POWDER MOUNTAIN — There's a fierce group of riders that tackles the Utah mountains almost daily. And that biking community is growing, especially at the high school level.
This year, a record 3,000 student-athletes signed up and 20 percent are sporting braids and ponytails.
On Sept. 16 and in a sea of boys and bikes for race day at Powder Mountain, there were plenty of girls with grit.
"It's so different than any other sport," said Corner Canyon rider Kendall Pogue.
Lone Peak rider Bailey Nielson said, "Your legs are burning, your lungs hurt, and it's just awesome."
Corner Canyon rider Lauren Fenton said, "It's a lot harder than it seems."
"You're having fun in the outdoors," said Corner Canyon rider Kendyl Nelson. And Lone Peak rider Hadley Peay said, "I love it. It's what makes me happy."
These happy and fierce girls make up nearly a fifth of the Utah High School Cycling League riders.
"It's just something different. I think it's really a fresh new thing for these kids," said Corner Canyon Coach Whitney Pogue.
Most of these girls started in other sports, dancing or gymnastics, but made the change — some for health reasons.
"I have arthritis in my knees and my ankles and a lot of other joints in my body, and I've had it since I was a little girl. I danced for about eight years and it came to a point where I had to choose my health over dance and I had to switch sports," Kendall Pogue said.
So she switched and never looked back.
"Seriously, just changed my entire life," Kendall Pogue said.
And a little dirt and dust don't keep these girls off the mountain.
"You get dirty, crash sometimes, but it's just kind of fun to get dirty. It shows that you worked hard and that you had fun at the same time," Nelson said.
"That's my favorite part, when they just get gritty and dirty and then they get out of their kits, and they're just these cute little girls that just got all gritty out there and raced their hearts out," Whitney Pogue said.
Racing through aspens, taking winding turns, and tackling the hills, these girls definitely get a workout.
"It's really hard and really time consuming, but worth it," Fenton said.
"It's way different muscles than running, like soccer helped train me really well for it," Nelson said. "My legs were pretty conditioned, but it was a little bit different muscles."
It's definitely competitive, but it's also a team sport that promotes strong body, character, equality and inclusivity.