The SoCal High School Cycling League at Vail Lake

In the brief time I have been at the venue this warm, sunny Sunday there has been a continuous ringing of cowbells, at once up close, and then further away. It is a sound that, in this sport, has become synonymous with good times. It is shocking to admit it but, this is my first time to a league race, and I am absolutely floored by the breadth of the experience that I see unfolding around me.

packed in at the start of the Varsity and Junior Varsity Boys' races

It is fairly late in the morning and I know the first wave of races - the Freshmen and Sophomore Boys - will be nearly over if the days' champions have not already crossed the finish line. Even so, I scrabble up a nearby knoll for a little over-view of things, the big picture, before I start to take photos of all the individual parts. A few racers, finishing up their last lap, stream past. Others come up the hill, already finished or, maybe Middle School students still here after their race on Saturday, and we talk about the race and the course. They shout encouragements to the racers for a strong finish, it is just down hill now. And then it is done, the course is quiet, just a steady drone from the massive team area down below. 

All of a sudden a great roar rises from out of the canyon bottom. It is the kind of sound that could only have been made by the pride of parents and siblings, of teammates giving a send off to the next wave of racers. The crescendo rolls up canyon ahead of the charging field of, first Varsity, followed at five minute intervals by JV, Sophomore, and finally Freshmen Girls. The sound is like an invisible tide; it carries no weight, yet it does. There is an undeniable force to it. Several minutes of relative peace reigns until the tide returns, growing with proximity until is smashes against the base of the knoll upon which I stand. Yet again, the racers are carried along with the sound, propelling them up this second canyon. One difference is clearly evident, the large cohesive group that started the race is now shattered to small bits. The unrelenting pace of the leaders, the challenge of the course itself will continue to exact a toll. Glory to the winners, sure, but you can't tell me that there isn't a lot of pride in accomplishment, of accepting the challenge and finishing, no matter how far back one may finish. 

What is the High School Cycling League? The best people to answer that question, are not the spectators, or the organizers, or the army of volunteers. The best people to answer that question are, of course, the student athletes themselves. But, I do have a few observations on the topic. High School Cycling may be camping out for a weekend, forming and cementing friendships around campfires and cookstoves. High School Cycling is cheering everyone out on the lonely backside of the course irregardless of the school name printed on their jersey because you know they are putting their all into the effort. High School Cycling is yelling "you got this, you got this. Breath hard" as you pass a competitor on that damnable final steep climb, even though you are almost as devoid of breath as he is. High School Cycling is the pride of parents watching their children compete. High School Cycling is hearing for the thousandth time "why didn't they have anything like this when I was in school?", yet knowing that the person saying it is infinitely thankful that this thing called the SoCal High School Cycling League does indeed exist now.

Coming at the tight end of a momentum robbing S-turn, I am sure this dust-choked steep has many names in the lore of the racer, many of them probably best left to the imagination. I dubbed it "no surrender", for though it may have forced many riders off their bikes, I never saw a hint of surrender in any passing pair of eyes.

wait till you see who emerges from that cloud of dust...

'awesome' may be overused, but so be it. does anything say "i've been mountain bike racing"
quite like coming home covered in dust and sweat?

This may have been my first time to a League race, but I guarantee it will not be the last. Congratulations to all involved. Alright, so here is the link to the Flickr album; everything that is going to be there is there. The selection for this one is 224 photos, much larger than normal - there just happened to be a lot going on.

As usual, if you see a photo you like feel free to download it (credit where credit due, of course). I took more photos than those that will eventually make it into the album, so if you don't see what, or who, you were looking for there, let me know with a race number and I will see what I can find.

Want more? Go ahead and order your own copy of the CLR Effect racing annual. There are two editions available right now (2013 and 2014), and you can preview them by clicking the 2014 Seasons in the Sun Book Preview button near the top of the right hand column, or under the title banner at the top of the page.