Area riders Tom Foxx, Steffen Andersen, Maddie Ortenblad also win divisions

After a season of battling for first, it came down to a sprint to the finish line.

Santa Cruz’s Jacob Albrecht went into the NorCal High School Mountain Biking League’s championship fighting to narrow an 18-point gap between himself and season standings leader Bryan Duke of Salinas. Oddly enough, the way the new league champ accomplished that feat involved some teamwork with Duke.

“On the last lap, me and Bryan Duke pulled away on the last climb, and we worked a little together on the flats just to pull away from everyone,” Albrecht, a Santa Cruz Composite rider, said of the boys varsity race that took place Sunday at Stafford Lake County Park in Novato.

Then came the sprint to the finish.  After completing five laps for about total 26.5 miles, Albrecht had recorded a time of 1 hour, 41 minutes, 51 seconds — a win by just two seconds to become the first-ever league champ out of Santa Cruz.

“I wasn’t feeling too great at the start, but I felt better and better throughout the race,” Albrecht said. “And I tried to push it on the climbs.”

Pushing it paid off in a big way. With his win, came a boost of 550 points and that was enough to slide him past defending champion Duke [1:41:53] in the standings, which are based on points from the best four of five races. Both Albrecht and Duke were also awarded 25 bonus points, which are given to riders who participate in all the season’s events.

Marin’s Taylor Smith placed third overall [2,152] and Santa Cruz independent rider Tobin Ortenblad, the defending state champion who won at Mike’s Bike Cat’s Classic on Saturday, placed fifth [2,067]. Neither Smith nor Ortenblad participated in all five competitions, so their points included only those from the four races they did ride in — with no throwaway score.

In non-varsity races, area winners Sunday were Tom Foxx [Santa Cruz Composite] in the sophomore boys Division 2 race [1:08:26], Steffen Andersen [Aptos High] in the frosh boys Division 2 race [47:38]. Both won their division titles, as did Maddie Ortenblad in the frosh girls division.

Foxx and Andersen each lost only one race this season, both finishing with 2,025 points. Maddie Ortenblad won one race and never placed worse than fourth, finishing with 1,966 points.

Santa Cruz Composite placed ninth in the team standings [7,915 points] for Division 2. The Spartans High School Mountain Bike Composite won the division with 10,148 points, and Sir Francis Drake High School won Division 1 [19,224].

As for other Santa Cruz County-based teams, the newly formed Santa Cruz Mountains Composite placed 14th [6,862] and Aptos High School placed 15th [6,194] in Division 2, and Georgiana Bruce Kirby Prep placed 12th in Division 1 [15,011].

Although the NorCal season has come to a close, the state championship is fast approaching. It’s scheduled for Los Olivos on May 20. Riders must qualify to participate. For more information, please see the NorCal league’s website.

— Christina Gullickson, on Twitter @CGullTweets

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post did not make clear that both Albrecht and Duke received the 25-point bonus for competing in all NorCal races this season. This version has been updated to reflect that they did. Also, it has now been noted that Smith and Ortenblad had no throwaway scores.