The 2015 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships took place over the weekend at Mammoth Mountain, California. For the first time since 2010, all mountain bike disciplines (cross-country, short-track cross-country, downhill, dual slalom, and enduro) took place on the same weekend at the same venue.
Aaron Gwin (Specialized Racing) flew to his seventh downhill national title, while Howard Grotts (Specialied Racing Team) upset the veterans in the men’s pro cross-country race to capture his first elite stars-and-stripes title.
On the women’s side Chloe Woodruff (Team Stan’s NoTubes-Niner) did the double, winning both the short-track and cross-country races. Jill Kintner (Red Bull-Norco Bicycles) swept the women’s gravity disciplines winning the women’s pro downhill, dual slalom, and enduro races.
Kintner sped to the women’s pro downhill national championship, after winning the dual slalom national title the day before. She would later add the enduro national title, leaving Mammoth Mountain with three champion’s jerseys.
“It definitely feels good to get another win,” Kitner said after claiming downhill gold. “I’m happy to keep my sleeve a bit longer. I’m happy with how the day went and to represent America.”
Gwin captured his seventh downhill national championship in dominating fashion. Gwin, the current World Cup leader and number-one seed, did not disappoint the crowd when he took the win by running a 3:20.52. He beat out second place, Michael Sylvestri, by nearly three seconds.
“National champs have always been a special event for me,” Gwin said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win it a few times, and it’s always a race I look forward to, one that I definitely want to do well at. I’m really stoked to keep the stars-and-stripes sleeve for another year and take it back to the World Cup.”
Woodruff was able to drop Lea Davison (Specialized Factory Racing) on the final lap to claim the women’s short-track cross-country title.
Woodruff attacked out of the lead group midway through the race, but was caught by Davison with two laps to go. With a last-lap attack, she earned her eighth national championship, but it was her first since winning the collegiate cross-country title in 2009. Defending champion Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) rounded out the podium in third.
“It’s pretty special to come back here,” Woodruff said after the race. “I won the expert women’s short track jersey here 10 years ago, so it’s great to be back. I was kind of thinking that would be really cool to win it 10 years later.”
Russell Finsterwald (SRAM-Troy Lee Designs) capitalized on Todd Wells’ (Specialized Factory Racing) late puncture to capture his first short-track national title.
Finsterwald and Wells battled throughout most of the 30-minute race, until Wells punctured before the bell lap, allowing Finsterwald to power to the stars-and-stripes jersey. Stephen Davoust (Giant Southwest) finished second. Alex Grant (Roadbiker-Cannondale) rounded out the podium in third.
I felt really good out here today,” Finsterwald said. “I’ve been training at home at altitude, so coming here kind of feels like home. It will mean a lot [to wear the stars-and-stripes jersey]. It will be good wearing it for the next year.”
Woodruff completed the double, capturing the cross-country nationals win to go along with her short-track title she earned a day earlier. Woodruff battled throughout the race with Erin Huck (SCOTT-3Rox), beating Huck by a single second.
“I had a lot of nerves coming into this weekend,” Woodruff said after the race. “I wasn’t really thinking about [winning], but I had some people telling me, ‘Hey, you’re going to do it. You’re going to come away with two jerseys.’ I thought that’s a pipe dream. I knew I could do it; it was just a matter of hanging with Erin.”
Georgia Gould and Rose Grant briefly made contact with the leaders, but both eventually dropped off. Defending champion Lea Davison (Specialized Factory Racing) punctured early in the race putting her out of the running and having to settle for sixth on the day.
Grotts, 22, picked up his first pro men’s cross-country national title after dethroning teammate and three-time pro cross-country champion Todd Wells. After a hard day of racing between the two teammates, Grotts overtook Wells on the penultimate lap, finishing 1:03 ahead of the field.
Keegan Swenson (Sho-Air-Cannondale) and Alex Grant (Ridebiker-Cannondale) claimed silver and bronze respectively.
“On the second-to-last lap I gave it a go because I saw Keegan was coming up to us so I had the opportunity to get as much time on the climb [as possible],” said Grotts. “That was enough of a buffer on the last two descents that I had to do was roll in for the win.”
Check back later this week for an exclusive interview with Grotts on VeloNews.