The first time she crashed, 16-year-old Dominique Fenichell landed on a stone, bloodying her knees and bruising her elbow. The second time, dirt smeared across her almond-colored skin and clumps of earth stuck in her sun-streaked brown ponytail. Even when she stayed upright that afternoon, she labored. It was a hot, bright Colorado day at the Betasso Preserve west of Boulder. Lactic acid flooded her legs until they felt so heavy she almost stopped pedaling. The bike swayed unsteadily, and she breathed in raspy gulps. But she clung to the bar and used her last reserves of energy to keep riding.
Dominique had her reasons to keep going. She had promised herself that she’d at least finish the ride because coach Ben Boyer had personally invited her to try out the team. He hadn’t said try out for the Boulder High School team—back then tryouts weren’t necessary.
In Colorado in 2010, competitive high school mountain biking was a see-how-it-goes experiment. Some thought the sport was too specialized, too expensive to catch on. Others were wishfully calling it the most vibrant thing to happen to cycling since the advent of suspension forks. In that way, Dominique symbolized the freshly minted Colorado league: They were both wobbly and new, trying to find their legs, unsure where this was going. But if her state’s high school experiment flourished, advocates of the program hoped, other states might soon create similar leagues. Dominique didn’t know it at the time, but that hope fell on the shoulders of students like her. If this first-time mountain biker could stick it out, then maybe thousands of others would also get their chance.the original article from Bicycling.com, written by Tracy Ross