MTB Nationals conclude Sunday with Pro DH and XC


Snowshoe, W.Va. (July 24, 2017) – Professional categories for downhill and cross-country took center stage for the final day of racing at the 2017 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships. A total of eight gold medals were awarded in seven races, three downhill events and four cross-country events.
Overnight rain saturated the soil to create a thin layer of mud on trails at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, and made roots on the two courses treacherous. Afternoon sunshine helped improve chilly conditions for the 210-plus riders.
Over the course of the week, 23 events were held to determine DH champions for all age groups. The final three events for DH held on the Western Territory section of the resort featured pro races for men and women and the Men Junior 17-18 Category 1 division. Three new sections for the professional riders were added to the already difficult gravity course for Sunday’s competitions.
Jill Kintner (Bellingham, Wash.) won her fifth DH championship in the Female Pro race. Amanda Batty (Park City, Utah) was second and Jacqueline Thomas (Winter Park, Colo.) secured third.
“This week was not an easy week with the weather and the storms and the unpredictability of the dirt with the rocks. You definitely have to be balanced, you can't really feel great when you're riding conservative and everything is slipping underneath you but the track was a lot fun,” said Kintner, who owns a total of 19 national championships across five different disciplines. “I think we had the biggest turn out for ladies in a long time. It's on the rise, it's good to see in downhill. That was definitely not an easy track to race, or even ride, so I was proud of everybody. We helped each other out, it's a really supportive vibe here.”
Last year’s Women Junior 15-16 DH winner, Samantha Soriano (Littleton, Colo.), scored the win for Women Junior 17-18 Category 1, finishing with the best time for that  age group in the Women Pro race. Mazie Hayden (Pittsfield, Vt.) finished second and Alli Gaertner (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho) rounded out the podium for third.
Aaron Gwin (Wildomar, Calif.) grabbed his sixth consecutive DH win in the Men Pro division. He was three seconds better than Luca Shaw (Hendersonville, N.C.), who earned the silver medal. The bronze went to Charlie Harrison (Trabuco Canyon, Calif.).
“I've actually never been here to West Virginia to race, so it was a totally new track and kind of new everything for me which was fun. And I really like this place, the village, everything here is pretty cool,” said Gwin, who holds eight national titles in DH. “The weather definitely made things challenging this weekend, I think we got one dry day of practice, it rained every other day. It was definitely one of the harder tracks that I've ever ridden actually. It was a great weekend, stoked to get another national title and just excited.”
In the contest for Men Junior 17-18 Category 1, Nikolas Nestoroff (San Marcos, Calif.) won his second junior title. Nestoroff was the DH Men junior 15-16 champion in 2015. The balance of the Junior 17-18 podium was taken by Armen Davis (Longmont, Colo.) in second and Steven Walton (Corona, Calif.) in third.
With 29 championship races in the books, the final four events were held on Sunday.
The 3.9-mile course was ridden four times by the U23 Women, five laps for the Pro Women and U23 Men, and six laps for the Pro Men, with all categories encountered two technical rock garden sections.
After flatting out of a win in the short track cross-country championship on Friday, Kate Courtney (Kentfield, Calif./Team Specialized Racing) pulled away in the first lap and never looked back for a dominating win in the Women Pro event. Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt./Clif Pro Team) finished second, followed by Erin Huck (Boulder, Colo.), who won the STXC title.
“Honestly, short track on Friday was a pretty big heartbreaker for me. I know that you're not supposed to mentally think about winning in the middle of the race, but with a big lead and two laps to go, I kind of thought I had it locked up until a front flat and a lot of other broken things on my bike,” admitted Courtney. “So today I was just trying to go out there without fear, commit, and ride my own race. It was really exciting to pull it off and get a little bit of redemption.”
Haley Batten (Park City, Utah/Clif Pro Team) crushed the U23 Women race, winning with more than an eight-minute gap on her closest competitor. She got away on first lap and built up her lead every lap in the four-lap event. Hannah Finchamp (Kennewick, Wash./Clif Pro Team) was second and Kelsey Urban (Kentfield, Calif./Whole Athlete p/b DNA) was third.
For the Pro Men, Howard Grotts (Durango, Colo./Specialized Racing) overcame two flats to win his third consecutive XC national championship. Stephen Ettinger (Bellingham, Wash.) finished in second place. Payson McElveen (Durango, Colo./Team Bikerider p/b ShoAir) surged in the final laps to take the final spot on the podium.
“I just wanted to hit that first lap really hard, see who is strong, who was going to be there on that first lap. I got a decent gap, flatted halfway through, had to ride a rear flat into the tech zone, lost a couple of spots and then it took about a lap to get back up there with Stephen (Ettinger),” said Grotts about his XC ride, adding this to the STXC title he won earlier in the week. “On the last lap, right after the tech zone, I got a front flat. I was wondering what was happening, where luck was today. Fortunately, I had enough of a gap to roll it in, I wasn't about to risk changing it in the tech zone the second time through. I just held on.”
“This one (championships) was much harder than Mammoth (Mountain in Calif.) for the last two years. That was at altitude, had a huge climb which suited me perfectly. This one was open for anyone to win today. Stephen was really strong and I'm just stoked to pull it off for another year,” Grotts added about the new course at Snowshoe Mountain.
Christopher Blevins (Durango, Colo./Specialized) soloed to the line for the U23 Men title. Luke Vrouwenvelder (Chapel Hill, N.C./Bear Development Team) was second and Sandy Floren (Berkeley, Calif./Bear Development Team) was third.
The non-championship team relay was held on Saturday. Team Speed Merchants edged Appalachian Mountaineers by a mere seven seconds for the win. Team Speed Merchants was comprised of Timothy Coffey (Cadillac, Mich.), Judah Gustafson (Belmont, Mich.), Scott Gustafson (Belmont, Mich.) and Emma Schwab (Williamsburg, Mich.).
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This Article Updated July 25, 2017 @ 05:22 PM For more information contact: