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Mo Wilson wins Sea Otter Classic Fuego 80k

Sofia Gomez Villafañe and US national champ Alexis Skarda round out the podium at the first race of the Life Time Grand Prix series.

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MONTEREY, California (VN) — Mo Wilson won the Fuego 80k at the Sea Otter Classic on Saturday after an aggressive effort on the last climb of the day sent her into the finisher chute solo. The 25-year-old finished the 50-mile course in 3:24:16, 20 seconds before Sofia Gomez Villafañe. American XC MTB national champion Alexis Skarda was third with a time of 3:24:45.

Read also: Life Time announces 60 riders for inaugural Grand Prix race series

Saturday’s race was aggressive and tactical from the start, with many riders crashing on the dry and dusty course. A group of eight women formed quickly and turned onto the first singletrack section together, and by the end of the first lap, it had dwindled to four riders — Wilson, Gomez Villafañe, Skarda, and Lea Davison. Those four would stay tight for the entirety of the second lap until Wilson made her move on the last punchy climb near the finish.

Wilson’s win stacks onto a rapidly-growing 2022 palmares that includes victory at multiple Grasshopper Adventure Series races, the Rock Cobbler, and the Shasta Gravel Hugger. Nevertheless, winning the Fuego 80k carries special significance for Wilson, who rides for Specialized.

One, it puts her squarely in the court of champions, from retired Olympian Davison to current US national champ Skarda.

“I feel incredibly humbled to be here in the first place with 30 of the top racers in the country,” Wilson told VeloNews, “and to have been in top eight throughout the whole race and then slowly down to the top five, four, three, two, to come across the finish line solo with all these amazing riders, I’m really just so humbled to come way with this win.”

Two, the win puts her at the top of the Life Time Grand Prix leaderboard headed into the six-race series that runs through October.

But there is a more subtle accomplishment in Wilson’s win at Sea Otter. Last month, she finished second at The Mid South gravel race in Oklahoma after Lauren De Crescenzo put in an amazing effort in a headwind to solo to the finish line. It hasn’t exactly been haunting her, but Wilson said that she thought about it a lot after the race — the fact that De Crescenzo made a move and she chose to stay safe in a group and not follow.

It was a lesson “that I needed to learn that you can only learn yourself,” Wilson said. “You can have people drill it into you that you need to take your shot when you’ve got it but to experience that firsthand I think that needed to happen.”

Wilson came to Sea Otter with a fire in her belly after The Mid South, and she was able to put her lesson learned into practice when she sensed that she had a chance to take a risk.

“Going into that last climb I was like you know what, ‘I’m gonna take a risk here. I’m gonna hammer as hard as I can, maybe those girls are gonna stick together, they might be able to catch me if they work together on the track,’ but I took that risk and I’m super happy that I did.”

Sea Otter Classic Fuego 80k women’s open results

  1. Moriah Wilson, 3:24:16
  2. Sofia Gomez Villafañe, 3:24:36
  3. Alexis Skarda, 3:24:45
  4. Lea Davison, 3:25:15
  5. Evelyn Dong, 3:25:46

A full list of the women’s results can be found here.