Nevada Onions cycling for success |

Nevada Onions cycling for success

It would be easy to think of mountain biking as an individual sport. To the Nevada Onions – a team comprised of Nevada Union High School students – it is much more than that.

When the Onions travel to a Northern California High School Mountain Bike League event, they go to compete as a team.

“We help each other out. That’s what means the most ” said Dan Talbott, a sophomore at Nevada Union. “Everyone does their best to contribute points toward the team. If you’re working hard to earn team points, then generally, you’re going to come out on top.”

The Nevada riders are accustomed to being on top, having won four team championships in their five previous seasons of existence. Now, with a roster of 30 riders split almost evenly between freshmen and returning veterans, they’re cycling for more.

“This year is a rebuilding year,” junior Ty Zwick said. “But we’re working hard. We have to get back our trophy.”

The Onions have a solid nucleus of veterans back from last year. The list includes Travis Mills, the team’s lone senior; Sarah Ely, a junior who is unbeaten so far this season; Colin Raynor, as well as twin brothers Josh and Evan Smith.

Weather has definitely been a factor so far. The Bogg’s Mountain event north of Calistoga scheduled for Sunday has already been canceled due to winter conditions, yet the Onions are building for their final races on April 23 at Angels Camp and then the league championships on April 30 at the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area.

The Onions finished fourth in the Division I team standings last Sunday at the South Bay Invitational – trailing Bay Area rivals Sir Francis Drake (San Anselmo), Redwood (Larkspur) and Berkeley.

There were some individual highlights in races held at Joseph D. Grant County Park in Santa Clara County. It was the first true hilly race of the season, a mix of single track and fire trails that suits the Onions, who train in the foothills – and they took advantage.

Nicole Teichmann, competing in only her second race, earned a fourth-place medal in the JV girls race and Zwick placed sixth in the JV boys race. Talbott placed ninth in the sophomore boys race and Davina Cruz placed ninth in the frosh-soph girls race.

Then there was Ely, who remained unbeaten by winning the varsity girls race by three minutes. Ely finished as the league’s JV champion last year and has been a gold medalist in each race this season – also winning by four minutes at the Central Coast Invitational at Fort Ord on March 5, then by nine minutes at the MTB Challenge held at Folsom Lake on March 12.

“She is so smooth,” Onions director/coach Debra Little said. “People say it looks like she isn’t trying hard; she just makes it look easy.”

Ely’s introduction to mountain bikes wasn’t very easy.

“I used to ride road bikes and my first reaction when I saw one of these, it was like, ‘This weighs a ton,'” she said. “I was slower than tar my first race, but I’m doing so much better now.”

So is Zwick, who has come far since he first took up the sport, and he has a nickname to prove it.

“I would have never made this team if there had been tryouts. I crashed on every team ride we did. … That’s how I got my nickname, Sketch,” he said, flashing a wide grin.

Zwick has consistently logged top-10 finishes in the JV division this season.

“I like it because you’re always reaching for a higher goal,” Zwick said. “It’s a tough sport, both mentally and physically. There is a lot of mental preparation, too. Even two to three days prior, you’re in a race mode because you have to be thinking about proper diet and making sure you take in enough water (to stay hydrated for a one- to two-hour race).”

And – aside from the snow and rain that has fallen in March – is there a better place to train than Nevada County?

“Where we are is probably the best place to train,” Talbott said. “I love riding here. We’ll go out on a 40-mile ride that takes six hours. It’s so tough, by the end of six hours, you’re begging to get home, but then when you get to a race, two hours doesn’t seem like much.”

Thanks to support from the community, the Onions are able to compete in the Northern California league, and even get in some good training during the winter months.

“The South Yuba Club is very generous; every year they support us by letting us use their spinning facilities, which we use three days a week during the winter,” Little said. “We would not be able to do this without them.

“It’s takes a lot of us giving our time to make it work for the kids,” she added. “There’s equipment, travel expenses, race fees, and we get a lot of support from the community and we have a strong group of parents. The support is great and it keeps getting better and better.”


To contact Dave Price, e-mail or call 477-4240.


March 26 results

Varsity boys

16, Sebastian Pierer 1:337:29

Varsity girls

1, Sarah Ely 1:18:03

J.V. boys

6, Ty Zwick 1:05:43

12, Evan Smith 1:09:07

13, Josh Smith 1:09:08

26, Lyle Wilson 1:19:30

J.V. girls

4, Nicole Teichmann 1:01:05

Sophomore boys

9, Brian Talbott 1:10:17

31, Colin Raynor 1:19:03

Frosh-soph girls

9, Davina Cruz 1:02:22

Freshman boys

5, Nate Byrom 44:58

15, Buddy Newman 49:36

16, Greg Hermansen 49:43

23, Dakota Blankenship 51:04

24, Peter DeMartini 52:13

27, Cory Emmett 52:57

28, Lawrence Saiyo 53:27

33, Chris Hepp 54:07

36, Trevor Thomassen 54:55

For information on the Northern California High School Mountain Bike League, go online to

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