The central Idaho mountains provide some of the most challenging, diverse and accessible biking areas in the country. It’s no wonder the area churns out some of the country’s best bikers.
It’s also not surprising that many of the Valley’s youth are catching the biking bug and excelling. We caught up with three exceptional young bikers who are pushing their skills to compete on the regional and national levels.
When talking to Luma Randolph about mountain biking, it’s hard to track the number of times she says the word “fun.” Or perhaps that’s simply Randolph talking about life in general. This bright-eyed, blond, 18-year-old is a leader on the Wood River Mountain Bike Team. She not only achieves results that drive others, she naturally revels, inspires, and excels in making every day fun, on and off the podium.
Randolph and her younger sister, Lola, have the genes to be standout athletes. Their mother, Cameron King, was a world champion triathlete and their father, Greg Randolph, raced in the 1996 Olympic Games alongside Lance Armstrong. As parents, the two professional bike racers intentionally provided open and enthusiastic support to whatever their daughters were passionate about.
“We’ve let the girls try any and every activity and sport that they’ve wanted to,” said King. “Even though we never pushed Luma to go in the direction of biking, growing up with us riding bikes and being active and outdoors, somewhere along the way the seed got planted.”
“I’ve done everything you can imagine,” Randolph exulted. “But I always seem to come back to biking. I love the camaraderie of it. The family rides, and rides with friends are a great way to get outside, burn off energy and stay fit.”
At the USA Mountain Bike Nationals last year, where Randolph finished eighth in short track; she crossed the finish line only three seconds behind the fifth place winner. As far as general riding and competitions go, Randolph does it all: short track, enduro, downhill—you name it. She rides rain or shine, alone or with a team, and trains on the trails, on the bike path and in the gym throughout the year.
Joel Zellers, the director of the Wood River Mountain Bike Team, described Randolph as one of the “most coachable athletes” he has ever worked with. “Luma is an exceptional biker with a gifted sense of her surroundings as they relate to the bike. She has the ability to push herself through exhaustion and pain, which allows her to compete at a high level.
“Luma fully understands that cycling is a lifestyle that rejuvenates the soul, and it is not entirely about the race. She is more than willing to redline every race, but she knows that some days she will win and celebrate, and other days she will not. On those days, she celebrates the win of another racer. This approach to sport is what separates her from many riders—the willingness to be a teammate and friend even when she is not on the podium. That’s rare.”
This fall, Randolph is off to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. She will join their mountain bike team, which is recognized as the best in the country, and work toward a degree in environmental studies or graphic design. Whatever she does and wherever she goes, there is no doubt it is going to be fun.
“This year, I’m taking over the single-track races in Hailey and hosting them,” said 14-year-old Anja Jensen. Jensen is a freshman at Wood River High School, and, since the training wheels were off, she has been racing on a bike.
Power House restaurant’s Billy Olson started those community bike races in Hailey over a decade ago. For short track, the mountain bike event in which riders take multiple laps on a shorter course, he included a kids race. “We as a family attended and competed in Billy’s races religiously,” said Liv Jensen, Anja’s mother.
“Those races sparked my love of biking,” Jensen noted, which is why, when the primary organizer was stepping down, Jensen stepped in. “It wasn’t going to happen anymore and, for high school, you have to do a personal project in something you love, so I figured why not do this.”
Jensen grew up doing Sun Valley Road and Dirt Summer Mountain Bike Camps and Rebecca Rusch’s Girls on Wheels program. She won the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) Idaho State Championship and continues to stand out in races. Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation cross-country ski coach Ashley McQueen Knox recounted, “I remember watching Anja as a much younger rider at the Wood River short track and knowing our time was limited before she would be showing all of us women how it was done! She is strong, powerful, and confident on her bike (and skis).”
On top of being a bike racer, Jensen is also a top scholar and cross-country skier. In skiing this year, she won eighth in the sprint race at the Junior Nationals, earning an All-American honor. “Nordic practice has a lot of strength (training) and helps me a lot with my biking. In the summer, I mix Nordic training and endurance by going out for high-intensity rides,” Jensen said.
Both mom and coach Joel Zellers both recognize Jensen’s quiet determination in everything she does. Helping and pushing others on her team, Jensen always participates in group rides, despite, in the words of Zeller, being “in a class by herself on the bike.”
“I think her biggest accomplishment is balancing all the elements of her life,” said Liv Jensen, noting that her daughter is still just 14. “This is a huge challenge for kids these days. Life is complicated for them. There are pressures to do it all, and, at the same time, there are also pressures to completely focus on one thing. Anja does a great job keeping it all in perspective, choosing what is really important to her, and going for it.”
One look at Zane Lyon’s engaging, big eyes, and you know this kid goes hard and fast.
Lyon made his first appearance in biking in 2011 when he was 8 years old and raced in the July 4 criterium in Hailey. That year, Ketchum hosted the Mountain Bike Nationals, and Lyon, sparked by what he saw, set out to compete when the Nationals returned to Ketchum the following year.
By age 13, Lyon captured third place in his age category at Nationals, which were hosted in Mammoth, Calif., in 2016. Working to take another podium finish at Nationals this year, Lyon trains four days a week based on his Boise-based coach’s plan. He travels to compete in races on most weekends.
“I like that mountain biking is so fast paced,” said Lyon. “It’s fun and you get to go into the mountains—you can go anywhere you want if there’s a trail. Biking is different from a team sport; it’s just you competing against you, and it’s fun to push yourself.”
Sun Valley is world-renowned in the bike community for its scenic “flow” trails. Jeff Lyon, Zane’s dad and one of his son’s riding partners, highly values the unique experiences of raising a family in the Wood River Valley. “Zane was leading a ride at Fisher Creek a few summers ago and came around a corner and nearly ran into a black bear,” Jeff recounted. “Both were a bit startled but went in opposite directions. In general, biking has been a great experience for Zane to really get out in the mountains around our Valley and see so much wildlife, flowers, vistas and the solitude of our mountains.”
While he plays hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the spring, Lyon focuses his biking competitions on cross-country. Cross-country mountain biking varies based on terrain. It can include single-track, gravel, dirt and paved roads, and large mud puddles and other obstacles. This summer, Lyon will begin to race enduro, an event in which bikers ride to the top of a downhill course, then speed down to the finish.
The best part of biking for any kid or adult may be that, on and off the race course, the sport requires a focus and provides an atmosphere to unplug. Jeff Lyon described that special opportunity on the trails with family: “Biking is a time when we can all spend time together, away from all the distractions.”
It appears that Lyon, just another bright-eyed kid, will continue to enjoy that “unplugging” experience in the mountains as a way of life. What a way to grow up.
More 360˚ Kids : An All-Valley Team
The Wood River Bike Team was launched in 2015. Based on community meetings, the team was created to include students of all the Valley’s schools. The team trains, travels, and races in NICA events in Idaho. Currently, the team has 24 volunteer coaches and 40 riders.