A great mountain bike race ended in protest Sunday during the Colorado High School Cycling League’s varsity girls state championship event.
South Conference champion Ruth Holcomb, a sophomore from Durango High School, and North Conference champion Ada Urist, a junior from Boulder’s Fairview High School, were in a group of four that included Boulder junior Madigan Munro and Green Mountain Composite sophomore Sofia Forney at the front of Sunday’s race at Durango Mesa Park.
Holcomb made a move going through the underpass at the halfway mark of the third-and-final lap, and she briefly took the lead as the two conference champions exchanged attacks. When the riders came to the finish line, though, it was Urist and Munro who sprinted to the finish with Holcomb a few hundred yards behind. Urist won the sprint and claimed the 21-mile state championship race in 1 hour, 33 minutes, 46.76 seconds, while Munro was second only 0.16 seconds behind. Holcomb rolled through in fourth in 1:34:00.72, but she quickly got off her bike, spoke with the Durango Devo coaches and made her way to the race director’s tent to file a formal protest.
Holcomb attempted to make a late pass going into the final flat, but Urist blocked her move. The two riders touched handlebars, and Holcomb got the worse of the exchange. She didn’t crash, but she lost position and was out of the hunt for a state title. After a lengthy review that included written and verbal statements as well as a meeting with both riders, race officials deemed that the result would stand and Urist would keep the state title and Holcomb’s fourth-place finish would hold up.
“So, apparently, they said it is my fault because I didn’t complete the pass,” Holcomb said after she was informed of the ruling. “I’m pretty bummed. I felt really strong for most of the race. We were a good pack. It’s kind of a bummer for me that it came down to that moment.
“There were three of us in a pack, and I was going to pass that lead girl on the right, and I gave her fair amount of room. I was passing, and she kind of started veering toward me. Our bars clipped, and I kind of got knocked, and then the other two girls passed me.”
Urist said everyone made a challenge during the final descent.
“That last lap was crazy,” she said. “Everybody was going for it. We all had the same strategy it seemed like, and it came down to who could do it best. Right until the end, everyone was trying to pass on super sketchy corners. It was crazy.
“Right at the end, just as we started the last flat part, (Holcomb) tried to pass me, and we clipped handlebars, and she didn’t crash, but she dropped back and just couldn’t hold on from there.”
Holcomb scored 547 points for the Durango team and helped send DHS to its second consecutive Division 2 state championship. Durango scored 4,846 points during the weekend and went into Sunday with a 1,500-point lead that only grew after sophomore Aleah Austin completed a season sweep in her division with a state championship ride of her own.
Animas High was second with 4,233 points, and Highlander Composite was third with 4,034 points. Boulder won Division 1 with 7,479 points, while Fairview High was second with 6,913 points. Golden was third with 6,426 points.
Holcomb, who was the junior varsity champion last year while her teammate Maddie Jo Robbins won the varsity state title, said there are no hard feelings about the race incident, but she will be excited to have Robbins back on the team next year to give her a teammate to work with. Robbins missed this year’s high school season after she had surgery on her left wrist to repair a broken bone that she raced with during the USA Cycling national championships and UCI Mountain Bike World Championships this season.
“I’m definitely looking forward to having a teammate,” Holcomb said. “It was hard today with two Boulder girls working together. I had to get between them and make them work to work together. It will be nice to have my own fast teammate to work with. No hard feelings about today, it was a great race. But, obviously, I’ll be out to get her.”
In the 53-girl varsity race, Animas High’s Sage Davis gave a valiant effort and led the race through one lap. The junior went on to finish eighth in 1:38:18.98. Her Ospreys teammate Ce Compton was 31st in 1:45:36.05, and Animas’ Sadie Schafer was 40th in 1:50:11.86.
In the sophomore girls race, there was no controversy in Austin’s 14-second win ahead of Battle Mountain’s Harley Blevins. Austin finished two laps of the course in 1:07:34.47 to complete her season sweep with wins in all five races. Austin and Blevins worked together at the front, with Blevins leading on the southern loop and Austin leading the charge on the northern loop.
“We kept doing that until the end when I passed her,” Austin said. “I had never raced the northern girls, so that was a new element today, and then since I had won all the other races, the pressure was really on.”
The 57 sophomore girls were the first racers off Sunday morning. Durango’s Kelsey Nicholson finished seventh in 1:11:16.43, and Durango’s Emerald Murray was 35th in 1:21:59.59.
While afternoon riders dealt with heat, the morning racers dealt with a fall chill. After she heated up, there was no slowing Austin.
“This was such a fun race with everyone supporting each other and cheering for each other,” she said. “It was a cool thing to watch all weekend and great to be part of.
“Having a race in Durango was really cool. We got to sleep in our own beds, have a warm breakfast and not worry about packing up a tent. Everyone I talked to really liked Durango and wants to consider coming here for college and coming back here for state again. I’m really excited to host again next year.”