Top American mountain bikers from around the country gathered at Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania to vie for stars-and-stripes jerseys, and some familiar faces found their way onto the podium.
Todd Wells (Specialized) and Lea Davison (Specialized) won their respective pro cross-country races on Saturday.
From the beginning of the men’s pro race, Wells rode at the front of the pack and never looked back.
“I really target these events,” Wells said. “I’ve probably been to about 20 cross-country national championships and this is the third one I’ve won, so it seems like once every six or seven years I win one of these things. This is the one I really target.”
Kerry Werner (BMC) and Jeremiah Bishop (Team Sho Air Cannondale) rode to second and third, respectively, avoiding the course’s hazardously sharp rocks that gave Stephen Ettinger (BMC) two flat tires, ruining his bid to defend the title. Russell Finsterwald (SRAM) and Mitchell Hoke (Team OPT) also suffered flats that took them out of the lead group.
Asked about the delicate balance between lightweight and durability in tires, Hoke said: “It’s the risk versus reward. For me I don’t have the fitness of Todd [Wells] and Stephen [Ettinger] so I need to take every advantage I can get in hopes of making it through. I know Todd rode sturdier tires than he normally does. Kerry Werner rode the same tires I did and he finished second.”
In the women’s race, Davison battled Georgia Gould (Luna) for more than four of the five laps to eventually win. Davison attacked on a switchback climb in the final kilometers to defend her 2013 crown.
“I’m happy and in a little bit of shock. I was kind of a wild card coming into this year because this is my second national race of the season,” Davison said. “I spent the beginning part of the season rehabbing — I had hip surgery at the end of January, so I am so incredibly happy to be back racing, and then to be able to win a title is just icing on the cake.”
Evelyn Dong finished third behind Gould to round out the podium.
Ettinger and Gould got their revenge on Sunday with wins in the pro short track events.
Ettinger went off the front early in the men’s pro short track race, joined by Wells, Finsterwald, and Keegan Swenson (Cannondale). Ettinger and Wells were able to create separation, making it a two-man race.
Ettinger would not be denied this time, making his move midway through the final lap, besting Wells by about four seconds; Finsterwald took third, about 40 seconds behind the winner.
“Today there’s just not the opportunity to have the technical problems like out on the cross-country yesterday, so today was just a tactical battle,” Ettinger said. “Seeing who had more left in the tank after a long day yesterday in the heat, I was pretty happy to come out on the top.”
Gould was also satisfied to wrap up her championship weekend on the top step of the podium. “I was definitely looking for a little bit of redemption from yesterday when it was such a small margin that I lost by,” Gould said. “I knew that I had two more opportunities to give it a go today, and racing for a national championship is always a big deal. It’s been a good day.”
Gould rode at the front of the pack, working with Chloe Woodruff, Erin Huck (Tokyo Joes) and Davison. Gould made her move with two laps remaining. She and Woodruff quickly got a gap on the lead group, finishing about eight seconds apart, with Davison in third, about 20 seconds adrift.