The 2012 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-Country National Championships had a full slate of cross-country racing at Sun Valley in Ketchum, Idaho the past two days. The under-23 men and women contested their race while the juniors riders also battled on Bald Mountain. The day started clear, sunny and warm before clouds rolled in and misted the crowd in the early afternoon before raining harder and more steadily on the two youngest groups of racers. On Thursday, National titles were awarded in short track cross-country after category 2 and 3 riders contested the mountain bike cross-country race in non-national championship races under cloudy skies and cooler than usual temperatures.
Short Track Cross-Country
Helene Drumm (San Anselmo, Calif./Whole Athlete-Specialized), Chris Jackson (Somis, Calif./California Polytechnic-San Luis Obispo) and Ty Kady (Brea, Calif./Team Sho-Air) earned Stars-and-Stripes jerseys after winning their respective short track cross-country races.
Drumm’s race opened the short track cross-country competition just as the sun began to peek through the clouds. With the race scheduled for three laps after 20 minutes, the riders were forced to be aggressive from the start. Grace Alexander (Boise, Idaho/BYRDS (Boise Young Riders Dev Squad)) got the hole shot and set an early pace, working with Drumm. That duo opened a lead on the field before Drumm attacked with four laps remaining in the race. Alexander was unable to counter, allowing the 42-year-old Drumm to ride away with the gold medal. The 18-year-old Alexander finished second and Brianne Marshall (Durango, Colo./NoTubes Endurance Racing) took the bronze medal.
“I know she’s (Alexander) a good junior rider, she’s fast and young, so I just stayed with her,” Drumm said. “We took turns pulling through. I gauged where I my strengths were, which would be that little uphill rise on the back side with the loose dirt. I knew that I could take her on the uphills. She’s technically a little more savvy than me, I think. I just took the opportunity later in the race when I knew that I still had a little bit and she could possibly be tired. It was a little earlier than I thought, but it worked out.”
In the senior men 19-29 short track cross-country race, Chris Jackson (Somis, Calif./California Polytechnic Institute-San Luis Obispo) surged late in the race to pull away from Brandon Cross (West Bountiful, Utah/Cole Sport) to collect the first national championship of his cycling career.
“It’s a big deal for me,” Jackson said. “I’ve trained real hard. I started late in the season. I went out, started in the third row and just worked my way up. Once I saw that I was in contention, I attacked on the climb. Another guy (Cross) and I got a little gap. We started working together. Unfortunately, he went down behind me. At that point, I just attacked and just kept the pressure on.”
In the masters men 30-and-up short track cross-country race, Ty Kady (Brea, Calif./Team Sho-Air), who won the masters men 30-34 race as well as the cross-country contest in 2011, took care of the first half of repeating in 2012. Kady overcame a late mechanical issue with his bicycle to win the men’s 30-and-up short track cross-country race by three seconds over the silver medalist, Marco Arocha (Newbury Park, Calif./RNR-B4B) and 21 seconds faster than Kyle Dixon (Reno, Nev./Velo Reno p/b Tamarack Junction).
“These guys are fantastic,” Kady said. “This was one of the strongest fields. Guys like Marco (Arocha), (Brandon) Gritters and Kyle Ashton are unbelievable. I was just super fortunate to win this. I can’t thank the team enough. I’m just super excited. That one I had to dig for. It’s really sweet to back up the title two years in a row.”
Mountain Bike Cross-Country
In the category 2 men’s 15-18 race, Dean Haas (Lakewood, Colo./Team Specialized Racing) rode away from the other 49 riders in his field to earn a win.
“It’s awesome,” Haas said. I’ve never medaled at nationals or won anything. It’s not the category 1 race, but it’s still a win. The track was good. I rode well and was strong. I was able to pull off the ‘W.'”
Other category 2 winners were: Miles Fink-DeBray (Ketchum, Idaho) won the seniors men 19-29, Brad Walker (Hailey, Idaho) won the masters men 30-34, Luke Wynen (Mammoth Lakes, Calif./Eastside Velo) won the masters men 35-39, Christopher Jenkins (Colorado Springs, Colo.) won the masters men 40-44, Mark Avery (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) won the masters men 45-49 and John Higgins (Salt Lake City, Utah) won the masters men 50-54.
Haas’ time of 1:39:39 was just one second faster than Walker’s mark for the fastest among category 2 men.
Avery Morin (Roseville, Calif./Victory Velo Racing) won the juniors women 15-18, Ivy Pedersen (Bozeman, Mont./Team Rockford-Clif) won the seniors women 19-29, Brett Stevenson (Hailey, Idaho) won the masters women 30-39 and Sarah Halvorson (Missoula, Mont./MBW Racing-Team Stampede) won the masters women 40-49 with the fastest time among category 2 women, 2:03:38.
The category 3 mountain bike cross-country winners were: Daniel Riley (Park City, Utah) in the men’s 15-18, whose time of 1:46:16 was the fastest among category 3 men, Ryan Bibko (Kent, Wash./JL Velo Racing Team/Northwest Velo) in the seniors men 19-29, Dustin Harder (Portland, Ore./Harder Cycling) in the masters men 30-39, Steve Price (Twin Falls, Idaho) in the masters men 40-49 and Timothy Harmon (Ketchum, Idaho) won the masters men 50-54.
In the category 3 women’s races, Mercedes Drummond (Springdale, Ark./Bell & Company Mountain Biking) won the juniors women 15-18 with the fastest time among category 3 women, 2:18:11, Sierra Reid (Portland, Ore.) was victorious in the seniors women 19-29, Andrea Fox (Leander, Texas/512-Racing p/b AJ’s Cyclery) won the masters women 30-39 and Heather Youngwerth (Boise, Idaho/Boise VeloWomen) topped the masters women’s 40-49.
In a pair of non-national championship paracycling short track cross-country races, David Poole (Bozeman, Mont.) won the handcycling race with a time of 21:37 while William Simmel (Missoula, Mont.) won the two-wheel race with a time of 18:00.
The U23 men’s race quickly turned into a two-rider showdown between Russell Finsterwald (Colorado Springs, Colo./Trek Subaru) and Howard Grotts (Durango, Colo./Fort Lewis College). Finsterwald collected his first U23 national title as he prevailed by 52 seconds, completing the five-lap, 29-kilometer race in 1:32:27. Grotts rode away with the silver while Skyler Trujillo (Fort Collins, Colo./Niner Stans Ergon) placed third, 5:36 behind Grotts.
Finsterwald got the hole shot and began opening a slight, early lead on Grotts, gradually growing his lead to about 20 seconds after three laps. The two riders dueled as Grotts excelled on the climbs and Finsterwald was faster down the descents.
“It was definitely my day. I felt great out there. It was so hard, though,” Finsterwald said. “I wanted to put as much as pressure on Grotts as I could. He would catch me at the top of each climb. I was able to come around him somewhere on the descent and open it up a bit. He made me work for it. That was not easy.”
Lauren Catlin (Fairfax, Calif./Durango Devo), who will turn 20 later this month, overcame a slow start to pull away from the field and win the U23 women’s race with a time of 1:32:48. Catlin, who won the Division I women’s cross-country race at the 2011 USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships as a rider for Fort Lewis College, bobbled shortly after the start and found herself off the back in the early goings of the race. She regained her her balance and decided she would attack the field early.
“I bobbled a little bit in the rock garden on the first lap,” Catlin said. “I was off the back a little bit. I got my rhythm and then was in the train. Then I thought to myself, ‘I might as well try now.’ I’ve sat in the train in too many races and not moved.”
Catlin’s early move worked as she gained ground on the climbs and held off a hard-charging Deidre York (Indio, Calif./The Gear Movement-Epic Pro Cycle), who trimmed time off Catlin’s advantage on the descents. After four laps of the pro circuit, Catlin won by 1:21 over silver-medalist York while the defending U23 women’s cross-country champion, Jill Behlen (Boulder, Colo./Tokyo Joe’s-Whole Foods-Primal) earned third place.
Juniors Men 17-18
Keegan Swenson (Park City, Utah/Cannondale Factory Racing), who placed second in this age group’s cross-country race in 2011, ascended to the top step in 2012. Swenson won the race by 2:21 over the silver medalist, Lucas Newcomb (Nicasio, Calif./Whole Athlete). If the two age groups contested the same four-lap, 23.2-kilometer distance (the distance of the juniors men 17-18 race), Swenson would have overcome the three-minute deficit to place third in the U23 men’s race. The U23 men, however, were turning into their fifth lap while Swenson completed his four-lap affair.
“I didn’t have a call up, so I was in the second row,” Swenson said. “I just wanted to hang on through this first little bit, on the rocks and then just moved my way up. I took the lead on the climb and slowly opened up the gap.”
Juniors Women 17-18
In the juniors women’s races at the 2012 USA Cycling Elite, U23, Juniors & Paralympic Road National Championships in Augusta, Ga., in late June, the gold medal eluded Grace Alexander (Boise, Idaho/BMC Mountainbike Development Team) as she collected a pair of silvers and a bronze. Her effort on the mountain bike is off to a much better start. After finishing second in the category 1 women’s short track cross-country race on Thursday, Alexander won the juniors women 17-18 cross-country race Friday.
Alexander got the hole shot off the start line and didn’t look back, maintaining a steady pace as she pounded out three laps to win ahead of Shayna Powless (Roseville, Calif./BMC Mountainbike Development Team), who earned the silver medal, and bronze-medalist Kate Courtney (Kentfield, Calif./Whole Athlete-Specialized).
“It’s a great feeling, Alexander said of her fifth national championship. “There are a lot of really high quality competitors here. It feels amazing to manage get first today. I know another day it could have gone a different way, but this is really exciting.”
Juniors Men 15-16
Everything came together perfectly for Marcus Segedin (Greenbrae, Calif./Whole Athlete-Specialized) in the juniors men 15-16 cross-country race. He called the performance of his bicycle “flawless” and he did not crash during the three-lap, 17.4-kilometer contest. In the end, Segedin finished in 1:28:19 while his closest competitor, Garrett Gerchar (Boulder, Colo./BJC-Tokyo Joe’s Junior Development), was 30 seconds behind him.
“I can’t believe it,” Segedin said. “It’s just an honor. It feels amazing. On the last lap, my leg started to cramp up a bit, but it was a great race. This is my first national championship. I could not have ever expected this.”
Juniors Women 15-16
India Waller (Durango, Colo./Durango Devo) overcame a crash and a dropped chain to best the three women’s juniors 15-16 field by over three minutes to win the cross-country national championship in that group. Waller earned a third-place finish as a category 2 rider at this event in 2011. Waller fell behind her two competitors in the early part of the race before passing Tiziana DeHorney (Albuquerque, N.M./Get Out! New Mexico) and Ksenia Lepikhina (Boulder, Colo./BJC-Tokyo Joe’s Junior Development) on the climb. Waller continued to pad her cushion enroute to finishing her three-lap, 17.4-kilometer contest in 1:14:36. DeHorney, who struck gold in the juniors women 13-14 race in 2011, earned the silver medal with a time of 1:18:03 and Lepikhina was third, finishing in 1:18:49.
“I was super excited!” Waller said. “The girl, Ksenia, she beats me in almost every other race, so I’m super excited about this one.”
Juniors Men 13-14
Christopher Blevins (Durango, Colo./Durango Devo) forced the hand of the other 45 riders in the juniors men 13-14 field as he drilled it from the start and threatened to ride away with this age group’s Stars-and-Stripes jersey for the second year in a row. Blevins, who has collected 14 national championships in his career, including three as a mountain biker, has been riding BMX since he was six years old.
“I gave it my all right from the start to see if they’d get tired,” Blevins said. “I pushed it up the climb and just stayed smooth and maintained it. I think the climb is where I got my time gap.”
Blevins’ margin of victory was just over two minutes on the silver medalist Sean McElroy (Palmdale, Calif./Team Specialized Racing Juniors).
Juniors Women 13-14
The closest race of the day came from the juniors women 13-14 as the top two riders were only seven seconds apart. Haley Batten (Park City, Utah) emerged victorious, edging Hailey Swirbul (Carbondale, Colo.) by only seven seconds to win the national championship.
Friday’s competition also featured races pitting the country’s foremost juniors men and women 11-12 as well as 10-and-under competitors. Jake Yackle (Cortez, Colo./Yackle Brothers Racing) won the juniors men 11-12 race with a time of 38:32. Nye Yackle (Cortez, Colo./Yackle Brothers Racing) topped the juniors men 10-and-under field with a time of 32:23. Katie Clouse (Park City, Utah/Cole Sport) won the juniors women 11-12 race with a time of 43:22 while Sydney Palmerleger (Park City, Utah) rode away with the juniors men 10-and-under with a time of 36:19.