The 2012 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-Country National Championships wound into its third and penultimate day of competition Saturday at Sun Valley in Ketchum, Idaho. The professional men and women, including the four riders who are slated to represent the United States of America in the 2012 Olympics, took center stage as they competed in their cross-country races presented by Zions Bank after several category 1 age group men and women contested their cross-country race.
Pro Men’s Cross-Country
The two men who are ticketed to wear the red, white and blue in London in the Olympic Games, defending national champion Todd Wells (Durango, Colo./Specialized Racing) and Sam Schultz (Missoula, Mont./Subaru-Trek), dueled throughout the 34.8-kilometer, six-lap contest. On the last lap, Schultz attacked on the climb and Wells was unable to answer due to a flat tire, allowing Schultz to ride away with the first elite national championship of his career.
“We just kept on going back and forth before he got a flat,” Schultz said. “He would come around me at the bottom of the climb. I just nipped him before the singletrack because he descended pretty well. I wasn’t descending that great, so I just made sure I got ahead of him. It would have been real intense if he hadn’t flatted. It definitely would have come down to that last lap.”
Schultz and Wells showed early in the race why they were selected for such a lofty assignment. The two men quickly found themselves at the front of the 56-rider field, quickly opening an advantage. The chase group, comprised of Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Boulder, Colo./Subaru-Trek), Ryan Trebon (Bend, Ore.) and Jeremiah Bishop (Harrisonburg, Va./Cannondale Factory Racing) fought valiantly to keep up, but were unable to get closer than 30 seconds. Schultz pulled away from Wells on the last lap to earn the Stars-and-Stripes jersey and the winner’s share of the $1,000 purse offered in the professional men’s cross-country race.
Pro Women’s Cross-Country
The two women selected to represent the United States in the Olympic Games, Georgia Gould (Fort Collins, Colo./LUNA PRO TEAM) and Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt./Specialized Racing), also dazzled the large crowd scattered throughout Bald Mountain with their performance on Saturday. Gould, who began her mountain bike cross-country career as a resident of Ketchum, Idaho, built an early lead and did not relent as she rode away with the fourth national championship of her career.
“It’s really special,” Gould said of winning the national championship. “It never gets old. To be able to wear the national champion’s jersey at all the races all year always makes me proud. Every time is special. It never gets old. I’m always proud to be the national champion.”
Heather Irmiger (Boulder, Colo./Subaru-Trek) attacked the field early in the race, building a lead that grew to 30 seconds, but Gould countered and by the time the two riders had reached the top of the climb, Gould had passed Irmiger and began pulling away on the descent, building a 20-second lead. For her part, Davison completed her first lap in fourth place just behind Irmiger and the leader of the USA Cycling Pro Ultra-Endurance Tour, Pua Mata (Anaheim, Calif./Sho-Air). By the time the women turned into their third of thei five-lap-contest, Gould’s lead grew to just under one minute and Davison was sitting in third place after overtaking Mata and was closing on Irmiger for second. After a poorly-timed mechanical issue cost Gould the top spot at the International Cycling Union Mountain Bike World Cup event last weekend in Windham, N.Y., Gould carefully chose her lines and rode a safe race through the last two laps, ensuring her victory in Idaho and the winner’s share of the $1,000 purse. Davison finished in second place, 1:42 behind Gould. Irmiger earned the bronze medal, finishing just over one minute behind Davison.
A group of men and women contested a men’s and women’s singlespeed race which was comprised of one circuit of the start loop and one lap of the amateur loop stretching 19.5 miles. In the men’s contest, Cameron Chambers (Colorado Springs, Colo./Ethos Racing) won after completing his race in 1:29:51, six minutes faster than the silver medalist Evan Plews (Salem, Ore.). In the women’s race, India Wysong (Ketchum, Idaho/Mud Honey) finished her 19.5-mile race in 1:59:19 to top the podium. Alice Drobna (Bend, Ore./WebCyclery.com-Webcyclery Racing) finished in second while the defending national champion, Rebecca Rusch (Ketchum, Idaho/Specialized), was victimized by an untimely mechanical issue and finished third.
Category 1 Men’s Cross-Country
The penultimate day of the 2012 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-Country National Championships started with the cross-country races for category 1 men racing in five-year age groups. The riders completed the one-mile start loop before riding on the amateur loop which spans 18.5 miles. Chris Jackson (Somis, Calif./Castex Rentals), who won the short track cross-country race, earned his second career national championship after winning the 19-24 age group. Nick Fisher (Eden, Utah/Roosters-Bikers Edge-UT) won the senior men 25-29 by over three minutes while Brandon Gritters (Mission Viejo, Calif./RNR-B4B) won the masters men 30-34. Troy Heithecker won the masters men 35-39 race by 59 seconds while director for Whole Athlete-Specialized Dario Fredrick (San Anselmo, Calif./Whole Athlete-Specialized) won the masters men 40-44 race. Michael Hogan won the masters men 45-49 by just under a minute while Johnny O’Mara (Laguna Niguel, Calif.) was only 14 seconds faster than second-place Michael Scanlon (Snowmass Vlg., Colo.) in the masters men 50-54 race. Zan Treasure (Ogden, Utah) won the masters men 55-59 cross-country race by only nine seconds over Henry Kramer (Menlo Park, Calif./California Giant Berry Farms-Specialized) while Randy Beckner (Helena, Mont./Montana Velo) earned the win in the master men 60-64 race with a time of 1:52:50. James Wagner (Auburn, Wash./Cycle Therapy-4 Corners Cycling) emerged victorious in the masters men 65-69 contest. Hans Muehlegger (Sun Valley, Idaho/Durance-Colnago), who will turn 72 years old on July 10, recorded the largest margin of victory, winning the masters men 70-and-over race by over 16 minutes.
Category 1 Women’s Cross-Country
The category 1 women contested the same 19.5-mile course as the category 1 men. Parker Tyler (Salt Lake City, Utah) won the category 1 women’s 19-24 contest with a time of 1:59:05 while Elisa Otter (Montpelier, Vt.) registered the win in the women’s 25-29 race. Serena Gordon won the women’s 30-34 race by 45 seconds over Amber Broch (Reno, Nev./Velo Reno P/B Tamarack Junction). Beth Utley (Orovalley, Ariz.) won by nearly one minute over Megan Stevenson (Hailey, Idaho/Mud Honey Cycling) in the women’s 35-39 contest. Christine Irelan (Colorado Springs, Colo.) won the women’s 40-44 race by just under six minutes while Heidi Volpe (Topanga, Calif.) won the masters women 45-49 race. Kris Walker (Pocatello, Idaho/CONTENDER BICYCLES) scored the win in the masters women’s 50-54 race while Muffy Ritz (Ketchum, Idaho/Mud Honey Cycling) won the masters women 55-59 by nearly 13 minutes. Sixty-seven year old Gabriele Andersen (Sun Valley, Idaho) finished the women’s 60-and-up race in 2:32:30 to win.