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Blevins breaks through at MTB worlds

Christopher Blevins rides to second place at mountain bike worlds in the under-23 race in Switzerland.

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Christopher Blevins joined a select group on Friday, at Lenzerheide, Switzerland, winning a silver medal in the under-23 cross-country race at the world mountain bike championships. He became one of just three American men to win a medal in the endurance discipline over the last 20 years.

Prior to the 2018 worlds, Howard Grotts won bronze in 2014 as a U23, and Walker Ferguson was third at 2001 U23 worlds and a world champion in the junior race in 2000.

“It’s definitely a surreal feeling and honestly I mostly feel incredibly lucky to have everyone here cheering and everyone back home cheering,” Blevins said. “We’ve got amazing support here and I got chills hearing everyone cheering for the U.S., from the U.S. and also from Europe. It’s exciting, I’m beyond lucky and looking forward to more of this hopefully.”

After a pitched battle with Alan Hatherly throughout the seven-lap race, Blevins finally lost touch with the South African on the final circuit of the root-strewn course.

The 20-year-old came home 27 seconds behind Hatherly. Dutch rider David Nordemann was third.

Blevins’s second-place result represents a huge step forward for the U.S. national short track champion. In 2017, he was 32nd in the under-23 XC world championship. Prior to his debut in the U23 category, he was fourth at junior worlds in 2016 and 40th the year prior in the 2015 worlds.

In 2018, he has split his time between mountain bike racing with Specialized and the road with Hagens Berman Axeon, finding success in both disciplines.

On the dirt, his World Cup season was highlighted by a second-place finish at Mont-Sainte-Anne in August, also behind Hatherly.

“It was very special,” Blevins said in August about the Mont-Sainte-Anne race. “I love the course. It’s one of the most iconic, if not the most iconic in the World Cup. I felt great. I was so close to winning it but I cramped at the end.”

He had even better results racing road this summer, winning stage 2 at Tour of the Gila and riding to fifth in stage 1 at the Colorado Classic.

Despite his success with Hagens Berman Axeon, Blevins remains focused on mountain bike racing for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. In fact, he feels the time on the road has made him a better mountain biker.

“I think the road benefits the mountain bike a lot,” he told VeloNews at the Colorado Classic. “I have punch that I’ve developed from years of mountain biking, but specific mountain bike training is quite different from road racing. Road develops the engine — you can’t have enough of that.”

He added that he’d like to continue on this trajectory with one more year combining road and mountain bike racing, although he hasn’t confirmed a contract with Axeon for 2019 yet.

In the near term, he’ll take on the Swiss Epic mountain bike stage race, September 11-15, teamed up with Keegan Swenson (Pivot-Stan’s No Tubes).