Youth Movement Continues at US CUP Round 2 at Bonelli!

San Dimas, California – April 9, 2017: The US CUP presented by Ridebiker Alliance kicked it up a notch at Bonelli Park, with a UCI HC category race on Saturday. An international field was on hand, including Trek’s Sergio Mantecon, Emily Batty and Anton Cooper along with Canadians Catherine Pendrel, Geoff Kabush, Derek Zanstra and Raphael Gagne.

At the end of the day, Trek’s Anton Cooper and Cannondale/3Rox Racing’s Erin Huck took the wins in the cross country as both riders showed great poise and patience before making their decisive attacks.

In the Short Track (STXC) race on Sunday, Kate Courtney and Chris Blevins (both Specialized Factory Racing) took their respective wins and extended their series points lead in the US Cup series. The riders are control for the race for the two $10,000 winner-take-all prize payouts for the combined US CUP cross country and short track series.

Elite Women Cross Country

The Elite women lined up for six laps on a approximately 2.6-mile course that featured 550 feet of climbing per lap. The course was littered with short punchy climbs and of camber descents that would test the riders’ skills.

From the gun, Kate Coutrney took control with former World Champion Catherine Pendrel in tow. Just a few seconds back was Cannondale/3Rox rider Erin Huck, with Trek’s Emily Batty another 25 seconds back.

By lap two the US Elite National Champion and U23 National champions had established themselves as the strongest, as Huck and Courtney had dropped Pendrel and Batty, among others. With three laps to go, the two were locked in a personal dual.

Meanwhile, Batty had clawed her way back onto Pendrel to grab 3rd. Last week’s runner up Rose Grant was not on pace early, but kept her composure and was now inside the top ten with three laps to go.

Huck showed her savy as she stalked Courtney in the remaining laps, before finally deciding to make a move that would see her win by almost 30 seconds over Courtney. Batty had control over third over fellow Canadian Catherine Pendrel, while Rose Grant salvaged a bad first few laps to round out the top 5 and more importantly, keep her title hopes alive. 

“That was a great race”, exclaimed Huck who was fresh off a Pan Am Championship the week prior. “The course was really challenging but had good flow and Kate was climbing well today and I just tried to be patient. Once we had separation, I started to go to work on her.”

Elite Men Cross Country

An 86-strong field charged hard from the gun, stringing things out and then coming back together towards the end of the start lap. Former Cannondale teammates Anton Cooper (Trek Factory Racing) and Keegan Swenson (Cannondale 3Rox Racing) led the group out on the start loop while Howard Grotts (Specialized Factory Racing) joined to lead a large group out on the first of seven full laps.

After one lap, a group of seven formed which included: Cooper; Grotts; Blevins; Raphael Gagne and Derek Zandstra (both Cannondale 3Rox Racing); Andrew l’Esperance (Forward Racing); and Sergio Mantecon (Trek Factory Racing). Behind, a group of five including Geoff Kabush and Ridebiker Alliance’s Payson McElveen and Stephen Ettinger, took up the chase.

On the second lap, a group of three young riders forced the day’s selection as Cooper, Grotts and Blevins made their move. With an average age of just twenty one years, the lead group powered away and continued to build on their lead on the third and fourth laps. Blevins was gapped on the fourth time up the day’s main climb and spent the final two laps chasing Grotts and 2015 Fontana City winner Cooper. Behind, a group of five were chasing the final two podium spots. This group consisted of Fabio Hernando Castaneda Mosalve (Ruedas de Oro), Cameron Ivory (Australia), Gagne, l’Esperance and Kabush.

Grotts and Cooper continued to put in sub 11’45” laps on a consistent basis to build upon their massive lead but it was Cooper who attacked on the last climb to get the necessary gap, finishing ten seconds on Grotts. US CUP overall winner Blevins came across in third just shy of 2’30” down, while Gagne and l’Esperance rounded out the podium.

“It was a pretty tough day out there. It was real technical and at a really high speed,” said winner Cooper after the finish. “I wasn’t sure how I’d feel after the long travel from New Zealand. I tried to push the pace to break the group down. Howard took the lead on lap four and the final lap was an all out battle. I managed to lay down the watts on the last climb, open a gap and hold on to the finish.”

Elite Women STXC

On Sunday, the women’s short track event held greater importance than ever before, with equal points being scored for the chase for the overall $10,000 prize. With a 2nd in cross country the day prior, Kate Courtney was looking to put more space between her and rival Rose Grant (Stan’s/No Tubes). Early on, the women’s lead group had more than ten riders on the front of the 15 minute-plus-three-laps race. Racing was elbow to elbow for the next few laps as the Luna team had some riders on the front as well.

As time wore on, Courtney and Grant separated themselves and had the group down to five riders with only Pendrel and Batty able to hold on for a while.

With two laps to go, it was a two-person dual and this time, Kate got the win over Grant, (last weekend’s STXC winner) and padded her points lead to 16 with two rounds still to go.

Batty, Pendrel and Luna’s Eva Lechner rounded out the podium on the day.

Elite Men STXC

The men’s race saw some serious horsepower at the front with SRAM/Troy Lee teammates Todd Wells and Russel Finsterwald, along with Trek’s Anton Cooper, the Specialized duo of Howard Grotts and Christopher Blevins and others taking turns at the front of the 15 minutes-plus-three-laps race.

Coming into the last lap the men’s lead group was approaching the lappers, making for some very tense and tight racing as Wells, Blevins and others jockeyed for position.

In the final climb leading into the finish line, teen sensation Christopher Blevins rocketed from the group and was able to grab his second STXC win in as many weeks.

Aussie Cameron Ivy took a well fought second over veteran Todd Wells, with Trek’s Anton Cooper and Specialized’s Howard Grott rounding out the top 5.

By virtue of his 3rd place in yesterdays’ cross country and a win in the STXC, the 19-year-old took one step closer to that $10,000.00 bonus at the end of the series.

“This weekend went far better than expected,” said Blevins at the podium ceremony. “It’s really motivating to come out of here on such good form and I hope it carries through later into the season.”

 

Youth Movement at US CUP Round 1 in Fontana!

San Dimas, California – April 2, 2017: The US CUP presented by Ridebiker Alliance got off to a great start this weekend at Fontana City, California with Specialized Factory Racing’s Kate Courney and Christopher Blevins taking the honors in the cross country races on Saturday. The two young riders (Courtney is 22 while Blevins is just 19) gave a glimpse of a strong future for US cross country racing while beating strong fields of experienced racers.

In the Short Track (STXC) race on Sunday, Courtney finished a close second to Rose Grant (Stan’s NoTubes-Pivot) while Blevins’ late attack gave him the double.

Tie-breaker rules on the women’s results gave the weekend’s leaders jersey to Courtney, while Blevins took a commanding lead in the men’s rankings. The riders are also in the driver’s seat in the race for the two $10,000 winner-take-all prize payouts for the combined US CUP cross country and short track series. This special prize awards the Best All Around Rider in the US CUP series, with points granted equally for cross country and short track.

 

Elite women Cross Country

The Elite women lined up for five laps of the approximately 3.5-mile course that featured 600 feet of climbing per lap. The early start time made for perfect weather conditions. Right from the gun, a group of seven formed on the first lap including four women from the Clif Pro Team (Eva Lechner, Andrea Waldis, Haley Batten and Maghalie Rochette) plus Courtney, Rose Grant and Alexis Skarda (both STANS NOTUBES-Pivot). This group would animate the front of the race from this point forward.

On the second lap, Grant and Courtney showed their strength by separating from the Clif riders, foreshadowing the decisive action in the race. The two built up a 15-second lead at the end of lap two but the teamwork of the Clif Pro Team brought things together at the midway point of the race. On the bell lap, Courtney and Grant were again off the front, with Lechner and Waldis chasing hard.

On the final lap it would be Courtney who proved strongest, attacking Grant to take the win by 13 seconds.

“I’m super excited about this win, as well as being in the chase for that big prize!” said Courtney post-race. “It’s really great when an early season race goes so well. Next weekend at Bonelli will be a bit different, as it’s usually a World Cup quality field. I hope I can continue the good form. I’d like to give special thanks to my Specialized Factory Racing Team for all their great support this weekend as well.”

 

Elite men Cross Country

The men lined up for six laps of the challenging course. Similar to the women’s race, the decisive group was formed early, with Blevins joined by Luke Vrouwenvelder (Bear Development), Russel Finsterwald and Todd Wells (both SRAM/TLD Racing) and Evan Guthrie (Team Solo Evan). This group gradually grew an insurmountable lead by working together over the next few laps until lap 5 when Blevins put in a blistering attack that would last until the finish line. The 19-year-old took the win over Vrouwenvelder by over a minute and a half, with Evan Guthrie just behind.

A moment of concern occurred just before the bell lap for Wells, who had been dropped by the lead group on lap five. The former multi-National Champion took a hard fall on the final turn before the line and lay injured across the narrow lane for a few tense moments before restarting and finishing a painful last lap.

 

Elite Women STXC

On Sunday, the women’s short track event held greater importance than ever before, with equal points being scored for the chase for the overall $10,000 prize. The 21-strong field got off to a clean start with Courtney charging hard and taking the hole shot into the first turn. The first lap began the selection process and by the second lap of the 15-minutes plus 3 laps race, the definitive lead group of five were formed by Grant, Courtney, Evelyn Dong (Full Cycle/Liv), Alexis Skarda (Stans NoTubes-Pivot) and Shayna Powless (Sho-Air/Twenty20).

With Courtney sitting second wheel for almost the entire race, the eventual winning move seemed a formality until the final lap when Rose Grant forced the winning move and powered home to take the win. Kate Courtney took second while Skarda come in third.

A special mention goes out to Amy Beisel of Gunnison, Colorado who flatted just before staging. After pulling a nail from her tire and a quick change she started the race thirty seconds down on the group. Determined to score points in her specialty, Beisel chased through the pack one by one to finish ninth out of seventeen!

 

 

Elite Men STXC

The men’s race saw Blevins take the holeshot and lead through a very quick first lap, stringing the dusty group out. By the third lap a lead group of six formed, including favorites Blevins, Wells and Finsterwald. The group worked well together until they got the three-to-go sign, where Blevins and Wells were able to create a gap. Blevins put in a hard charge on the last lap to get the decisive gap and take the win. The results for second, sixth and ninth all came down photo finishes!

“This weekend went far better than expected,” said Blevins at the podium ceremony. “It’s really motivating to come out of here on such good form and I hope it carries through to next weekend.”

 

Current US CUP XC Rankings

Elite women

1 Kate Courtney (United States) Specialized Factory Racing                          115 pts
2 Rose Grant (United States) Stans NoTubes-Pivot                                               115 pts
3 Evelyn Dong (United States) Full Cycle/Liv                                                               85 pts
4 Alexis Skarda (United States) Stans NoTubes-Pivot                                          82 pts
5 Shayna Powless (United States) Sho-Air/Twenty20                                          71 pts

 

Elite men

1 Christopher Blevins (United States) Specialized Factory Racing                                120 pts
2 Luke Vrouwenvelder (United States) Bear Development                             102 pts
3 Russell Finsterwald (United States) SRAM/TLD Racing                                                     91 pts
4 Kyle Trudeau (United States) CZ Racing                                                                     85 pts
5 Daniel Johnson (United States) Bear Development                                         73 pts