After five days of teeth-clenching sprints, bone-crushing tumbles and ear-damaging revelry, the Durango Junior Development Mountain Bike Team (DEVO) can finally rest on its laurels.Its many laurels.
Durango cyclists took home five titles at the U.S. Mountain Bike Championships in Granby at the Sol Vista ski resort last week, showing off the town's unique youth cycling prowess.
Kaylee Blevins got the festivities started, shooting away from the pack early and winning the junior women's 13-14 race, then Elyse Massone won the Cat 3 15-18 girls race by a whopping 13 minutes.
"The U14 girls team rocked," DEVO coach Chad Cheeney said in a release to The Durango Herald. "After coach Annie (Cheeney) won the Cat 2 women's race by a minute and a half, her athletes felt the pump and delivered. The DEVO team showed it has the fastest girls program in the nation."
Alicia Rose Pastore won the Cat 1 15-18 race in a sprint finish, leading for the entire race after eventual second-place finisher Jill Belhan flatted early on a downhill portion.
Kaila Hart rode a strong second lap to move from fourth place to second after Belhan's flat - putting her in position to make the World Championship team for a trip to Australia later this year - but Boulder's Belhan plowed through the field from seventh to pass Hart on the last 200 yards of the downhill before mounting a vain challenge to Pastore.
Cat 1 15-16 champion Howard Grotts became Durango's sole male champion after getting the best of a late attack on rival Michael Vigors of Boulder.
"Usually, Vigors can out-descend Howard, but on this day, he held his ground on the super choppy downhill to take the win," Cheeney said.
Vigors raised his arms in the air and let out a scream of excitement before leaving an uphill skid in the finish chute.
"I ran up and hugged him, and I kinda felt like crying," Cheeney said.
Former downhill superstar Elke Brutsaert "threw on a DEVO uniform," Cheeney said, and handily triumphed in the women's super downhill, which starts with an uphill, 100-yard sprint to the racers' bikes.
Cheeney took an early lead in the men's super downhill, only to lose it by suffering a flat on a routine corner midway through the race.
"The result of running a fast, lightweight cross country race tire on the rocky terrain," said Cheeney, who watched the entire field of 29 riders pass him by.
Joan Walker took third place in the U19 super downhill.
Defending national champion Chris Blevins was unable to repeat after a Texas racer passed him on the final descent to claim the 11-12 junior boys title, Cheeney said.
Blevins was leading well into the five-mile race, but Cheeney said the singletrack made it difficult to pass lapped riders and led to "random opportunities" for challengers.
Blevins ended up second and was followed by teammate and cancer survivor Keenan Desplanques, who was in his first high-profile race.
Walker secured podium spots in two more events, taking third in the Cat 2, 15-18 girls and third in the super downhill.
Stephan Davoust was fifth among junior 12-14 boys, while teammate Levi Kurlander crossed close behind in sixth.
Elliott Saslow had the lead "from the gun," Cheeney said, in the Cat 2 15-18 boys race but fell off that pace at the top of the mountain climb and held on for sixth.
Taylor Borucki suffered a hard crash in the U19 pro downhill race and was taken off the course in an ambulance. Borucki came up short on the third of the "Three Amigos" - three 30-foot gaps in succession. Over 20 racers were not able to race because of injuries, Cheeney said, deeming the course "dangerous."
Durango coaches Kricket Lewis, Annie Cheeney, Chad Cheeney, Scott Shishim and Evan Elliott took care of the 20 athletes, scheduling practice rides, meals, pool sessions, and attempting to organize a dance party.
"It was non-stop action," Chad Cheeney said, adding that Grotts, also known as "DJ Apples," brought along his deejay gear and blasted "The Final Countdown," by Europe.
"Everyone danced, then sung, whistled and hummed the tune all weekend," Chad Cheeney said. "It was terrible and sweet all at the same time."