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Draper Journal

Juan Diego mountain biking club ‘keeps on pedaling’

Oct 04, 2018 12:39PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Juan Diego riders Adriana Rizzuto (JV), Ethan Drage (freshman), Jacob Whitehead (JV), Ethan Atzet (freshman), Garrett Doyle (freshman) and Connor Doyle (JV), along with Grady Lambert, who rides for JV, but is not pictured, make up the seven-member mountain biking club. (Photo/Jesse Shurtleff)

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

Juan Diego Catholic High School mountain biking coach Robert “Berta” Steele has been heading up the program the past three years. Even when his daughter Zoe began riding with the Alta High club, he continued to lead the team because he “couldn’t see it go by the wayside.”

Currently, the team has seven riders — Ethan Atzet, Connor Doyle, Garrett Doyle, Ethan Drage, Grady Lambert, Adriana Rizzuto and Jacob Whitehead — and are ranked seventh of 12 D2 teams in the Central Region.

Junior varsity captain Connor Doyle is among the top racers in the JV D2 division while Atzet has been consistently in the top 10 in the freshman D2 division.

“We have fast kids, we have kids that have never raced, we have kids that struggle and those that aren’t your typical athlete,” Steele said. “But, these kids have practiced three days a week all summer and it’s hot and hard and they are doing well.”

So far this year, Connor Doyle, who was in the top 10 at state last season in his first year on the team, finished third in the JV D2 division at Solider Hollow Aug. 25. 

“My teammates and coaches are pushing me to keep working hard,” Connor Doyle said. “This team is really awesome and we are all supportive of each other.”

Whitehead started the Soldier Hollow race and realized very quickly that his bike was broken. The junior struggled through the event, making repairs with his chain multiple times as he went along. He finished 30th.

“My suspension was broken and I was really slow,” Whitehead said. “I had to just race the race, give it my best and give it all that I had.” The only girl on the squad, Rizzuto, came in 48th in her first race.

At Snowbasin Sept. 1, Connor Doyle placed fifth in JV D2 with Whitehead (21st) and Lambert (56th) also placing in the race. Atzet, a freshman, finished fourth in the freshman D1 category. 

“I came into this without a ton of experience riding and there has been a ton of support from my dad, ride leaders, teammates and coaches,” Atzet said, crediting particularly his dad who helps him with specific ride plans after riding courses and helps him strategize for each race.

Freshman Garrett Doyle also placed 25th in the freshman event while Rizzuto took 39th in the JV girls event at Snowbasin.

At Vernal Sept. 15, Connor Doyle placed eighth during a rough race for Juan Diego with hot and windy conditions.  

Whitehead finished 30th after crashing and Lambert was unable to finish due to a sinus infection.

Juan Diego will also compete Sept. 29 at High Star Ranch in Kamas before the Utah State High School Championships in St. George Oct. 19-20.

Steele, who retired from law enforcement after 20 years, said he is doing what he wants to do in trying to give kids a place to belong. “We don’t have tryouts, no one gets cut and no one sits on the bench,” he said. “Plus, this is the only high school sport you can do with your kid (referring to parents who assist as ride leaders).”

The mountain biking club was founded by Whitehead and Zoe Steele three years ago and it has been slowly evolving. Last year, the team had three members and this year the team more than doubled in size with seven riders.

Steele employs a tough philosophy to help his riders improve. “I’m gonna ask you to do nothing but hard things,” he said. “But, your fitness level will exponentially go straight up and you will get faster.”

Steeele is assisted by team director Michael Doyle and ride leaders John Atzet, Jeff Darby, Michael Doyle, Brian Drage, Chris Lambert, Krew Summers, John Whitehead, Jennifer Whitehead and Amanda Wirth-Drage.

“Coach Berta is a great coach,” Whitehead said. “He’s a great coach and we’re lucky to have him.”

Steele said the team is always looking for more riders and sponsors to help the team grow and thrive. Go-Ride in Draper has been a significant help and “awesome sponsor” for the team, according to Steele, and he also credits Draper Mayor Troy Walker for his involvement and efforts on the upkeep and development of trails in the city.

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