Leader’s jersey a perfect fit
A normal mountain bike racing path for Sarah Ely includes steep hills with lots of mud, sharp inclines, creek crossings sometimes a foot deep, assorted rocks and tree roots, logs and switchbacks – pretty much everything possible to make riding a mountain bike difficult.
None of the above, though, phases Ely, a sophomore on the Nevada Union Independent Mountain Bike Team, as she has proven to be a force to be reckoned with on the trails, winning every single NorCal League Junior Varsity race she has entered this spring and – most recently – took first place in her age division at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey over the weekend.
Perhaps the wins come because she is super competitive or because she excels in areas other riders can’t, like driving over logs, or because she is willing to take risks. Or, just maybe, it’s because she’s having the time of her life racing and can’t imagine having more fun in any other sport.
“The trails are different every time,” Ely said. “It’s not like volleyball for example where you are in the same little room, hitting the ball to the same spot. I just have fun mountain biking.”
Her races last anywhere 90 minutes to two hours, with the distance ranging from 20-30 miles. At most races, Ely lines up against 15 other racers. And in all five of her high school races this season she has crossed the finish line first.
Not once has another JV racer had the thrill of wearing the leader jersey. That jersey has been in Ely’s firm grasp the entire season.
“She really has a strong competitive attitude and is into attacking and winning,” Nevada Union Independent Mountain Bike Team coach Debra Little said. “The key is that she’s all lit up about mountain biking. She enjoys the thrill of it and just really loves it.”
This past summer Ely raced in the National Mountain Biking Finals in Mammoth and finished second in the 16-and-under beginner division. She also qualified to attend a national development camp for mountain bikers because of her performance at the Santa Cruz regional camp, for which she qualified for based on a strong performance at the NorCal Mountain Bike State Championships in May 2004.
Ely rides at least 12 hours a week with her team, often adding hours of personal training for her own benefit to those group hours.
“She’s really consistent and shows up for everything we have scheduled on our calendar,” Little said. “She follows the suggested workouts with persistence.”
Ely does not mind doing all of the base training miles, as she said it seems more like fun than work.
“Everyone should try mountain bike riding,” Ely said. “Don’t think we’re weird, because it’s so fun. If people try it, they will like it.”
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Grass Valley native Brad Sweet drove past the competition and into victory lane last week, snapping his longest winless streak of the season.