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History was made in front of hometown crowds at the at the UCI mountain bike World Cup in Snowshoe, West Virginia on Friday.
For the first time in World Cup history, both the women’s and men’s races were won by American riders. Colorado-based Gwendalyn Gibson (Norco Factory Racing) claimed a breakthrough victory and world champ Christopher Blevins (Specialized Factory Racing) sprinted across the line in the rainbow stripes.
Gibson was the fastest through the finishing chute after a blistering race, edging out Anne Terpstra and Jenny Rissveds. Rissveds led nearly the entire race but blew up near the end.
Gibson’s win on Friday was momentous on many levels. The 23-year-old is in her first year as an elite, and with a handful of top-10 short track finishes already this year, Gibson said she’d been visualizing a top-step finish.
“It’s something that I’ve pictured in my head hundreds of times,” she said. “I had definitely been thinking about it in hopes it could happen. I didn’t think it would happen my first year elite or definitely not this weekend. You always think in the back of your head ‘just maybe.’ I just can’t even believe it.”
Sweetening Gibson’s Snowshoe short track victory is the fact that the university student isn’t even three months post-injury. In May, Gibson broke her kneecap at a race in Grand Junction, forcing her to sit out the Fort William and Leogang World Cups.
However, she was back at Lenzerheide in July, and at the last World Cup in Andorra, Gibson finished with a career best seventh place in the short track.
Career-best, that is, until Friday’s race.
Gibson credited her medical team, family, and friends for bringing her back from injury.
“I just kept saying ‘we’re gonna come back stronger, we’re gonna come back stronger,’ and that’s what we did.”
Gibson now sits seventh overall in the World Cup short track standings.
Blevins delivered a tactical masterclass on Friday to take his first ever World Cup short track. The newly-minted US national champ drew big cheers from the crowds as sprinted past Vlad Dascalu to the finish.
Blevins made his race-winning moves on the final lap of the race, moving from fourth into third, then taking an alternative line on the final climb and gluing himself onto Dascalu’s wheel for seconds before the finishing chute where he easily outsprinted the Romanian national champion.
“It felt a little like worlds where I was hanging back,” Blevins said. “Vlad had a little bit of a gap, but I kept patient, I knew that you could gain a lot of ground on that last climb and I could could get up to his wheel.
“I didn’t really think about it before, the whole time you’re just trying to stay upright because it was so slippery.”
Snowshoe has long been good for history-making for Blevins. Last September, he won the XCO race there, breaking a decades long drought that hadn’t seen an American man win a World Cup since 1994
“I thought it couldn’t get better than last year,” Blevins said after the race. “It’s a little bit of deja vu, so much good energy. It’s just amazing to be here with all these people, really on my back doing this with me. There’s a lot of spirit here, so yeah, this is special.”
Both Blevins and Gibson will line up in the first row at Sunday’s XCO race.
Men’s elite XCC
- Christopher Blevins – 21:53
- Vlad Dascalu – 21:55
- Luca Braidot – 21:57
- Sebastian Fini Carstensen – 22:04
- Titouan Carod – 22:05
Women’s elite XCC
- Gwendalyn Gibson – 21:40
- Anne Terpstra – 21:42
- Jenny Rissveds – 21:44
- Alessandra Keller – 21:47
- Jolanda Neff – 21:49