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Mountain bike racing forms a bond for Mickel family

Colfax freshman Nathan Barton wins race at Folsom Lake
By: Trevor Horn / Special to the Journal
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Results do not matter to Max Mickel. It is the time spent with his family and friends that have become the driving factor in the Placer High School sophomore's time on a mountain bike.

Competing in the NorCal High School Cycling League Race No. 3 at Folsom Lake on Sunday for the Placer Foothills Composite Race Team, Mickel was all smiles before and after competing in the largest high school mountain bike race in the country.

"I think it is an amazing experience to be at one of these events," Mickel said. "I have never been at an event like this. There are so many kids and they are super good."

Nearly 700 boys and girls from Monterey to the northern-most parts of the state competed in what NorCal executive director Vanessa Hauswald stated is the largest high school mountain bike competition.

"We have about 700 kids out on the course," Hausewald said. "It is a big day in cycling history for high school sports and cycling in general."

The local team is called a composite because a team needs at least six students from one high school to be accredited.

The Placer Foothill team consists of six student-athletes from Bear River, Colfax and Woodcreek high schools and home-schooled students.

Mickel's dad, Jared, is the coach and hopes that the sport will take off in the local area and the local high schools will soon field teams.

"We are looking to get momentum going by pulling in junior high kids," he said. "We will try to make mountain bike racing a legitimate high school sport where you can letter."

Colfax freshman Nathan Barton finished in first place out of 52 racers in the Division II race with a time of 52 minutes, 21 seconds.

The freshman complete two laps of the nearly six-mile course set up at Folsom Lake.

Home-schooled local resident Logan Hollmer finished in seventh place in the DII sophomore boys race with a time of 1:25.12 and Zachary Hopping finished in eighth place.

Max Mickel came in 42nd place in what Hausewald said was the largest single-race ever in high school mountain biking history.

More important than winning was the chance to connect closer with his family and create new friendships in racing.

"(Mountain biking) has definitely brought me and my dad closer together," Mickel said. "We have had a lot of fun just mountain biking together as a family."

Said dad, Jared, of his new found time with his son: "I get to out and ride with my kids and that’s good enough for me."

Both dad and son credit the sport for bringing them together, and Hausewald said in the 3 1/2 years with NorCal, she has seen a growing number of parents finding as much love with the sport as well as their children competing.

"We have so many moms and dads getting back on their bikes because their kids are motivated and passionate about it," Hausewald said. "So they are getting more fit and healthy. It really does feel like a family event out here."

The National Interscholastic Cycling Associate now has nine governing leagues in eight states across the country.

Placer Foothill will next compete in NorCal race No. 4 at Laguna Seca raceway in Monterey on April 6.