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December, 2021 Newsletter

I am excited to kick off another season with the El Cerrito High School Mountain Biking team. This season we have 31 riders. Eleven of them are new to the team and 20 of them are returning. Several of them are new to mountain biking.

This season we'll be practicing 4 days a week. During the week, we'll be local.  On the weekends we plan to travel to some of our favorite spots around the Bay. 

The league has 5 races planned for us:

February 26th - Exchequer Bike Park in La Grange, CA
March 20th - Fort Ord in Monterey, CA
April 9th - Tuolumne River Trail in Modesto, CA
May 1st - Six Sigma Ranch in Lower Lake, CA
May 21st - Boggs Demo Forest in Cobb, CA

Thanks to all the coaches who make this possible.  And thanks to all the sponsors who help support us.  We couldn't do this without your help!

Doug Diego, Head Coach

Preseason Adventures at the
Sea Otter Classic

In October of 2021 many members of our ECHS MTB community attended the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, CA. The Sea Otter Classic is known as a "celebration of cycling" and hosts amateur and professional cyclists of all spokes, from road racing to cross country to downhill and even recreational riding events. We are so proud of our riders who participated in events and volunteered on the course. The following testimonies illustrate the enthusiasm and joy our team members got out of participating at the Sea Otter.

Odin Simms

Sea Otter is one of the biggest and most important annual mountain bike events. I was very excited to be able to attend this event for the first time, mostly due to the amount of big brands and famous riders that would be in attendance, and the new technology I would be able to see. That was not the only reason I would be attending though because I was taking part in my first road circuit race, and the cross country race. I left school early on Thursday to be able to get to the iconic venue, Laguna Seca Raceway. The circuit race took place on Friday morning, and I was unsure what to expect. Having never ridden in a real peloton before, I felt like a fish out of water as soon as the race got under way. I made it to the top of the first climb with the peloton, and then immediately got dropped on the descent. I was terrified of hitting someone’s wheel, so I was too focused on not crashing, and not focused enough on going fast. I rode the rest of the race trading pulls with the junior woman who won her category. I finished in 11th place, but finishing the race was enough of an accomplishment in itself because in circuit races they pull people off of the track if they are too far behind the peloton. I ended up going way harder than I was planning because I didn't want to get pulled off. This meant that I had to focus on recovering before my cross country race. 
The XC race was on Sunday morning. I pre-rode the course with the team on Saturday, so I was feeling good going into the actual race. The course was relatively mellow until the end, which ended on a fire road climb that I was not looking forward to. On the day of the race, I got a terrible start due to a massive crash that happened right in front of me. The riders crashed, so I was forced to swerve far away from the lead group and lose my rhythm. This meant that I was already close to last place only seconds into the race. Being that Sea Otter is a very competitive event, any errors can mess up the rest of your race. This was not the main issue with my race though, because I cramped on the fire road right at the end of the race. I was forced to pedal with one leg for about 5 minutes on the fire road. I would be more upset about my results, but I really only attended the event for the experience of being around that much mountain bike culture in one place. overall I had a great time racing and being around such a broad community of cyclists. 

Edda Grondahl

Sea Otter was a great experience for me! I had a lot of fun and it was nice to meet more people on the team before the season officially started. I found it interesting to ride on trails that I was unfamiliar with and learn how to compensate for the lack of traction the sandy terrain provides. I got third in the 13-14 XC race that was meant to be 14 miles long but ended up being around 18 miles when I rode it due to poor course markings but I still enjoyed racing. Sea Otter was overall a fantastic experience and I'm looking forward to going back next year!

Yoann Perrodin

Sea Otter, a mountain biking event that I had been looking forward to for so long. In the spring of 2020 I was super excited to go to the Sea Otter for the first time but sadly it was cancelled due to COVID. This made me look forward to the next Sea Otter even more. It was finally organized for the beginning of October 2021 after 2 years of not happening. Knowing how much this event meant to me made me want to have a good race result there, so Jack and I followed one of Nate English’s intense training plans for the month prior.

    As we got to the event at the Laguna Seca race track it was amazing to drive over the hill and see all of these mountain bikers from all over the world scattered across the dried out hills in the middle of nowhere. On the first full day that we were there we had fun exploring the booths and seeing all of the new and interesting products that the companies were showing. We then went to pre-ride the race-course with the high school team. It felt like a pretty long course at about twenty miles long. Soon the day came to an end and it was time to rest as tomorrow morning was race day.

    Race day, the day I had been waiting for since early 2020 and here I was, more than a year and a half later. All my training and bike maintenance had led to this very day. I started warming up hoping to get about 30 minutes of warm up but about 20 minutes in I realized that everyone was already lining up on the start line, 10 minutes before the race! At this point I was forced to go and line up myself if I didn't want to start at the very back. By the time I got to the start line I realized that I was pretty much in the last row behind what looked like 100 other riders.(please don't make this mistake yourself) At this point i couldn't really do anything about it so i just focused and set a goal to catch up to the front riders before entering into the singletrack. As the race started it was a mess, riders bumping into me, others unable to get on their bikes as they were stuck behind others. I was now just sitting in a big clump of cyclists as I watched the leading riders get further and further away from me. Once I was able to actually ride I sprinted as hard as I possibly could for about the first minute of the race. I was passing on the sand next to the race track and constantly passing more and more riders. I soon found myself in the top five riders after a grueling effort. So here I was, in the lead like I wanted but already really tired from the effort I had just done. 

    We got off the paved race track and entered into the single track. By now I was leading as we descended down the rock garden and into a punchy climb. I tried my best to recover from the race start, and I slowly did. I had found myself in a great position as I led the first small downhill. The downhill brought us back on the race track where one of the race volunteers thought we were the kids racing the 3 miles race so they told me to go left. I was really confused as right seemed a lot more logical for the course we were doing. This felt wrong so I turned around and told the volunteer that we were racing the 20 mile course. I was now really frustrated and the riders who were behind me had gone the right way and probably gotten a 30 second gap on me. I was now forced to make a really hard effort to catch up to them. After a really difficult effort I caught up to them just in time and took the lead as the paved track turned back into a single track.

    We were now deep into the hills of Fort Ord as I kept the lead trying to pace my effort as well as i could. We were constantly passing riders from previous race starts before us. On every punchy climb I pushed hard to try and drop the rider behind me but he seemed to hold on pretty close behind me. After about 35 minutes I saw him slowly drop back as I kept on pushing hard. Soon I had made it to the beginning of a fairly technical downhill. I tried to stay very concentrated on the terrain and also remember that I had no dropper post on my bike. I went fast on all the downhills hoping to make the gap with the other riders bigger. After what felt like an endless fire road I got to this intersection where another rider came out of nowhere, he just turned onto the race track from a totally different trail. This heavily confused me and the guy was from the same category as me which meant that one of us went the wrong way at some point. Anyway after passing him I approached the last downhill of the course before the long fireroad climb back to the finish. I tried to stay focused on the trail as I was going very fast and did not want to end my race here.

    I had now made it on the last fireroad ride climb, making sure I held a very steady pace to hold for the next few miles to the finish. I then made a very stupid mistake as I lost focus and went towards the longer course for the pros. I quickly realized I was going the wrong way so I instantly turned around and found out that my mistake let the guy who came out of nowhere catch back up to me. I was now on the last climb and it was going to be a very hard battle with the other guy to the finish. He stayed on my wheel as I pushed as hard as I could knowing the distance left. As the climb went on, I very slowly created a gap with this guy and it just got longer and longer. The more we went up I started to know that I was going to win this race. Trying not to get too excited I kept pushing as hard as I could and soon found myself back on the Laguna Seca race track. All I had left was half of the track until the finish. The more I pedaled the more I got excited as I knew how close I was to winning this race that I had been looking forward to for so long. This was it, my hour and twenty minute long effort had paid off as I crossed the finish line.

More Preseason Fun at the Tahoe Trails 100K

with Will Diego

This summer, after hearing so much talk about it, I decided to do the Tahoe Trails 100k race. The race was two loops around the resort Northstar, totaling 62 miles, with 8,000 feet of elevation gain. The start of the race was chaotic with hundreds of cyclists all squished together. Up the initial climb I wiggled my way through the hundreds of other cyclists, trying to get to a point where I was not completely crowded. The moment the race switched from road to trails was horrible, all those cyclists in front of me shot dust into the air causing the visibility to drop and sticking to my sweaty face. For reference it was worse than any foggy night ride I’ve done. After a few hours I was just riding by myself, enjoying the fun trails and only passing someone every few minutes (rather than a few every minute). After 3 hours my chain was super squeaky from all the dust, I could even feel some crunching, so I stopped at one of the aid stations and got my chain lubed. Finally, I reached the final hill, my legs were completely dead, and I only kept moving because I so badly wanted to be done. Going down the final hill I had so little strength that I found it difficult to push down the lever for my dropper, so I had to reach over and use my right hand to actually push down the lever. I was so tired at this point that I decided to just roll every jump because I could imagine how miserable it would be to DNF on the final downhill, less than a mile away from the finish. There was no sprint finish, I simply just rolled through the finish line, rolled over to my mom and just collapsed in the group from exhaustion. My legs were so tired that I couldn’t even walk over to the water fill up station to get some more water. At the end, since the race had so much dust, I had a defined unibrow.

Climate Ride, Death Valley

Parents in the community have been out doing some interesting things too! In November, John Sladkus rode in the Death Valley Climate ride. He shared with us the following:
     "Last month I had the opportunity to ride my third Climate Ride, in Death Valley. Climate Ride is a nonprofit organization that organizes life-changing charitable biking, running, and hiking events to raise awareness and support sustainability, active transportation, and environmental causes. Two years ago, Max joined me on their four-day Central Coast trip from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo when he was thirteen. He was the youngest rider by ten years, and for me it was a father/son trip I will never forget. We raised over $6,000.  
     This year, I rode with 20 riders all over Death Valley, a road riders paradise.  There were epic 15 mile climbs and descents  with the smoothest paved roads you can imagine. Our longest 75 mile day covered over 10,000 feet of climbing.  The people, food, and support were all top notch.  If you or anyone you know are interested check out and/or reach out to me at   Yes- you can do good in the world and have a great time doing it!"

How to Get Involved

Become a coach
Without coaches, our team could not exist. NICA coaches are role models and teachers who are open to learning the best practices of youth mountain bike coaching and actively work to hone their leadership skills on and off the bike. Learn More:

Become a sponsor
Consider sponsoring the ECHS Mountain Bike Team! Sponsors partner with our team to provide much-needed financial support. Our team receives no funding from the school. In exchange for your support, our team will make every effort to support and acknowledge your business. Your sponsorship will help increase the visibility and awareness of your business amongst our team and the NorCal league community, while helping to contribute to the success of our student riders. For more info on how to join our community of sponsors go to

Donate your bike or gear
Donations to the ECHS Mountain Biking Team are always accepted and always appreciated. Please click on the PayPal link below to send payment with a credit card or your personal PayPal account. You may also make checks payable to Friends of ECHS Mountain Biking Club, Mailing address: c/o Dennis Cody, Sponsorship/Fundraising, 2721 Del Monte Ave., El Cerrito, CA, 94530

All donations and contributions are tax deductible for income tax purposes. We are a sponsored group of the El Cerrito Student Activity Fund, 501 (c) (3) Tax ID #911935426.

For more info on donations go to

Thanks to our Sponsors

Copyright © 2021 ECHS MTB Racing Team, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
ECHS MTB Racing Team
540 Ashbury Ave,
El Cerrito, CA 94530

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ECHS MTB · 540 Ashbury Ave · El Cerrito, CA 94530-3221 · USA

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