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Olympic team members prove why they made the cut at cross country nationals

After ceding the stars and stripes in the cross country race, the other members of the Olympic team take national titles in the short track

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Each of the US Olympic team took a national title in this year’s mountain bike national championships, with Sam Schultz and Georgia Gould winning the cross country titles and Todd Wells and Lea Davison winning the short track races.

In the men’s race, Schultz (Subaru-Trek) rode away from the previous national champion in the final lap, resulting in the 27-year-old’s first elite national victory.

The two selected to represent the United States in the London Olympics opened up a gap rapidly in the race. While suffering from an untimely flat on the last lap, Wells (Specialized Racing) was unable to respond when Schultz attacked on the climb.

“We just kept on going back and forth before he got a flat,” Schultz said. “He would come around me at the bottom of the climb. I just nipped him before the singletrack because he descended pretty well. I wasn’t descending that great, so I just made sure I got ahead of him. It would have been real intense if he hadn’t flatted.”

Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Trek), Ryan Trebon and Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale Factory Racing) gave chase but couldn’t catch the leaders.

Gould’s ride resulted in her fourth national championship in front of the Ketchum, Idaho crowd. Gould began her career while living in Ketchum.

“It’s really special,” Gould said after the race. “It never gets old. To be able to wear the national champion’s jersey at all the races all year always makes me proud. Every time is special. It never gets old. I’m always proud to be the national champion.”

The early attack came from Heather Irmiger, where she distanced herself more than 30 seconds from the group. Pro Ultra-Endurance Tour leader Pua Mata sat in third and Davison in fourth. Davison made her way around the Irmiger and Mata to come in second behind her Olympic teammate.

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At the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross Country National Championships last weekend in Sun Valley, Idaho, the top pros were out to get what they deserved.

Todd Wells (Specialized Racing) and Lea Davidson (Specialized Factory Racing) both came back from less-than-perfect performances on Saturday to capture hard-fought short track titles on Sunday.

Wells flatted during the final lap of the cross country race on Saturday, but in the short track event on Sunday he beat out Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale Factory Racing) and Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant Offroad Team) to earn a third national title.

Wells started to build a gap on the field with Ryan Trebon (Bend, Ore.) early in the race, further advancing the lead after Trebon dropped his chain late in the first lap. Wells took that opportunity to build an advantage as quickly as possible, he told USA Cycling.

“[Last year] I led the whole race until the finish line,” Wells said. “I wasnʼt going to do that this year. Once I saw that I had a gap, I gave it everything to hold it.”

On the womenʼs side, US Olympic team members Davidson and Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) owned both Saturdayʼs cross country and Sundayʼs short track races. Gould came out on top on Saturday, but Davidson saw her chance for revenge on Sunday, attacking in the last lap to beat out Gould by just one second. Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven-NoTubes) came in third in Sundayʼs race.

The Super D, a six-mile course which drops more than 2,000 feet in elevation, was also among Sundayʼs races. Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant Offroad Team) won the menʼs pro race in 21:26.11, beating out Carl Decker (Giant Factory) by just 1.32 seconds to earn his seventh national downhill title. Third place went to Macky Franklin (Orbea-Tuff Shed), who finished fifth in the race last year.

The womenʼs Super D pro race saw last yearʼs runner-up Kelli Emmett (Giant Mountain Bike Team) take home the title with a decisive 18-second win over second-place Elizabeth English (Whitefish, Mont.). Davidson, the defending national champion, finished third on the day.

The U23 men and women also showed strong performances over the weekend. Russell Finsterwald (Trek Subaru) won the menʼs cross country race, finishing 52 seconds ahead of second-place Howard Grotts (Fort Lewis College). Skyler Trujillo (Niner Stans Ergon) finished third, 5:36 back from Grotts.

“I wanted to put as much pressure on Grotts as I could,” Finsterwald told USA Cycling after the race. “He would catch me at the top of each climb. I was able to come around him somewhere on the descent and open it up a bit. He made me work for it. That was not easy.”

On the womenʼs side, Lauren Catlin (Durango Devo) dominated the cross country event, coming back from a bobble early in the race to take the national title. Deidre York (The Gear Movement-Epic Pro Cycle) finished 1:21 back from Catlin, earning second, while defending national champion Jill Behlen (Tokyo Joeʼs-Whole Foods-Primal) took third.

In the junior races, Keegan Swenson (Cannondale Factory Racing) was the man of the weekend. Swenson swept the weekendʼs events, capturing the cross country, short track and Super D titles.

In the short-track race, he and Tobin Ortenblad (Ritte Elite U23 Development Team) set a fast pace to drop the rest of the field. Swenson eventually dropped Ortenblad, too, finishing 23 seconds ahead of him. Casey Williams (Whole Athlete-Specialized) finished third.

“I didnʼt expect to sweep,” Swenson told USA Cycling. “My main goal was the cross country. After that, it was just to do the best I could. It feels awesome to win the other two jerseys.”

The Super D event proved to be another decisive win for Swenson. The young talent finished in 21:57.1, a time which would have earned him fifth in the pro race. Bryan Duke (Ritte Elite U23 Development Team) was three seconds behind Swenson in second, while Williams took third at five seconds back.

In the womenʼs junior division, India Waller (Durango Devo) won both the cross country and Super D events. Tiziana Dehorney (Get Out! New Mexico) and Ksenia Lepikhina (BJC/Tokyo Joeʼs Junior Development Team) earned second and third in the cross country race, while Shayna Powless (MTB PRO Team: BMC Mountainbike Development Team USA) and Mackenzie Stanley (Whole Athlete-Specialized) topped out the podium in the Super D.
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