CYCLING: Impressive turnout, fun environment highlight first ever Union Hill Invitational Mountain Bike Race |

CYCLING: Impressive turnout, fun environment highlight first ever Union Hill Invitational Mountain Bike Race

About 70 young cyclists representing 11 different schools came together for the first ever Union Hill Invitational Mountain Bike Race held Tuesday in Grass Valley.

“One of the most impressive things from the race was the vibe,” said event organizer Chris Thibodeau. “Whether you were spectating or racing, it was just a really fun environment. Everybody was smiling, everybody had a good time, everybody was really excited about mountain biking. We received a lot of positive feedback.”

Thibodeau, who runs the Union Hill Mountain Bike Club along with Scott Mertz, said the event was in part to gauge the sports potential locally at the junior high level.

“We’ve been saying for a long time, this just needs to happen. We need to hold a race, and see if there is potential to gain momentum and become more of a thing,” said Thibodeau, who teaches math and science at Union Hill. “Junior high and middle school mountain biking has been tried in the past with pretty good support, but it would always kind of fall through because there was never the structure at school sites,” Thibodeau said. “The biggest thing that has changed is there are so many schools now that have clubs. That structure is finally in place, so when we decided to put on a race, there were clubs and people at school sites willing to spread the word and bring their riders.”

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The event featured riders competing across three different categories on a 1-mile course located off Osborne Hill Road, near Union Hill Elementary School. Advanced racers traversed the course three times, intermediate racers took two laps and beginners went around once.

Winning the boys advanced class was Union Hill’s Lance Carlo. Taking second was Brock Pickett (7-Hills) and third went to Stanley Mack (Union Hill).

Claiming the top prize in the girls advanced class was Kaya Russell of Grass Valley Charter. Placing second was Anna Miles (Colfax Elementary).

In the girls intermediate class, 7-Hills’ Chloe Thompson took first. Amelia Parker-Barrett (7-Hills) was second, and Roka Telford (Grass Valley Charter) was third.

Owen McGiver of Union Hill was first in the boys intermediate class. In second was Azurite Hill (Nevada City School of the Arts), and third place went to Jack Kendrick (Grass Valley Charter).

In the boys beginner class, Union Hill’s Harley Alexander earned first place. Chris Oestreich (7-Hills) was second, and Johnny Linblom (Chicago Park) as third.

In the girls beginner class it was Yarrow Telford of Grass Valley Charter taking the top spot on the podium. Audri Nelson (Union Hill) came in second, and Anamarie Johnson (Union Hill) was third.

Thibodeau said he hopes the event sparks more interest in the sport and more opportunities for young riders.

“I think the need is there. I think that was determined yesterday, that there is definitely a need for something like this,” said Thibodeau, who is a former National Champion mountain bike racer who competed professionally for 6 years. “The hope is to establish this as a school sport with a designated sports season to provide some options for the kids to be able to race. And, hopefully the next step for some of them would be to move on to the high school mountain biking team.”

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email or call 530-477-4232.

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