourth in the freshman boys division, Soren Ferguson, will be representing Bainbridge Island at the national competition.
Black is already getting ready for the Grinder’s next year of riding. It takes a lot of work to organize a cycling team with little support.
“We’re totally self-funded at this moment through donations from parents and business support,” Black said. “It is very much a shoestring operation at this point.”
But it pays off in the end. The high school kids learn a unique sport that helps maintain their health.
Black likes to note how, unlike other sports, parents can join in with their kids when mountain biking.
The team also learns biking skills and contributes to their community. The team has even contributed to the maintenance of the island trails where they practice.
“We think this is a good way to teach the kids riding etiquette,” Black said.