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Max Johnson of Cortez High Desert wins varsity bike race

Colorado High School Cycling League kicks off season
Max Johnson of the High Desert Composite stands on top of the podium after winning the varsity boys race on Sunday in Leadville. Durango sophomore Chase Connors, left, also reached the podium in fourth. (Courtesy Najib Johnson)

The Colorado High School Cycling League kicked off its season over the weekend with races in Leadville and Frisco.

Durango High School, Animas High School and Cortez’s High Desert Composite all raced in Leadville with the Piedra league, and the teams scored a few gold medals while Durango won the Division 2 team title. High Desert finished 11th in D2 while Animas finished second in D3 behind Leadville.

Emmett McManus and Betty Holcomb both won races for Durango, Max Johnson scored a title for High Desert while several other bikers reached the podium with top-five finishes.

“We had some really strong results,” said Durango DEVO’s Levi Kurlander. “We just started last week so we’re just getting rolling, but the team is looking strong”

Johnson won the varsity boys race, completing three laps in 1 hour, 40 minutes and 25 seconds to finish first over a minute before the runner-up, Ashton Lockhart of Chatfield. Durango sophomore Chase Connors also reached the varsity podium, placing fourth in 1:44:47.

“That’s an impressive result; (Chase) is one of the youngest (varsity) riders,” Kurlander said. “It will be nice to see how he does now with a better starting position.”

Liam Bezek of DHS finished eighth in the varsity race in 1:47:17. Brayden Harms of Animas crossed 10th in 1:52:35 while Jacob Huber of DHS finished 20th after getting pulled before the final lap.

Betty Holcomb, meanwhile, won the freshman girls race for DHS, crossing first by over four minutes in 1:07:39. Teammates Tilia Clausen finished third, in a faster time than the sophomore girls’ winner, in 1:12:23 and Ellie Shaw finished fourth in 1:15:56.

McManus won the junior varsity boys race for Durango in 55:28 while Kai Lokey finished third (56:40) and Chase Groom crossed seventh (1:01:29).

In the varsity girls race, Riley Huston of Durango finished third in 2:09:00 behind Hayden Bevington of Salida (2:02:19) and Rose Horning of Leadville (2:00:52). Unfortunately for Julia Glotfelty of Animas and the rest of the varsity girls field, they were pulled after the second lap to keep the day’s events on schedule.

“I think it came down to poor planning,” Kurlander said. “It was really unfortunate for those girls.”

In the freshman boys race, Jake Sandau finished fourth for Animas in 1:06:09.

In the sophomore boys race, Quentin DeLuca led Durango in sixth (1:06:13) while Dylan Timmerman finished three seconds later in seventh and Cedar Bremner placed 10th (1:06:54).

In the JV girls race Sophie Eschallier of High Desert crossed ninth in 1:28:25 to lead the local contingent.

Durango didn’t have any freshman boys or sophomore girls compete.

Durango is back in division 2 this season after bumping up to division 1 last year. “I think it’s just the natural flux of things,” Kurlander said, noting last year’s team had both large groups of freshman and seniors who graduated.

After hosting the state championships in 2019 and 2021, the finale will be held this year in Glenwood Springs.

“We were hoping to keep the race here longer,” Kurlander said, noting that Eagle hosted the state championships for seven years before Durango.

The Piedra League will race Sept. 11 in Eagle, Sept. 24 in Snowmass and then Oct. 9 in Nathrop before the state championships Oct. 22-23.

“We’re looking forward to a good season and I think the kids are stoked,” Kurlander said. “Hopefully we can take home the D2 title for DHS.”