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Cross-Country Nats: JHK Ends Weekend with Win

U23 National XC Races

Stephen Ettinger continued his strong 2011 under-23 campaign by winning the category at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-Country National Championships on Friday at Sun Valley Resort in Ketchum, Idaho.

Ettinger (Cashmere, Wash./BMC Mountain Bike Development) secured his first U23 Stars-and-Stripes jersey by covering five laps of the 3.6-mile course in 1:29.16. After trailing U23 road race national champion Rob Squire (Sandy, Utah/Chipotle Development Team) out of the gate, Ettinger overtook Squire at the top of the first climb and never looked back on the 29km course. As Ettinger was expanding his lead, Jack Hinkens (Eden Prairie, Minn./BMC Mountain Bike Development) overtook Squire late in the third lap to earn the silver.

“I knew Rob was going to be fast today. He’s a total wild card because he hasn’t raced mountain bikes this year,” Ettinger said. “I didn’t know what he was going to be able to do. I stuck with him to the top of the climb. On the descent, I had it and he didn’t. I opened it up a little bit and that allowed me to ride my own race. That made the difference, for sure.”

In the women’s U23 contest it was Jill Behlen (Boulder, Colo.) who took home the national title. After several second-place finishes, Behlen earned the first Stars-and-Stripes jersey of her eight-year career, winning by 44 seconds. Behlen completed the first lap of the 23.2-kilometer race in just 18:52, opening a 28-second margin on Kaila Hart (Durango, Colo.), and riding to the title in 1:30:39. Behlen, who competes for the University of Wyoming, placed fourth in the women’s U23 race at the 2010 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships after placing second in 2009 and 2008 in the junior 15-18.

“There were three of us going up that steep hill together,” Behlen said. “Sarah (Sturm) kinda slipped a pedal, so I got around her, got a little gap and kept it going.”

JRs 17-18

Howard Grotts (Durango, Colo./Durango Devo) and AliciaRose Pastore (Durango, Colo./Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Development) earned the gold in the junior 17-18 men’s and women’s races.

By virtue of winning national titles today, the U23 and junior riders earned an automatic nomination to the team that will represent the United States at the Union Cycliste International World Championships in Champéry, Switzerland, from Aug. 31-Sept. 4.

More Racing

Also run concurrently, Lucas Newcomb (Nicasio, Calif./Whole Athlete-Specialized) rode to his first national title in the junior men’s 15-16 division. It was not without challenge however as Keegan Swirbul (Carbondale, Colo.) mounted a late race surge to close within a minute of Newcomb who completed the 23.2-kilometer race in 1:19.11.

In the junior women’s 15-16 contest, Kate Courtney (Kentfield, Calif./Whole Athlete-Specialized) delivered the largest margin of victory of the morning races, winning by nearly three minutes.

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