Sho-Air/Cannondale’s Evelyn Dong Wins GoPro Games XC

Sho-Air/Cannondale’s Evelyn Dong won the women’s The GoPro Games Cross Country Mtb Race this past weekend in Vail, Colorado. Teammates Keegan Swenson (second, men’s pro), Alex Grant (third, men’s pro) and Larissa Connors (fourth, women’s pro) ensured Ridebiker and Sho-Air/Cannondale athletes were hard to miss on the podium!

A light drizzle greeted the field prior to the race but when it came time for the call up, it had cleared up to a near-perfect day for a race.

“When Larry Grossman sent the pro women off with a countdown, I started cautiously,” said Dong. “Not wanting to blow up on a course that topped out at 8700 feet, I sat behind either Erin (Huck, Scott 3 Rox) or Georgia (Gould, Luna Pro Team) for most of the first lap. I put in a little dig at the top, getting a small gap going into the descent, which I promptly blew by sliding out on some greasy mud.” She recovered and caught up to Huck. “Lap three was go time. I knew I had to get a gap on Erin before the descent, and I was still feeling pretty good. I just gradually picked up the pace. My [Cannondale] F29 hardtail feels great climbing and Vail’s long climb lends itself well to steady, out of the saddle efforts, so I had no excuses. By that time, the descent had dried out so I rallied back down. No crashes, no mechanicals and magic legs – it made for a fairytale day!”

Teammate Larissa Connors had a rougher time of it, bringing a head cold into a wet warmup prior to the race. “The first climb hurt my lungs and throat so much I wanted to drop out after the first lap. But then the descent happened! Bermed turns, some jumps, tacky dirt and aspen tree slaloms was all the convincing I needed to suffer through that climb two more times. It hurt like heck, my lungs and throat are killing me, but finishing fourth was pretty sweet!”

In the men’s race, Keegan Swenson put in a strong performance to finish second behind winner Howard Grotts (Specialized Factory Racing). “After the first lap, Howard was off the front by a little ways and I was trying to bring him back on the down. I eventually caught him about half way down, only to get popped off again at the bottom of the climb going into the second lap. I sat up and waited for Todd [Wells, Specialized Factory Racing] and Fernando [Paez, Raleigh-Clement] who were back just a few seconds and rode the second lap with them. By then, the course had gotten quite dry and was ripping fast! Going into the last lap I could see Alex coming from a ways back so I decided to give it a little gas on the beginning of the climb to try and drop Fernanado and Todd, as well as try and hold off Alex. I was able to shake Todd and Fernanado but Alex was able to diesel his way back up to me near the top of the climb. On the last short climb before the finish, I gave it a good dig and was able to make a small gap between Alex and I. Luckily, I was able to hold him off till the finish! Pretty awesome to have us two Utah boys up on the podium!”

Ridebiker Alliance’s Alex Grant was coming off of a major win the prior weekend in Grand Junction. “I thought I might not be totally fresh but at the same time, my form must be pretty good, so I was ready to go. This is my fourth time at this race and it’s always a great event. Lucky for us the rain stopped, but I don’t think anyone was ready for the grease we found on sections of the upper trail. Once it hit downhill it was like ice in spots! It took me down while I was in fifth just behind Wells and I spent the next lap and a half chasing back on. By that time, Howard was long gone. Keegan and I locked up in a battle for second, which he took by five seconds.”

GoPro Games Mountain Bike XC Results:
1. Evelyn Dong (Sho-Air/Cannondale) 1:59:41.4
2. Erin Huck (Scott-3 Rox) 2:01:04.4
3. Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) 2:02:36.0
4. Larissa Connors (Ridebiker Alliance) 2:04:10.1
5. Amy Beisel (Liv / Giant) 2:05:19.4

1. Howard Grotts (Specialized Factory Racing) 1:40:21.0
2. Keegan Swenson (Sho-Air/Cannondale) 1:42:03.4
3. Alex Grant (Ridebiker Alliance) 1:42:08.2
4. Hector Fernando (Raleigh-Clement) 1:43:45.3
5. Ben Sonntag (Team Clif Bar) 1:44:27:0

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