Sho-Air/Cannondale and Ridebiker Alliance athletes put in great performances this past weekend at the USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Championships held in Mammoth, California.
Men’s Short Track XC:
Ridebiker Alliance’s Alex Grant got things off to a great start for the group with a surprising third place in the Short Track race held on Friday. Fresh off his win in last weekend’s Boston Rebellion (also sponsored by Ridebiker Alliance), Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Racing) set a fierce pace for the first ten minutes of the race. Russel Finsterwald bridged up while Stephen Davoust (Giant Factory Racing) attacked repeatedly to try and force more selection. With three to go, Wells attacked but suffered from a flat tire. At that moment, Finsterwald set off with Davoust and Grant chasing hard. That was the order at the finish line, with Ridebiker’s new dad taking the third step on the podium.
“Short track is not my best discipline but this one had a nice climb in it which helped me,” said Grant. “I was looking forward to this one because I tend to race well at altitude and have been feeling really good lately.”
An impressive women’s field got things underway on Saturday. After the opening lap, a group of six were well established on the front, with Erin Huck and Chloe Woodruff visibly the strongest of the group, followed by Rose Grant, Larissa Connors (Ridebiker Alliance), Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) and Leah Davidson (Specialized Factory Racing). On the third lap, Woodruff, Huck and Grant opened things up and separated from the others, while Connors put newfound descending skills to use, making up time piloting her Cannondale Scalpel on the downhills. Then Woodruff and Huck put in enough of an effort on the final climb to create and maintain a comfortable gap from Grant, with Woodruff taking the win at the line, just as she did the day before in short track. Connors continued her breakout season with a fourth place finish.
“Each lap got significantly more painful,” said Connors. “By the top on lap three I was gapped off the lead group of 3, but surprisingly was able to make up time on the technical descent down Shotgun. Most the race was spent either hanging onto the back wheel of the lead group, falling off the pace on the climbs and suffering alone, or railing the descents trying to catch back up. The Scalpel was like a dream on the rough, loose pumice of Mammoth, and although descending used to be my weakness the bike took really good care of me through the chuncky, rocky, rooty descent. I’m super grateful for the support of the team for keeping my bike running flawlessly, feeding me and being there when I was an absolute basket case at the start.”
Evelyn Dong (Team Sho-Air / Cannondale) was consistent all day, steadily pacing herself in for 10th place on the day. Ridebiker Alliance club Sierra Express’ Erin Alders finished an impressive 9th overall just ahead of Dong, showing her continued good form.
The men then set off with Wells looking not only to defend his jersey, but to make up for the previous day’s misfortune, getting a small gap on the first descent. The chasing group of Stephen Ettinger and Keegan Swenson (both Team Sho-Air / Cannondale), Grant, Finsterwald and Howard Grotts (Specialized Factory Racing) formed behind until Grant dabbed on a corner, sending Ettinger into the sand. Grotts seized the moment and set off to bridge to his teammate after making certain not to bring anyone else with him.
Ettinger continues the action: “Alex and I worked well together the rest of that lap, racing flat out trying to get back up to Todd and Howard. Keegan caught us on the descent, and we all three entered the third lap together. As we came into the pit, Howard was in the tech zone getting a wheel change, but by the top of the feed zone climb, only a couple hundred yards later, he had caught and passed our group. I was the only one who could initially hold his wheel, and we rode away from Alex and Keegan. Soon, Howard accelerated again and rode away from me. His attack was absolutely vicious. One of the fastest I¹ve every tried to respond to, and at 9000 feet much less.”
On lap five, Grant, Ettinger and Swenson caught and passed a fading Wells, leaving the Ridebiker and Sho-Air/Cannondale trio sitting in positions two, three and four. The three chased hard on the final sixth lap, unable to reel back Grotts, who took the win with Swenson, Grant and Ettinger behind, in that order. “In all, it was a very successful day for us,” said Ettinger. “We didn¹t take the top step, but we got the rest of them!”
Grant: “This is my third bronze medal in Elite nationals. I have a 2013 bronze in Marathon and now the Short Track and XC from this year. Honestly, the XC medal means the most as that’s the most contested and coveted race.”
Swenson: “Overall I’m really excited to take home the silver medal in my first Elite National Champs! Also, congrats to Howard for taking to win, it’s cool to have us two U-23s on the podium! Huge thanks to all of Team Sho-Air / Cannondale for the world-class support! Also to my entire family, and tons of friends for the cheers out there on course! Couldn’t have done it without you guys!”
Men’s Short Track XC Results:
1. Russel Finsterwald (SRAM/TLD Racing)
2. Stephen Davoust (Giant Factory Racing)
3. Alex Grant (Ridebiker Alliance)
Women’s Mountain Bike XC Results:
1. Chloe Woodruff (Team Stan’s NoTubes/Niner)
2. Erin Huck (Scott 3 Rox Racing)
3. Rose Grant (Stan’s NoTubes)
4. Larissa Connors (Ridebiker Alliance)
5. Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team)
Men’s Mountain Bike XC Results:
1. Howard Grotts (Specialized Factory Racing)
2. Keegan Swenson (Team Sho-Air / Cannondale)
3. Alex Grant (Ridebiker Alliance)
4. Stephen Ettinger (Team Sho-Air / Cannondale)
5. Russel Finsterwald (SRAM /TLD Racing)
Photo courtesy Ridebiker Alliance