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Big mountain bike weekend in Utah for Sonntag, Simmons and Robbins

Utah event loaded with many of Durango’s elite riders
Durango’s Benjamin Sonntag, right, beat teammate Russel Finsterwald in a sprint finish in Saturday’s short-track cross-country mountain bike race in Midway, Utah.

The fourth leg of the 2018 Pro Mountain Bike Cross-Country Tour descended on Midway, Utah, last weekend for the Soldier Hollow ProXCT and International Cycling Union (UCI) Junior Series Cross-Country races.

Durango’s Benjamin Sonntag, originally of Germany, stood on top of the podium in the men’s short-track race Saturday. In Sunday’s cross-country races, Durango’s Madeline Robbins won the junior women’s race, while Durango’s Quinn Simmons finished second in the junior men’s event.

The 38-year-old Sonntag finished the short-track race in 24 minutes, 25 seconds and beat Team Clif Bar teammate Russell Finsterwald of Colorado Springs in the sprint finish. Jerry Dufour finished third, one second back of Sonntag and Finsterwald.

Sonntag earned 10 UCI points with the win. The top-five finishers received points.

“The short-track was awesome,” Sonntag said. “For me, that was really good because I usually place really well, always up there, but I haven’t won a race in the last two seasons. It felt like it was a good confidence booster so that the next time you line up to race, you believe you can still win.”

FLC’s Richard Cypress Gorry, 24, finished sixth in 24:27, and his FLC teammate Cole Paton, 21, was eighth in the same time. Former FLC rider Ryan Standish was ninth in 24:28. FLC’s Jason Rowton, 19, was 14th in 24:46. Daniel Johnson of Durango was 15th in 24:49. Durango’s Stephan Davoust placed 17th in 24:56, ahead of Utah’s Keegan Swenson, who crossed in 25:39. FLC had plenty more results, as Nash Dory was 22nd in 25:42, Harrison Buckley was 25th in 25:56 and Henry Nadell was 26th in 25:59.

Levi Kurlander, who leads Durango Devo and rides for the Orange-Seal Off-Road Team, was 29th in 26:16. FLC’s Jacob Sacket was 35th down one lap, and Durango’s Keiran Eagen, also of FLC, was 39th down one lap.

The women’s short-track was won by Canada’s Maghalie Rochette. Former FLC rider Sofia Gomez-Villafañe finished a strong second, as the 24-year-old from Argentina finished in 23:55, three seconds back of Rochette.

Sofia Gomez-Villafañe took second place in short-track and third in the cross-country race last weekend at the Soldier Hollow ProXCT in Utah. She is a former Fort Lewis College cycling star.

Durango’s Katja Freeburn was seventh in 25:18, and fellow Durangoan and FLC teammate Ellen Campbell finished eighth in 25:38.

The big show at the Soldier Hollow Pro XCT was Sunday’s cross-country mountain bike races. Switzerland’s Nicola Rohbrach charged around seven laps of the course in 1:32:12 to take the win and 60 UCI points. Swenson was second in 1:32:35 for 40 points, and Standish landed on the podium in third in 1:33:00 for 30 points. Finsterwald was fourth in 1:33:27, Gorry was fifth in 1:33:30, Paton was seventh in 1:34:35, Sonntag was ninth in 1:35:54, and Davoust rounded out the top 10 in 1:36:06.

Sonntag said he felt good, but when the wind kicked up it flared up his allergies, a similar problem he had at the previous Whiskey Off-Road race in Prescott, Arizona.

“It’s really frustrating to have that happen and not be able to show what you have right now,” said Sonntag, who said his big goals this season come on the Epic Rides series, which has its second stop May 18-20 in Grand Junction.

Durango’s Benjamin Sonntag took flight Sunday in the Soldier Hollow ProXCT mountain bike race in Utah. He finished ninth in cross-country one day after winning the short-track race.

Johnson rolled in to the finish in 18th in 1:39:17, Nadell was 23rd in 1:42:12 and Kurlander finished 24th in 1:42:33.

Dory finished 26th, Sacket placed 30th and Rowton was 33rd, all on the lead lap. Buckley was down a lap in 40th and Eagen was 44th.

Rochette again won in the women’s field, as she finished in 1:31:24. Evelyn Dong of Massachusetts was second in 1:31:01, and Gomez-Villafañe was third in 1:33:52.

In the cross-country race, Campbell finished one spot ahead of Freeburn in eighth in 1:42:27. Freeburn finished in 1:44:25.

UCI points also were on the line for juniors in Sunday’s cross-country races. California’s Kevin Vermaerke won the junior men’s race in 1:05:41 to finish ahead of Durango’s Simmons, who crossed in 1:06:40 after beating Paul Fabian in a sprint to the finish line. Simmons earned 70 UCI points with the win, while Vermaerke, his teammate on the Whole Athlete and Lux Cycling teams, earned 90 points.

It was Simmons’ final race as a 17-year-old, as he celebrated his 18th birthday Tuesday. Simmons was unable to ride as much as he would like leading up to Utah, as a crash on his mountain bike in Durango required him to get stitches in his knee.

Durango’s Quinn Simmons took second place in the UCI junior men’s cross-country mountain bike race Sunday at the Soldier Hollow ProXCT in Midway, Utah.

“I definitely felt good but not at my best, for sure,” he said. “I rode the first lap with Kevin, and then on a steep climb he got some separation. Paul was chasing, so I jumped on behind him and let him do all the work. Starting in the last lap, Paul didn’t want me sitting in behind him another lap, and we took that last one really slow and the gap to Kevin really opened up.”

Simmons will leave for Europe for a mix of road cycling and mountain bike events through the early part of July.

Durango’s Robbins dominated the women’s junior race, as the 17-year-old finished in 1:05:56. Mila Leger Redel was second in 1:09:29. The win gave Robbins 90 UCI points to put her in the top 20 of the UCI rankings.

Robbins also won the short-track race in the junior category. She finished in 26:50.69, nearly 21 seconds faster than Utah’s Morgan Hales, who was second.

Durango’s Maddie Jo Robbins was in fine form last weekend in Utah, as she won the UCI junior women’s short-track and cross-country mountain bike races at the Soldier Hollow ProXCT.

“It’s nice to be able to race at the older level now in the UCI category,” Robbins said. “It’s a lot more fun to have more competition and have it count for international points.”

Robbins is one of the youngest UCI junior women racing in the category, and she takes pride in being able to continually reach podiums after strong finishes this year at the two big events in California. Robbins said her big goal this year is to qualify for the junior world championships, and last weekend’s results will go a long way to help.

“That definitely prepared me well,” Robbins said of the California events. “It allowed me to have a few races under my belt to go into this one, and it’s not as nerve wracking now. I know I can compete at a high level. Knowing I’m youngest, it challenges me more. I work even harder since I’m not supposed to beat them when I’m younger.”

jlivingston@durangoherald.com

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