A health condition largely kept Ruth Holcomb out of the biggest mountain bike races in 2019. COVID-19 derailed most of the 2020 season. The junior women’s cyclist from Durango was left with one final year at the junior level to show the world, and, more importantly, herself that she was still one of the top junior riders in the world.
Holcomb continued her sensational start to the 2021 season Friday when she won the junior women’s cross-country mountain bike race at the Pan American Continental Championships in Salinas, Puerto Rico. The win came five days after she won an International Cycling Union (UCI) junior series race on the same course and one day after she was part of the USA Cycling team that won gold in the team relay race of the Pan-Am championships.
“This has been a pretty exciting week, honestly,” Holcomb said. “It’s definitely been a battle for me at times. I wasn’t sure if I would ever come back to fully good form. Being able to take a win today after four or five years of kind of not quite having it, it’s a pretty incredible feeling to take this win.”
Holcomb finished the three-lap race in 1 hour, 9 minutes, 23 seconds. She beat fellow Durangoan Lauren Aggeler, who was second in 1:10:01. American Mia Aseltine of Littleton was third in 1:10:32, while Durango’s Bailey Cioppa was fourth in 1:13:26. Samira Martinez, the national champion of Paraguay, was fifth in 1:14:36.
Aggeler could not be reached for comment at press time Friday.
“Lauren and I had a break together after our first start loop,” Holcomb said of her Bear Development Team teammate. “I took a little crash, but we stayed together through that. I think partway through the first real lap, I attacked up a hill and slowly made time on her. It was really awesome to have a teammate there that was so strong.”
The junior men’s race was won by Colombia’s Camilo Gomez in 1:11:59. Mexico’s David Elias was second in 1:13:00. The top-American was Arkansas’ Cayden Parker, who was fourth in 1:14:02.
Cross-country races for elite and under-23 men and women will be held Saturday. The pros were in action in short-track racing Friday.
The men’s short-track win went to Mexico’s José Gerardo Ulloa Arévalo, while Chile’s Martin Vidaurre was second. Luke Vrouwenvelder of North Carolina led the U.S. in eighth place, 5:49 back. Cole Paton, a Fort Lewis College alum, was 11th, 6:18 behind the winner. Durango’s Cobe Freeburn and Stephan Davoust placed 17th and 18th, respectively. Top-American men’s riders Keegan Swenson of Utah and Christopher Blevins of Durango did not attend the event.
The women’s short-track was won by Mexico’s Daniela Campazano. She was 2:26 in front of Fort Lewis College alumna Sofia Gomez-Villafane of Argentina. American Madigan Munro of Boulder was third.
For Holcomb, Friday’s race capped off a wonderful week in Puerto Rico with three wins in as many races. Now, she’s ready to get back home to prepare for some more UCI points races with eyes on national championships and, eventually, the world championships.
“It was a super-fun experience here, and the whole U.S. team has been so awesome to be with,” she said. “There are a ton of really good U.S. junior series races this year. Hopefully, I can head over to Europe to race some before worlds. I haven’t thought that far yet, but getting on the worlds podium would be incredible.”