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Fourteen Stars-and-Stripes jerseys were awarded Friday at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships on Friday.
The winners of the men’s and women’s U23 and junior 17-18 cross-country events earned not only national titles, but also automatic nominations to represent the U.S. at the Mountain Bike World Championships in Quebec later this summer.
Grabbing that top prize in the men’s U23 event was Tad Elliott (Durango, Colo./Sho-Air-Specialized). Forty-three of the nation’s top up-and-coming riders raced five laps on the cross-country course under a hot, mid-day sun. Benefitting from a super-fast start up the opening climb, Elliott rode in a lead group with Rob Squire (Felt Holowesko Partners) and Russell Finsterwald (Subaru-Trek) for the first several laps.
By the time they came through the start/finish to embark on their fifth-and-final lap, Elliott and Squire had dropped Finsterwald. On the final lap, Elliott attacked and crossed the line about 40 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Squire. Finsterwald soloed in for the bronze medal while Mitchell Hoke (Colorado Springs, Colo./Tokyo Joe’s) and Matthew Beaton (Colorado Springs, Colo.) rounded out the podium in fourth and fifth.
In the women’s U23 race, it was Sage Wilderman (Fraser, Colo./Team Totally Wired) to grab that world championship start spot, as well as a coveted Stars-and-Stripes jersey. The Fort Lewis College student went off the front after the first steep climb and had a two-minute gap on her closest threat, Lydia Tanner (San Clemente, Calif./Tokyo Joe’s), heading into the third and final lap.
By the time Wilderman soloed over the line for the victory, she had more than 3:30 on Tanner. Crossing the line for the bronze was Kaila Hart (Durango, Colo./Get Out!) while Jill Behlen (Boulder, Colo./Boulder Junior Cycling) and Deidre York (Indio, Calif./Velobum.com) rounded out the podium in fourth and fifth.
Also earning a start spot in Quebec was Skyler Trujillo (Fort Collins, Colo.) with his win in the junior men’s 17-18 contest. Trujillo rode onto the top of the podium by finishing about a minute ahead of second-place rider Howard Grotts (Durango, Colo./Durango Devo). Riding solo over the line for the bronze medal was Tony Smith (San Rafael, Calif./Whole Athlete) while William Curtis (San Rafael, Calif./Whole Athlete) and Christopher Bennett (El Cerrito, Calif.) made the fourth- and fifth-place efforts.
The final rider to win a world championship team nomination was Alicia Rose Pastore (Durango, Colo./Rocky Mountain Chocolate), who charged hard across the finish line all by herself to claim the gold medal in the women’s 17-18 group. Completing her two laps in approximately 1:07, she finished a minute and a half ahead of silver medalist Sofia Hamilton (San Anselmo, Calif./Whole Athlete).Linnea Dixson (Steamboat Springs, Colo./Moots-SSWSC) rode in for the bronze while Wesley Geer (Boulder, Colo./Boulder Junior) and Essence Barton (Thousand Oak, Calif.) collected the final two podium spots.
The younger junior categories also duked it out on the cross country course on Friday in search of Stars-and-Stripes jerseys. The ladies in the 15-16 age group opened up morning racing in dramatic fashion with a very competitive two laps.
After approximately an hour and eleven minutes, the crowd saw Kate Courtney (Kentfield, Calif./Whole Athlete) and Grace Alexander (Boise, Idaho/BYRDS) sprinting into the finish area. After the pair had ridden together for the entire contest, Courtney managed to just barely take the win over Alexander in a photo finish. A few minutes later, Alexis Ryan (Ventura, Calif./The Team SoCal) soloed over the line for the bronze medal while Shayna Powless (Roseville, Calif./Ventana) and Karen Brocket (Raytown, Mo./SKC Racing) rounded out fourth- and fifth-places.
With a comfortable lead of two-and-a-half minutes, Keegan Swenson (Park City, Utah/Cole Sport) rode his way onto the podium’s top step in the junior men’s 15-16 event. Noah Talley (Payson, Utah/Racer’s Cycle) rode in for the silver medal while Gino Pastore (Durango, Colo./Durango Devo) made the bronze medal effort. Completing the podium were Cypress Gorry (Payson, Ariz./Four Unity) and Bryan Duke (Salinas, Calif./VOS Racing)
Also fighting for national titles in the cross country competitions on Friday were the juniors in the 10 and under, 11-12, and 13-14 age groups. In the men’s racing, Justin Griffin (West Valley City, Utah) claimed the national title among racers ages 13-14 while Christopher Blevins (Durango, Colo.) was the champion in the 11-12 group and Jake Yackle (Cortez, Colo.) took top honors among men ten and under. Ksenia Lepikhina (Superior, Colo.) picked up a national title in the women’s 13-14 cross country event while Hailey Swirbul (Carbondale, Colo.) bested the field in the 11-12 race and Elle Williams (Big Bear, Calif.) was the fastest woman on the course among girls ten and under.