The boom of cyclocross has helped make cycling a year-round sport even in places such as Durango where winter snow blankets the trails. Athletes from across the country will converge on Kentucky next week for USA Cycling’s national championships.
The event will be held Dec. 11-16 at Joe Creason Park in Louisville. Professionals, amateurs and collegiate teams will all share the venue for a week of title races.
Durango pros such as Sarah Sturm and Troy Wells will contend against legendary professionals such as Stephen Hyde of Massachusetts and Katie Compton of Colorado Springs, while young Durango Devo stars such as state mountain bike champion Cobe Freeburn will get a taste for national competition in cyclocross.
While Durango’s Christopher Blevins won’t make the trip to defend the under-23 national title he claimed in stunning fashion a year ago, his father, Field Blevins, will compete in a men’s masters category, as will Durango Devo co-founder and Fort Lewis coach Chad Cheeney.
All eyes will be on the Fort Lewis College team as it looks to claim a 25th national title in program history on the heels of No. 24 in October at mountain bike nationals in Montana.
Last year, Fort Lewis finished second behind Marian University of Indiana. A seven-second loss to Marian in the team relay, the final event of the weekend, kept FLC from the title.
“FLC has a few riders that can compete for the win, and that goes a long way for team omnium points,” said FLC cycling director Dave Hagen in an email to The Durango Herald.
The Skyhawks boast a loaded team complete with defending collegiate champion Henry Nadell. The rider from Carbondale will try to go back-to-back after he edged teammate Stephan Davoust of Durango.
Nadell will earn a front-row callup as the defending champ, and teammate Jon Anderson also will be on the front row after he won the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference title a week ago in Parker.
Hagen is excited about the talent behind Nadell and Anderson, too.
“Harrison Buckley was FLC’s third rider across the line at last year’s championships in Reno and always raises it another level for nationals,” Hagen said. “Local talent Keiran Eagen has put some focus on CX this year and has had some strong results. Kobi Gyetvan is a CX specialist from California and brings big experience to the table. Nash Dory, Thomas Gauthier and James Hilyer round out the men and will surprise many with their strength and skill.”
Durango’s own Ellen Campbell headlines FLC’s women’s team. She claimed the conference championship last week and has been a force all season on the local circuit along with Sturm, who finished 11th at this year’s Pan-American Games in Canada.
“It’s been really fun riding with Sarah and racing with her,” Campbell said. “It’s been really motivating to have someone up in front with me to push me farther. She’s pretty quick and has a lot of skill and knowledge of racing at a high level. Following her lines and seeing other options on the course has been helpful.”
Campbell, a junior, is joined on the women’s team by fellow Durangoan and FLC sophomore Katja Freeburn along with senior Kelsay Lundberg and juniors Tristen Musselman, Sophie Russenberger and Anna Schehrer.
“Freeburn now has a couple CX seasons under her belt and is looking to finish on the podium for the Skyhawks,” Hagen said. “A CX transplant from Portland, Russenberger has traveled the country all fall competing on the national level and brings a lot of CX history to the table. Lundberg and Schehrer bring nationals experience to the table after strong finishes last year in Reno, and Musselman is getting some time on the dirt in after being the Skyhawks’ most valuable road and track racer the past few years.”
FLC’s women will race next Thursday followed by the men Friday and the team relay Saturday. After collegiate racing is wrapped up, many of the Skyhawks also will compete in Sunday’s under-23 races.
“My expectation is for everyone to have fun,” Campbell said. “We will surprise ourselves a bit and rise to the occasion. Hagen has really prepared us with the local series on courses that are very difficult and challenging. I think we’re going to do well, especially the ladies.”