By Bill Tamburrino
The Cycle Dawgs finished their second season with a trip to Los Olivas, Calif. for the California State High School Mountain Bike championships and left with the first state championship in their two-year history in the sport.
Kyle Skeen won the state championship in the Division II junior varsity race by 25 seconds.
Skeen, who qualified for the race by winning the Southern California championship on points during the season of racing, squared off against Northern California’s Daniel Hall of the Spartan Racing Team. The two racers threw dust at one another for the first two three-mile laps of the race as they separated themselves from the field.
Skeen pulled away in the final lap for the win.
“Hall and I were battling for the whole race,” said Skeen. “I was able to get him on the last climb and just sprinted the rest of the way. It was awesome. I would like to thank my parents (Paul and Mary Skeen), my teammates, Coach Grace and Cynergy Cycles.”
The race was shortened from 12 miles to 9 miles due to the extreme heat.
“Several riders had to be treated for dehydration. The only breeze was created by the riders,” said Coach Robert Grace. “Kyle is so self-motivated and always goes the extra miles and does extra training. He has a great attitude. He is a gracious winner and always exhibits great sportsmanship. He just wore down the competition and pulled away for a 25-second victory. Most races are never won by more than 2 seconds.”
Kyle takes his racing seriously but always has a smile on his face when he talks about mountain biking. He goes to all of the race sites a day early to scout the course with his dad. He has a bike that cost $3,600.
“I worked last summer to earn the bike,” he said. “My parents support me all the way. We go the races and either camp out or stay in a hotel.”
Kyle practices with his teammates and coach on Tuesdays during the season and then works on his own the other days of the week.
“It gets down to conditioning and your mental attitude,” he said. “You have to keep telling yourself that you can keep going. That is the mental part of racing.
“Spread the word. Our team and sport is a lot of fun and Coach Grace makes it more fun with his sense of humor. But he pushes us to do our best at all times.”
A club sport, Cycle Dawgs gets no budget from the athletic department. The group holds fundraisers, and Grace volunteers as coach.
Skeen is a relative newcomer to the sport. He started racing when he was in eighth grade. He and his teammate and friend, Garrett Gaither, started together and say they have been on every hill and trail in Ramona.