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Mt. Tamalpais, February 25, 2023. Photo by Doug Diego.

March 2023 Newsletter

Coach's Note

I can't believe that it's already March and we've been riding for over 3 months. I’d like to start off by thanking my Team Captains: Edda, Odin, and Tobin.  We couldn’t do it without their help.  We asked them the following questions:

1. Name, grade, and which category you ride.
2. When you started riding and how long you've been on the team.
3. Your favorite trail/park to ride.
4. Your favorite post-ride snack.
5. Your best race memory.

Find out how they answered in the newsletter below.

This season has been a bit challenging with all the rain (and snow!).  We’ve had to cancel a few practices and the wet weather has limited where and what kind of terrain we can ride.  I’m hoping it will dry out soon and we can visit some of my favorite spots that have been too wet to ride.

On Feb 18th we had our first race in Modesto.  It’s a fun, flowy course that is great for first time racers, and we had several competing in their first-ever NICA race. The team came in 3rd place in the D1 division.  We’re looking forward to 2 more races in March. 

Doug Diego, Head Coach

Editor's Note

The month of February was full of weather surprises here in the Bay Area, and although getting enough practice days in has been tough, our section of NorCal MTB (Central and East Bay Region) was lucky to have a dry weekend and a race in Modesto on February, 18.

We were also lucky that our team was able to do a ride on Mt. Tam at the end of February post-winter storm, riding the snowy East Ridgecrest Blvd which was closed to cars, up to Middle Peak and the Visitor Center parking lot. Some of our riders rode from the snow to the sea!

If you have any suggestions for features in our newsletter, you can contact me through

Thank you for all you do for our mountain biking community.

Tracey Croom
Newsletter Editor

Race Report! Modesto

A great effort, in an exploding sport! 
The February race report, data-nerd edition!

By Joe Grondahl

On Saturday February 18, the ECHS Mountain Bike Racing Team competed in its first race of the season, in Modesto at Tuolumne River Regional Park.   It was the second time NICA hosted a race at the new park.  Our 23 riders were part of a field of 518 riders across the region.  ECHS came in 3rd place overall out of 9 D1 teams, behind Salinas (2nd) and Berkeley (1st).  

Like last year, we stayed in the nearby Holiday Inn for the night, where we had the team dinner and pre-race team meeting.  Several riders made use of the hot tub; parents and coaches got to know each other better.

The 5-mile loop was similar to last year's fast and twisting, mostly flat course out along the river and back, with a few modifications, including a short segment of pump track and a much improved approach to the final sprint. Despite the recent rains the turns were still loose causing almost half of the riders to take a spill during their race, but no injuries were sustained.  It was far less dusty and windy, but there was still a lot of coughing going on and we all came home very gritty.  Freshmen and Sophomores did 2 laps (10 miles), Junior Varsity 3 (15 miles), and Varsity 4 (20 miles). 

We have a large number of new riders this year, so for 9 of our 23 riders, this race was their first. Two of the 23 were our guest St Mary's independent riders, and 21 are from ECHS.  Everyone finished strong in their own way - the racers really rose to the challenge and brought their best game.  ALL of the first time racers finished, and most met or exceeded their expectations.  Several returning riders placed highly or stood on the podium, and many reported having 'the best race they have ever ridden'.  My personal favorite 'finishing strong' story was Max, who heroically ran the final 100m sprint carrying his bike after his 3rd frustrating mechanical.  Wow!  

The final results for the ECHS riders in D1 were as follows: Freshman girls: Rex Russell 19th (in a field of 25). Freshman boys: Mateo Warmerdam 4th, Matteo Diaco 19th (in a field of 43). Sophomore girls: Gabbie Walmsley 11, Meredith Duff 17, Delia Robinson 21, and Iris Greiner 26 (in a field of 30). Sophomore boys: Daniel Gansmiller 2, Jaq Chin 8, Lucas Amaral-Knowles 28 (in a field of 40). JV Girls: Edda Grondahl 2, Annika Borys 7, Priscila Bravo-Santos 45 (in a field of 55). JV boys: Yoann Perrodin 1, Jack O'Neal 2, Felix Bloemraad 34, Jalen Epps 38, Blake Christner 49 (in a field of 82). Varsity boys: Chris Hill 7, Theo Borys 13, Tobin Power 19, Joaquin Chun 32 (in a field of 33). Our St. Mary's independent riders had the following results in D2: John Groff 27 (in a field of 66 Freshman Boys) and Max Sladkus 26 (in a field of 86 JV Boys).

All of these results are impressive enough on their own, but I want to nerd out for a moment to highlight JUST HOW IMPRESSIVE these accomplishments really were.  We all know that in general, mountain biking as a sport has exploded in the past few years.  For us specifically, that means the number of riders we are competing against is ballooning!  So, the returning riders need to understand that they did even better than they thought they did. 

Look at the numbers below, and consider for example our racers Jaq Chin (10th), Felix Bloemraad (34th), Annika Borys (7th), and Gabbie Walmsley (11th) for a moment.  

So Jaq improved from last year from 9th to 8th - so he might think he's just standing still - except that his field size went from 24 to 40!  This is really an equivalent rise of 15ish slots or so!  Felix went from 18 to 34 but his field size went from 31 to 82 -  he also rose the equivalent of 15ish slots!  Annika went from 3/22, to 7/55 - which means she held exactly even despite not feeling well.  And Gabbie went from 15/22 to 11/30 - not a jump of 3, but an equivalent jump of 10ish slots.  The same is true for nearly all of our returning riders - you held your own or even improved when factoring in the increased competition.  And the team held their own, despite everyone else getting larger while we did not.

So, great work everyone!  Looking forward to what the rest of the season holds. Our next race will be on March 4 in Exchequer Mountain Bike park in La Grange.  Expect a great time at our first camping weekend!

Rider Story - Gabbie Walmsley - Modesto

When I looked at the race schedule this year, I was glad to see that we would be racing at Modesto first. Last year, it was last, and the day had been an adventure, from the scorching heat to the wind and dust. While the course had been fun and fast, it was not the most pleasant day. This year’s earlier visit to the venue would hopefully mean good weather, and if we were lucky, less wind. 

The week before the race, call-ups were released. I saw that I was ranked as eleventh and was in call-up group A. This both gave me confidence and nerves, especially since any new riders were not ranked. That whole week leading up to it, I could not stop thinking about the race. I began over-analyzing who I could beat and who I would have to race alongside. Every time I thought about the race I felt this surge of adrenaline and anxiety. I looked at the people ranked ahead and behind me. I was expecting Kalu from Berkeley to beat me, and probably by a lot. However, Ruby, another one of my friends on the Berkeley team, worried me. Last year, I’d beat her by a lot every race, but she rode almost every day over the summer, and good rides too, with solid elevation gain and mileage. I had only just returned to the team as basketball season had just ended. She had put way more time in than I had. My time trial was still faster, but that still didn’t qualm my fears. It was still close enough to be a threat. 

It was a similar situation with some of my teammates in the same category, who had even closer time trials. I was worried about them, because they had been riding and doing spin class for a couple months now. They had made a lot of progress and were doing really well, which is great (YALL ARE KILLING IT OUT THERE!!), but I was also scared of them. The only thing I had on them was race experience and having ridden the course more, and maybe a little bit of speed. However, being ranked eleventh also gave me some confidence. I recognized riders from last year and I thought I had a decent shot at still beating the people who had been ranked lower. I also knew, and hoped, that most of the new riders from other teams probably wouldn’t be as fast. Of course, there would be some outliers, but I would have to deal with that. I spent the entire week before the race thinking about what my plan was as well as overthinking every rider around the same speed as me. 

Finally, after much anticipation, my mom and I were driving up to the race. I didn’t go to school because I knew it would not be worth it. We left a little earlier, but we ended up getting stuck in a lot of traffic at some point. We eventually arrived at the race venue. I was still a little early, and I was the first one there from our team, but some of my teammates arrived shortly. Yoann and I looked for our assigned team PitZone area, and were excited to discover that it was right next to the NorCal league tents and the start chute. After more people arrived, Meredith, Edda, and I went to the GrIT tent to look for the rumored free stuff. I didn’t get anything, but it was still a nice gesture from NorCal. 

The pre-ride began a little late, but it worked out fine. The course was the same as last year, with a few very minor changes. I was startled by the train’s horn (or honk, like a car??? I’m blanking on what it is called) and I made a mental note about that, so if I heard it during the race, I wouldn’t be startled. After the pre-ride, a group of us went back to the berm-y section at the beginning to get some extra practice in. 

Then it was time to go to the hotel. When my mom and I arrived, we brought everything upstairs, including my bike, which was a welcome adventure to fit in the elevator with all the suitcases. It was especially hard because after a certain amount of time, the elevator would just close, even if someone was standing in the way, which usually can be prevented. My mom and I actually ended up getting separated for a minute because the elevator just kept closing even though she was standing there, and she had to quickly jump back. That was interesting. Anyway, we eventually got everything up into our room, and I decided to take a quick shower before dinner. However, the water pressure was so low that it took awhile to wash my hair, and I was a little bit late to dinner. 

By the time I was dressed and got downstairs, almost all the food had been eaten. We were supposed to have another few boxes on the way, but they were still a good fifteen minutes out. I was super hungry, and luckily, Annika had an extra meatball she didn’t want, and there were a few breadsticks left to hold me over. When the second set of food arrived, I got some more meatballs and was fine. We all washed our dishes (Even Yoann, which was a pleasant surprise) and then the team meeting started. We talked about our goals. I set the goal to finish in the top ten, as I was ranked eleventh, and to beat my time from last year and therefore have a higher average speed. 

The team meeting finished around 8:30pm, leaving us around thirty minutes to mess around in the pool. I didn’t bring my swimsuit as I planned to shower before the team meeting. I had a great time goofing off and talking with my friends in the pool though. I sat on the chair thing that can be lowered into the pool. Eventually, I got cold and rolled up my jeans and dipped my feet in. We were having a great time, perhaps too great of a time, because at 9:00pm, no one wanted to get out. It was only after much urging from Edda (team captain) and myself that they got out around 9:20pm. I headed to bed. 

The next morning, I woke up at 5:45am. I knew that it would take me fifteen minutes to even convince myself to get up, and then from there, I could get ready pretty quickly. I pulled on my race gear and packed all my stuff, and was almost ready at 6:45am, the only things I needed to do being eat breakfast and put everything into the car. However, my mom had some unexpected health issues, which I won’t go into, but delayed our leaving time by a lot. We couldn’t leave until around 7:45am. While she was dealing with that, I loaded our stuff into the car. I had to wait a little longer for her to finish what she needed to do, and then we were ready to head out. I still hadn’t had breakfast, so on the way out, I grabbed a warm cinnamon roll, which was delicious. 

I arrived at the race venue at 8:00am. I don’t remember much between arrival and my race warm up, but I did cheer on the varsity boys through their laps with friends. I also went on the course a bit early to do a few laps around the turn-y and berm-y section with a group of people. 

As I began warming up, I could feel my anxiety increase. I didn’t have the strongest warm up and I didn’t feel very strong. I didn’t feel like I could truly push my body as strong as I would need to, especially since I wanted to have a sprint finish where I would totally gas myself, regardless if I was around people. In no time at all, we were lining up and the announcer was counting down. I started my Garmin and we were off. 

The first lap was stressful. I wanted to work my way up and build a lead for a bit, and maybe find someone to draft. I was going ~80% the whole time, and I was worried I would burn myself out. Meredith passed me a little over halfway through the lap, and I decided that I would keep pace with her and another girl who was near us. However, we began encroaching on the back of the JV Girls pack. Meredith and the other girl managed to pass a couple of riders who weren’t going super fast, but when I went for the pass attempt, we hit the two-way section of the trail. There were riders on the other side, and I lost a bit of time having to go a bit slower than my ideal pace since I couldn’t pass. Meredith and the other girl continued to build their lead and passed with seeming ease, while I got stuck behind some JV Girls a couple more times. I finished the lap surprisingly feeling pretty good.

The second lap was more interesting. I kept up my ~80% pace and effort, and had more fun through the beginning section as I had more space to go faster and ride the berms. Near the beginning of the Feed Zone, I saw Meredith off her bike and on the ground. I yelled to ask if she was alright, but I couldn’t hear her answer. I didn’t stop at the Feed Zone, but I saw Ally and some coaches and let them know. Later I found out that the person in front of Meredith crashed and that both of them were fine. Further into the lap, I noticed that I kept hearing people cheering for Ruby. I figured she was close behind me. I was worried because I hadn’t heard that before, but I must’ve dropped her at some point, because I ended up finishing minutes ahead. 

Towards the end of the lap, I began assessing where I wanted to, in my mind, “kick it.” In cross country I always set the goal of having a max-effort sprint finish, and I wanted that to be the same for mountain biking. After one of the last turns, which was a steep uphill and immediate downhill, I did. Using my speed from the downhill, I shifted up, hearing the familiar twang of my chain moving up the cassette. My cadence increased, only slowing for a moment when there was a short uphill. And then the finish line was in sight. Two girls were nearing the final chute, and at that moment I decided I would beat them. At this point I didn’t know if they were JV racers or sophomores, so for all I knew, they were about to take two places away. I realized too late that they were on the same side I had gone on, and were taking up much of the trail. I would have to make a narrow pass in between the finish line chute barrier and one of the girl’s handlebars to pass them. I went for it, and passed them with not too much difficulty. It looked worse than it was. I ended up beating them, but I looked later, and they were JV Girls. Still, it felt good to have competition near the finish line. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this race. I came in 11th, which was my call-up. Unfortunately, no top ten for me, but I did beat my time from last year by six minutes, which was nice. While this course is admittedly flat, it is still fun, and the trails are well made. The rest of the day was spent meandering and sometimes riding around to cheer on my teammates. I had lots of fun and I am super glad we did this venue first this year, because it was a blast.

Team Captain Spotlight: Edda Grondahl

I’m Edda Grondahl and I’m a sophomore riding in JV girls this year. I started mountain biking around age 10, and this is my second year on the high school team. My favorite park to ride in is Tamarancho, especially the flow trail! My favorite post ride snack is usually chocolate milk or a granola bar. My favorite on-bike race memory was in the championship race last year, where I crossed the finish line together with my teammate and longtime friend Annika after sticking together in the race, and off-bike I loved cheering with the team from trees and with trombones and cowbells at Six Sigma last year!

Team Captain Spotlight: Odin Simms

Hello, my name is Odin Simms, I'm one of your team captains, and I’ve been on the team for all four years of high school. I joined the team after my baseball career ended, and I'm so glad that I did. Some of my favorite memories are from racing and riding with the team, and I really hope that you all have as much fun training and racing as I do. I’m a senior racing Varsity this year and I look forward to seeing you all compete and hearing your race stories. The thought of going away to college has been in the back of my mind all season, and it's made me so grateful for our local trail system, so I hope that you can all appreciate where we get to ride as much as I do. My favorite part about cycling is the simple fact that everyone gets to compete, unlike in other competitive team sports like baseball or football. In cycling no one gets benched. This is by far my favorite aspect of the sport, and I like the stress free environment that it cultivates. I’m excited to get to know you all better, and hope you have successful races. Make sure you all follow me on Strava.  

Team Captain Spotlight: Tobin Power

I am Tobin Power, senior Varsity rider. I began my mountain biking journey in freshman year, joining the team with little to no riding experience. My four years on the team have been a blessing, and I’ve improved and discovered so much. My favorite trail is Solstice in Marin, and my favorite place to ride is Teague Hill in Woodside. My go-to post-ride munchies are canned tuna in extra-virgin olive oil, and a plentiful serving of chocolate milk. My favorite memory from every race is running around the race course, cheering for all my teammates, and enjoying chili and chocolate milk, all after a hard race effort. 

Upcoming Events - March

March 4th - NorCal Race #2: Exchequer Bike Park in La Grange, CA
March 26th - NorCal Race #3: Fort Ord in Monterey, CA

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.

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.

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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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