Daniel Walker/Special to the Herald
ANGEL FIRE, N.M. – Instant replay is alive and well at the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike Championships.
In a performance virtually identical to Friday’s dominance in the cross country races, the Fort Lewis College cycling team repeated Saturday morning with two more national titles in the short track endurance races at Angel Fire Resort.
Lauren Catlin of the Skyhawks won her second consecutive national championship with Saturday’s short track victory in a race that featured a crash at the starting line.
Replay: She also won Friday’s cross country race.
FLC teammate Rotem Ishay won his third consecutive men’s national short track title, holding off teammate Howard Grotts.
Replay: The two finished in reverse order in the Division I cross country race.
The reruns continued Saturday for the Skyhawks, with freshman Garrett Lundberg finishing fourth and sophomore Payson McElveen fifth.
“Watching our boys go 1-2-4-5, I was like ... now I have to perform,” Catlin said amid the raucous finish-line celebration.
The FLC rider from Fairfax, Calif., managed to avoid a tangled mess of bicycles at the start when several riders went down as they powered into their first pedal strokes.
“I started on the third row, and I think that saved me,” Catlin said. “It (crash) happened on my right; I had room and went to my left and didn’t get caught up.”
She escaped the carnage and bolted to the front on the first short, steep climb on the circuituous half-mile short track course at the base of Angel Fire Resort.
She rode alone out front for the remainder of the 33-minute race.
“Last year, I was the one who got caught up at the begnning, so I know what that feels like,” said Catlin, quick to praise the work of her FLC teammates.
Sarah Sturm, who was the runner-up in Friday’s cross country race, started on the front row Saturday morning and was among those who had to free her bike from a tangled mess before starting on the first lap.
She eventually worked back up through the short track field and finished fifth.
Sofia Gomez, slowed midway through by a mechanical issue, still managed to take third place for the Skyhawks in her first U.S. national championship.
Deidre York of the University of Colorado finished second.
“There were so many crashes at the start, it was really hectic,” Gomez said.
“Then we really hammered that first climb. Little by little, I made my way up,” said Gomez, a native of Argentina who raced the high school circuit in Northern California before enrolling at FLC.
“I was in second for a little bit. Then my chain got stuck between the frame (and the cassette). I stopped and fixed it, and I started riding. But it still wasn’t on,” she said.
With the chain finally in its appointed gear, Gomez pedaled ahead. CU’s York passed her for second, but Gomez was more than happy with her bronze medal.
“I’m excited to be racing my first year collegiate,” Gomez said. “The team did awesome. Hopefully the downhill will go the same, and we’ll get the team overall because really that’s all that matters.”
The FLC men boosted the Skyhawks’ quest for the team omnium with Ishay’s third short track victory in a row at collegiate nationals.
“I was really motivated,” Ishay said of his final collegiate endurance race. “I was stressed.”
His self-imposed pressure, he said, made Saturday’s national title the sweetest of his three short track crowns.
“I felt kind of flat (Friday). I really wanted to get the victory (Saturday),” said Ishay, who then headed off to prepare for his gravity events. As an omnium contender, Ishay also raced Saturday’s downhill and will compete in today’s dual slalom at nationals.
He said that he and Grotts had a good battle with both riding in control for the Skyhawks’ team points.
“We rode safe for the team,” Ishay said.
Ishay and Grotts rode away from the rest of the 75 riders just as they did Friday.
“He (Rotem) was definitely pushing the pace the entire race,” said Grotts, the only American to win a Junior World Cup mountain bike race and now a three-time national collegiate cross country champion.
“I buried myself to get up with him (at the start),” Grotts said. “You don’t let him get away on that first lap.”
Grotts, a Durango High School alumnus and the son of Don Grotts and Debbie Williams, said Ishay was determined in his final collegiate endurance race.
“I think that would give you a great deal of motivation,” said Grotts, a junior, of the finality of the senior’s situation.
McElveen, also sporting a huge smile for FLC, said the team was focused on a strong all-around performance Saturday.
“We knew, if we all had solid days, we were capable of this,” said McElveen, the Texas native who won the Squawker Classic cross country race in Durango this year.
“But you have to actually make it happen on race day,” he said.
The Skyhawks made it happen, with CU’s Samuel Morrison in third, the only non-Skyhawks’ cyclist in the top five.
Defending collegiate omnium winner Kerry Werner of Lees-McRae College in North Carolina finished sixth in Saturday’s short track.
“It was awesome to hear Payson and Garrett were up there (during the race),” Ishay said of his young teammates who would finish fifth and fourth, respectively.
“The Fort Lewis program has done so much for me,” Ishay said. “It’s great to see I’m leaving the program to freshmen guys who are faster than when I started as a freshman.”