The competition couldn’t touch Savilia Blunk on Saturday on her way to a second consecutive national championship, but a flat tire on the final lap did.
Blunk, a Fort Lewis College cyclist from California, had a big lead on California’s Kelsey Urban on the final lap when a flat tire sent her to second place and ended her chance of a repeat win in the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships under-23 women’s cross-country race. She would finish second in 1 hour, 22 minutes, 7 seconds, which was 29 seconds behind Urban.
California’s Gwendalyn Gibson placed third, 2:48 behind Urban, while Durango’s own and Fort Lewis athletes Ellen Campbell and Katja Freeburn placed fourth and fifth, respectively. Campbell finished in 1:26:12, while Freeburn crossed the line in 1:27:39.
Campbell had taken much of this season off while recovering from an illness.
“It was really exciting for me to be able to come back from having an illness in the spring and put up a good race,” Campbell said. “I think it was really special to have that good result and feel really good about a race and know that the time off didn’t really hinder me at all. If anything, it helped.
“My time off gave me perspective, and it was a nice break. But this weekend, it was really refreshing to do well and be stoked on that result.”
Also for Fort Lewis College was Stella Sisneros in eighth, as the California-based rider finished in 1:30:50. There were 21 women in the race.
The under-23 men’s cross-country race was loaded with Durango and Fort Lewis College talent. FLC’s Henry Nadell of Carbondale was second to Alabama’s Jerry Dufour, who finished in 1:30:10. Nadell was six seconds behind Dufour and three seconds ahead of California’s Sandy Floren.
FLC rider Cooper Wiens was fourth in 1:30:38. Cole Paton, who was in the lead group much of the race, finished 12th in 1:33:41. The FLC rider from Washington was followed by Durango’s Daniel Johnson, who was 13th in 1:34:06, and FLC teammate and Durangoan Keiran Eagen, who was 14th in 1:34:15.
FLC’s Nash Dory rolled in 18th in 1:36:00. Jason Rowton was 26th in 1:39:32, and Harrison Buckley was 30th in 1:40:34.
Blunk kept it rolling Sunday in the pro women’s short-track race. She completed the 20 minutes and three additional laps in 29:42 to place fifth. Chloe Woodruff, who won the pro women’s cross-country a day earlier, also won the women’s short-track in a time of 29:18. she was 12 seconds in front of Grand Junction’s Alexis Skarda and 23 seconds in front of Montana’s Rose Grant. Blunk sprinted to the finish against California’s Haley Batten, who barely edged Blunk.
Blunk also was one second in front of Lea Davis an 14 seconds in front of Katie Compton.
Also in the pro women’s short-track, Freeburn placed 14th and Campbell placed 15th.
In the under-23 men’s short-track, Paton led the Fort Lewis and Durango contingent with a fourth-place finish, as he crossed the line in 26:42. That was only three seconds behind winner Zach Calton of Utah, who edged Kentucky’s Carson Beckett by one second. Alexander Sugarman of Boulder was third, one second in front of Paton.
Nadell placed sixth in the same time as Paton, and Wiens was seventh, only five seconds off the winning time in the hotly-contested race. Johnson placed 12th, and Eagen was 14th. Rowton placed 21st in the 43-rider field.
“Fort Lewis really represented, boys and girls,” Campbell said. “It’s sweet to see all the great athletes we have who race collegiate also get to race at the pro nationals in the summer and do so well at this level. Then in the fall, we all come back together and have fun. Fort Lewis represented very well this weekend.”firstname.lastname@example.org