In the SoCal High School Cycling League season opener on Sunday, the GOLDEN KNIGHTS Mountain Bike Team proved they were prepared and were well represented with four podium award finishers, the team’s best finish ever at a SoCal League race.
Since December 1st, the GOLDEN KNIGHTS have trained hard for the season opener at Vail Lake, including a pre-season team building training camp at the venue two weeks ago. “Vail Lake is a very fast and technical course. I wanted to have a team building experience by doing a two-day camp at Vail Lake. In addition to the camaraderie, it turned out that the time spent on the course really helped our riders” said Coach Bird.
With sunny skies and a breezy wind, the day started off with the freshman and sophomore boys’ race. In a very fast two-lap freshman race, Austin Hamilton and Skyler Payne stayed with the leaders to earn 4th and 5th place podium finishes in what was their first ever mountain bike race. Rounding out a very deep freshman field of 38 riders was Philip Saulny earning a top-10 with a 9th place finish. Also gaining valuable race experience in their first ever races with strong finishes were Nathaniel Blakely in 14th, Remi Roth in 19th, and Nick Bedford in 24th.
The sophomore race was controlled by 4 strong riders battling back and forth, with St. Francis’s Daniel Balsam working his way up to a team best ever 2nd place finish. This was Daniel’s first race at the longer 3-lap distance, and he showed that he belonged. In his first-ever mountain bike race, Sophomore Will Towne finished in 27th, and battling a broken derailleur, Keenan Koch finished in 29th.
The most competitive race of the day turned out to be a slugfest in the JV category. After a fast start, 10 riders worked their way to the front and began an epic duel that lasted all 3-laps. Swapping positions 1 through 5, Sophomore Sean Bird ended the day with a very impressive 3rdplace finish. Not too far behind and rounding out the top-10 for the GOLDEN KNIGHTS was Scott Marshall with a 10th place finish. Showing true grit and determination was Senior Connor Haas who finished in 11th after passing 4 riders on his final lap. Rounding out the top-20 of a deep 38 rider field were Cameron Aubert in 19th and Carl Demolder in 20th. Michael Togneri showed great skills and improvement in a solid 23rd, with Matt Kubly in 26th, and Steven Ayoob in 28th. Matt Kubly earned the “tough charger” award for sticking out a tough race. After breaking his chain and losing more than 7 minutes in bike repairs and penalties, he still worked hard to keep battling back lost positions.
Only the 2nd and 3rd GOLDEN KNIGHTS to ever represent their school in the Varsity category were Seniors Christian Breitschwerdt and Matt Misetich. Both riders learned a lot and paced themselves well to manage the fast and long 4-lap race. Christian Breitschwerdt finished in 23rdand Matt Misetich finished in 24th out of a super-competitive field of 32 riders.
“Our team has always worked hard to not only compete, but to finish” said Coach Bird. “Today we had riders facing their first ever bike race, along with some serious mechanical problems and a few crashes. Yet, through all of this, our guys toughed it out and all 19 riders finished the race. That’s what I’m most proud of”.
The GOLDEN KNIGHTS are back to training for their next race In the SoCal League series in Yucaipa on March 11th.
The GOLDEN KNIGHTS mountain bike team are very grateful for the support that they have received from the school and administration, along with their sponsors: Design Imports, Hollandays, VCA Arden Animal Hospital, Merchants Building Maintenance, Bell Helmets, Mountain Pine Shutters, Strategic Law Partners, Nu-Hope, Kevin Martin/UBS, Stratz & Company, Financial Guaranty Insurance Brokers, City National Bank, and JoBesh International.