Whether it’s to the car, around the block, or across the street, it’s as natural as can be for siblings to race.

For Jakob and Johanna Craig, Lakeland Union High School Students who ride for the Rhinelander-Northwoods composite mountain bike team, it’s genetic.

“We were riding since we could walk and before that we’d be in little tag-along strollers behind their bikes, so biking is pretty big in our family,” Johanna Craig said, referencing parents Jeff and Jeanne Marie, both competitive cyclists in their own right.

Now, in the Wisconsin High School Cycling League, the Craig siblings are displaying the results of being raised on two wheels.

Jakob is the top mountain bike rider in the state for Division 2 freshman and he has won all four races this season, taking first in Waukesha, Mt. Morris, Eau Claire, and Wausau. He hopes to continue that dominance in the season’s final race in Waterloo on Sunday.

“I’m looking to try and win state again. It would be my third consecutive state championship,” Jakob said, referencing titles as a seventh and eighth grader

His older sister is doing pretty well, too.

Johanna, a junior, is currently the second fastest rider in the state in the elite girls’ varsity. She was runner-up in Waukesha, Mt. Morris, and Eau Claire, and she finished third at Wausau. 

Johanna is well aware of the task ahead if she wants the top spot in Waterloo on Sunday, and that’s because she knows that task up close and personal.

“I’ve known Lauren for years,” said Johanna, referencing Lauren Lackman of the Wausau composite team, who has swept all four girls’ races this season. “She just has a commanding lead. She’s super fast and super strong. She’s just great. It’s fun to ride with her.”

But Lackman isn’t the only rival Johanna is close to. The other one lives under the same roof.

“The reason I think we compete so well is because we train with each other so much,” Johanna said of her freshman brother. “We kind of beat each other up a little here and there.”

“That kind of crosses over into (Nordic) skiing,” Jakob was quick to add, as if noticing the scattered pockets of snow brought out a competitive spirit. “We do the same thing.”

When they’re not battling the rocks and hills of mountain bike courses or each other against the time clock, the Craigs find plenty of agreement, especially concerning the hopes of having a mountain bike team at Lakeland.

The current Rhinelander-Northwoods composite team also includes Grace Dorsey of Lakeland and Megan Lester of Three Lakes. It’s an offshoot of an original Rhinelander composite team.  

However, that team had enough participation from Rhinelander High School itself that they had to form two teams this year, a Division 1 team of all Rhinelander students and a division two composite team of riders from outlying areas.

RNC head coach Joel Flory, who started that first team in the area in Rhinelander a few years ago, was just happy to have the increased participation and had no problem splitting the team.

“It was just for scoring purposes, because they (the WHSCL) felt like, how can you collect from all this geographic area when you already have a high school team with a bunch of kids on it,” Flory said. “We didn’t care. We just wanted to get the kids to ride.”

Any concerns with how the split would effect the teams’ race results were lifted by the first race in Waukesha.

“We figured, split us up and, well, we’re going to struggle because we’re split now and we have to have two teams now instead of one,” Flory said. “Now we just have two divisions to score really well in. We never expected that. The first week when we were both in the top three for teams, we’re like, “Whoa, that’s incredible.”

Both the RHS and RNC?teams rank second in their respective divisions heading into Sunday’s state championship race.

While the Craigs are equally excited about the teams’ performance and they’re grateful for a team at all, they still have hopes to one day ride as Thunderbirds.

“I’m hoping in the next few years we’ll have a varsity team for Lakeland,” Johanna said.

For now though, the Craigs are happy to hit the trails and work the gears in Hodag country.

Speaking of gears, when asked about her strategy concerning the trickiest parts of certain courses, Johanna said, “When you’re going through tight curvy stuff you want to be in a higher gear.”   

Jakob quickly interrupted, saying “Lower gear.”  

Johanna just rolled her eyes toward her brother. “Some people prefer lower. I prefer higher.”

Siblings.     

The final race of the season is Sunday at Trek Trails in Waterloo. The first race begins at 9 a.m.

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@lakelandtimes.com or sports@lakelandtimes.com.