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Q&A: Catching up with Christopher Blevins

Blevins on the Tour of Britain, his future in World Cup mountain bike racing, the upcoming 'cross season, and how he balances it all.

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When we spoke, Christopher Blevins was in a car, traveling from Washington, D.C. to the Snowshoe ski resort in West Virginia, four hours away. Not an epic transfer by a professional cyclist’s standards, but the trip through Appalachia fell on the heels of flights from Edinburgh, Scotland to London to D.C. That leg of travel was the bookend of eight days of road racing at the Tour of Britain. Just before that, Blevins was in Italy, racking up an impressive swath of medals at mountain bike world’s, including the first-ever short track world championship title. Before worlds, Blevins spent some time buzzing around the Olympic track in Tokyo.

Read also: Commentary: Christopher Blevins is ready to take on MTB history

While his travel schedule made me dizzy, Blevins’ bright-eyed enthusiasm for racing shone through on the telephone. He’s stoked to race the final MTB World Cup of the season in front of friends and family and fans — “American fans are just really loud,” he said — and then head almost directly into cyclocross season.

Blevins has called the multi-discipline approach to the end of his whirlwind season a ‘grand experiment.’ We checked in with him to discuss each of the variables.

VeloNews: What did you learn from the Tour of Britain?

Christopher Blevins: There were so many nuanced things that I either forgot about with road or had never experienced at this level. I was definitely a full-on beginner. In the first stage, the first 40k were on super narrow roads so it was just staying upright. There were a couple of big crashes. It was a full-on culture shock. There are so many differences that start to stack up between the road and mountain bike scene. Both the scene itself and the way race happens. Racing with WorldTour teams was way different than racing u23 or Gila or Redlands. They control the race so thoroughly. When the break goes if they like it, they’ll control the roads. If they’re nice, they’ll let us through. Then they’ll just ride all day. Five WorldTour teams lined up and then the rest of us.

Also, radios. I had a crash when I was 10 and broke my skull. Since then I can’t hear out of my left ear. I only have one good ear. Radios are hard for me. I need to hear the radio and the peloton.

VN: That’s a lot. How was it for you mentally? 

CB: I had mixed emotions at times. We had a teammate break his wrist the second day. There’s a bit of ‘What am I doing here?’ I didn’t really have that edge to go for the sprint, but I realized that’s OK. My goal was to help the team in breakaways and get some training in for races I really care about. At the same time, I was very happy I was there every day. I knew it was just this eight-day block and I could soak it in. I literally got to see all of the UK in this race which was pretty awesome. And, it did affirm that I want to be a mountain biker. I was really happy to be part of a team in that way. By the time stage 6 rolled around, I felt like I was a roadie again, I was in the flow

VN: I know that your team is young, but did you have a mentor on the squad or in the peloton? 

CB: I’m the oldest by 2.5 years! Ben Healy had his 21st birthday during the Tour, and he’s the second oldest on the team. It’s a really good group of guys, super talented. The better part of half of them could go WorldTour and may next year. Luke Lamperti is one of the most impressive riders I’ve ever met. He’s 18. He’s such a good learner, has such good instincts and head on his shoulders. We raced MTB together earlier this year, and it was cool to go to his domain to finish the season. Even though he’s so much younger than me, I look to him for race advice.

There are also a lot of Americans. Sean Bennett who I was teammates with on both road and mountain bike as a junior now races for Qhuebeka. And all of the Rally guys.

VN: It doesn’t seem like you’ve had a lot of downtime this summer. Have you been able to process or let sink in each of these incredible experiences? 

CB: I’ve been out of suitcases since Leogang in June. I’m definitely realizing how good it’s gonna be for me to have a couple weeks of just being in San Luis Obispo with my friends and processing this crazy amazing year. I had a few days in Lake Garda, in Italy, with my mom in between worlds and the Tour of Britain. It was so special to be able to go with her to one of my favorite places. We ate Italian food every night for five nights. It was such a grounding, celebratory period. World’s definitely. felt far way when I was in the midst of Tour of Britain. But it’s important, the process itself.

VN: Are you running on fumes at this point? 

CB: It’s kinda two-sided. Part of me, yes, and I’m imagining the release at the end of the season. But because Tokyo was such a pinnacle and because I chose to treat the end of the season like a grand experiment and do a bunch of stuff it kept it fresh and fun. Whether eMTB or Tour of Britain….that has kept it fun. If I was just chopping away at some intervals getting ready for World Cups I would be running on fumes, but I haven’t trained that much — I’ve just been racing which is way better.

Blevins will don his new rainbow jersey for Friday’s short track race at Snowshoe. (Photo: Michal Cerveny)

VN: And after Snowshoe — are you really racing ‘cross? How much ‘cross experience do you have?  

CB: I’ll go to Baltimore to race Charm City. Then back to San Luis Obispo. Maybe I’ll go on a run once or so and dig my ‘cross bike out of my storage unit and reacquaint myself with that. I will definitely not be up there fighting for the top-10 at World Cups, but I’ll do Waterloo, Fayetteville, and either go back up to Iowa or stay in Bentonville and race Oz Trails. It would be fun to finish up that way.

For the World Cups, hopefully, I’ll be on good form. But it’s just to get my feet in the water and see how I go. Hopefully, get some base knowledge there for how I want to go for nationals and worlds.

I won U23 nationals in Reno in 2018. I did national’s one other time as a 17-year-old and was 4th in Austin. I did a couple of races on the west coast that year. National’s was dry, it was not too much running, and there were a few things that really suited me. ‘Cross, out of all the disciplines, technically and physically suits my strengths the best but I’ve never really sunk my teeth into it. I’ve never done a World Cup or a Euro race and I know it’s way different over there.

VN: You just graduated from college, you have a girlfriend and a life in California. How do you balance it all? 

CB: That’s been a pretty core question all my life and certainly the past four years with college and my other interests. It was easy to frame it around Tokyo and that goal. Now it’s like, I have such amazing opportunities, and I feel truly so privileged. To look at a calendar for next year and say, ‘Which World Cups, if not all? Am I gonna do any more road racing? Any gravel?’ I don’t know exactly what next year will look like, but I can say for sure that being a top World Cup mountain bike racer is front-of-mind. Now that I’m out of school and can focus on being a true pro it’s really exciting and really freeing. I have no doubt that other parts of my life will blend with that. But for the time being, I’m just really happy to have so many opportunities. I couldn’t have imagined it four years ago.