Nobody was going to take national championship jerseys off the backs of two of Durango’s brightest rising stars on Colorado soil Saturday.
Madeline “Maddie Jo” Robbins opened Saturday morning’s USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships at the Trestle Bike Park in Winter Park. She was in a heated battle with Madigan Munro of Boulder. Robbins, the defending junior women’s 17-18 age category champion, refused to let Munro take the front of the race all the way to the finish line, as she won the final sprint to claim victory and repeat as national champion.
Soon after, Riley Amos toed the start line of the junior men’s 17-18 cross-country mountain bike race. He reeled in an early attack from a rival, built a lead of 33 seconds by the end of the first lap and hammered the rest of the way to claim victory a year after he swept the junior men’s 15-16 age category cross-country and short-track national championships in West Virginia.
After, the two Durango riders who both compete for the Bear Development Team were embraced by swarms of fellow Durangoans and their families.
“Having (nationals) in Colorado, I had so many people here for me,” Robbins said. “Seeing the crowds around me stoked me up, and I just went for it. I came across the finish, and there were so many people there for me. It was super cool to know I have such a great community around me.”
‘I never let her in front of me’Robbins won the three-lap women’s race in 1 hour, 19 minutes, 39 seconds. She was one second in front of Munro and another 3:47 ahead of third-place Ada Urist, also of Boulder. California’s Haley Randel was fourth, 5:48 behind Robbins, while Wisconsin’s Lauren Lackman placed fifth, 6:09 behind. Also in the race representing Durango was Sage Davis, who placed 32nd, 17:38 off the winning time. There were 59 women in the race.
“It was pretty stressful with the fact that I knew it was coming down to a sprint, but I planned for it after we had done a couple of laps,” Robbins said. “It became evident that it was going to come down to that.”
Munro and Robbins were never separated by more than a couple of seconds, and Robbins refused to ride second wheel when Munro would put in an attack.
“At the start, Madigan was leading, and I knew I needed to stick with her,” said Robbins, daughter of Denise and Jeff Robbins. “I got into the second climb that was singletrack in front because the plan was to go into the descent leading because I know I’m a strong descender. After that, she stuck with me through the whole climb, even when I did my attacks. She stuck with me on the descent, too.
“We kind of chilled through the singletrack traverse back to the start of climbing again on the last lap, but I kind of led the whole way because I didn’t want her to be in front of me. Every time she attacked, I countered it. I never let her get in front of me. Ever.”
Robbins won last year’s junior women’s 17-18 cross-country title despite a torn scaphoid ligament in her left wrist that affected the use of her thumb. She fought through the injury to compete in last year’s world championships in Switzerland. Saturday, she felt no pain in the wrist and only relief after winning a race that was her target all season.
“To win, it’s huge, so relieving,” she said. “So much happened in the past year, and I was trying to get past that. All eyes were on nationals, and all the other races I kind of used as training. Everything culminated with this one race, and it made it really stressful and high pressure. I’m glad I pulled it off. It’s very gratifying.”
‘I rode my heart out’Amos had planned on sitting in the main group of riders for the first of four laps in the junior men’s race. But when Evergreen’s Robbie Day attacked near the top of the first climb up the fire road, Amos didn’t want to let him go alone. He knew from high school league racing that Day was a strong rider he couldn’t let sneak away.
“He had a couple of seconds on me at the top of the road before it funnels into singletrack for a couple of minutes,” Amos said. “I reeled him back in on the singletrack climb. I knew I had to use my strength descending to open the gap, if possible. I dug deep, passed him on the top of the singletrack climb and gave it my all on the downhill. I looked back, couldn’t see him, and at that point, you don’t want to let him come back to you. I rode my heart out the rest of the race, and the gap never came down.”
Amos, son of Charlie and Rosaleen Amos, finished in 1:30:42, which was 1:42 in front of Day, who finished five seconds in front of third-place Bjorn Riley, also of the Bear Development Team. Nolan Jenkins of Colorado Springs placed fourth, 1:48 behind Amos, and fifth place when to Brennon Peterson of Utah, who was 1:49 behind Amos.
The junior men’s race was loaded with 137 racers.
Amos’ first lap was explosive. He completed it in 20:29. No other rider turned in a lap in less than 21 minutes the entire race.
“Pulling on the Stars and Stripes jersey at races for the next year, it’s such an honor,” Amos said. “It’s quite the piece to put on before all the races the next year and at this year’s world championships, too.”
Amos also fought through injury during the last month, as he suffered a chip fracture in his right ulna, a long bone on the outside of the arm, in late June. Still, he was able to train and compete.
Amos dedicated his win to some of his friends who were unable to compete this week. Ruth Holcomb had to withdraw from her junior women’s 15-16 races with illness, Cobe Freeburn broke his arm Friday in a training ride and could not compete against Amos, and Amos said several of his other teammates have been claimed by injuries this year.
“There are a lot of strong people who could have lined up today and (Friday). It felt really good to take one for the team and all those who couldn’t,” Amos said.
HHHAmos and Robbins were strengthened this season by competing in Canada Cup races for USA Cycling, and Amos shined at the Pan-American Continental Games early this year before showing he can ride with the pros with a fourth-place finish at the Carson City Off-Road.
The two went on to win Sunday’s short-track cross-country races in Winter Park to add another national championship to their growing list of accolades. Now, they will prepare for this year’s UCI Mountain Bike World Championships from Aug. 28 through Sept. 1 at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada.