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Preview: USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships

Defending champs Keegan Swenson and Erin Huck will both be back; Kate Courtney, Christopher Blevins, Riley Amos, and Gwendalyn Gibson are other riders to watch

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While the yellow jersey is dominating most cycling media headlines this week, hundreds of riders in the United States are racing for the stars and stripes.

The USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships is underway in Winter Park, Colorado right now, where the week-long event features enduro, downhill, dual slalom, XC, and short-track races for all ages and categories.

On Saturday, July 23 the elite men’s and women’s cross-country race will see current national champions Keegan Swenson and Erin Huck back on the start line to defend their titles. Swenson currently leads the Life Time Grand Prix multi-discipline gravel and MTB series. Huck is returning after giving birth to her first child four months ago.

Both the men’s and women’s races are stacking up to be the most competitive in years.

Attendance at US Nationals has often suffered due to its mid-World Cup season scheduling — “USAC has a pretty terrible track record with planning nationals for elite athletes,” Kate Courtney told VeloNews — but with two World Cup races in North America following nationals in short order, many pros are are able to attend this year.

The pro women’s race will see a mix of World Cup pros, like Courtney, Savilia Blunk, Gwendalyn Gibson, and Kelsey Urban, as well as riders competing on the domestic circuit. 

Evelyn Dong, Hannah Otto, Crystal Anthony, Alexis Skarda, and Ellen Campbell come to nationals ranked 5, 10, 12, 17, and 21 respectively in the Life Time Grand Prix standings. 

Last year, Skarda, Gibson, and Dong finished second, fourth, and fifth respectively at nationals. 

The men’s race features a Colorado-heavy start list and includes many pros from the Grand Prix, including Swenson and Russell Finsterwald, who are ranked 1-2 in the series.

Short track world champion Christopher Blevins will race the XCO, as will fellow Durango phenom and defending U23 national champ Riley Amos. The MTB mecca in southwestern Colorado has two more to watch on Saturday: Stephan Davoust and three-time national champ and Olympian Howard Grotts are always contenders; Davoust was second at nationals last year. 

The short track race follows Saturday’s XC race, and most riders racing the XC Saturday will line up for the spectator-friendly circuit on Sunday morning. Both events will see riders gasping for air at the Colorado ski resort perched at 9,000 feet of elevation. Catch the XC and downhill action on FloBikes Friday-Saturday.

2022 Women’s pro XC start list*

Crystal Anthony

Savilia Blunk

Chelsea Bolton

Ellen Campbell

Kate Courtney

Evelyn Dong

Gwendalyn Gibson

Erin Huck

Rea Kobl

Deanna Mayles

Erin Osborne

Hannah Otto

Isabella Robles

Alexis Skarda

Nicole Tittensor

Kelsey Urban

Lauren Zimmer

*this is a preliminary start list 

2022 Men’s pro XC start list*

Riley Amos

Eddie Anderson

Jonathan Anderson

Carson Beckett

Christopher Blevins

Eric Brunner

Cody Cupp

Stephan Davoust

Justin Desilets

William Dowling

Jerry Dufour

Keiran Eagan

Samuel Elson

Russell Finsterwald

Brannan Fix

Cypress Gorry

Howard Grotts

Alex Howes

Ryan Johnson

Pete Karinen

Eli Kranefuss

Jeremy Norris

Cole Paton

Matt Pike

Aaron Pool

Ryan Standish

Caleb Swartz

Keegan Swenson

Jack Tanner

Tanner Visnick

Luke Vrouwenvelder

Tye Wehring

Troy Wells

John Wessling

*this is a preliminary start list