Blunk—last year’s under-23 national champion—began the three lap race in Winter Park, Colo. by joining Kate Courtney, Gwendalyn Gibson, and Alexis Skarda in the early lead group. By the second half of the lap, Blunk and Courtney had distanced the other women. Multi-time national champion Courtney led for the majority of the lap but sat up coming into the start/finish area with Blunk taking over pacemaking.
The pacemaking quickly turned to racing as Blunk opened up a significant lead on her rivals on the first climb of the lap. Gibson, who has been having a breakout year on the UCI World Cup circuit, caught up to and dropped former world champion Courtney. By the time Blunk set off on her third and final lap, the Orange Seal Off-Road team rider had more than a minute lead on Gibson.
Late in the final lap, Courtney passed Gibson on a singletrack section and rode into a second place finish with Gibson rolling across in third.
“I can’t really believe it yet,” Blunk said after the finish. “I wanted to of course go for it, but it’s my first year elite and I didn’t know what to expect.”
“You never really know what to expect racing at 9,000 feet, ” added Blunk, who lives and trains in Durango at about 6,500 feet above sea level. “It’s just different, but I felt good in an uncomfortable way. I just kind of trusted my fitness and went for it.”
Blunk, originally from Northern California, has ridden a steady rise through the junior and U23 ranks. Last year, she won the U23 Continental Championships as well as both the U23 XCO and short track national titles. She also placed third at two World Cups.
In 2020, Blunk began a privateer program along with her partner Cole Paton after both riders’ missed out on contract renewals with their respective teams. A major supporter of the two riders was Orange Seal, and this year both riders joined the Orange Seal Off-Road Team.
“It’s been a crazy last couple years,” Blunk said. With Cole, John Vargas, the Orange Seal Off Road team, and my coach Dennis Van Winden, we really have an awesome team behind us. It’s the environment and the support that matters.”
Blunk will head East with her fresh stars and stripes jersey next week for World Cup rounds in West Virginia and Canada.
“Next weekend we’re going to Snowshoe for the World Cup in the US so it couldn’t be better timing,” she said.
- Savilia Blunk, 1:13:58
- Kate Courtney, +1:43
- Gwendalyn Gibson, +2:08
- Alexis Skarda, +4:26
- Erin Huck, +4:26