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Blevins and Blunk win first stop of U.S. Pro Cup

Cioppa wins junior races; Cole Paton, Riley Amos reach podium in XCO, STXC
Christopher Blevins flies through a rock garden Thursday at the U.S. Pro Cup cross-country Olympic race in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Blevins won the race by more than three minutes. (Courtesy Specialized Factory Racing)

Durango cyclists Christopher Blevins (Specialized Factory Racing) and Savilia Blunk (Orange Seal Off-Road Team) won the opening elite cross-country Olympic races of the Moosejaw U.S. Pro Cup on Thursday in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Blevins then turned around and scored another first-place finish Friday in the short-track competition.

“It’s good confidence for my races coming up,” Blevins said about the two wins. “I’ve really got my eyes on the World Cups, and I feel my fitness is there.”

Blevins called Thursday’s conditions “super sloppy” but said it would be a good preview for the upcoming World Cup races in Europe, where it’s often muddy, he said.

Despite the mud, Blevins created a gap early in the race and ended up winning comfortably by almost three minutes. He finished the eight 4.2-kilometer laps in 1 hour, 35 minutes and 58 seconds, while another Durango rider, Cole Paton (Orange Seal Off-Road Team), finished second in 1:38:49. Stephan Davoust (Giant Factory Off Road Team) placed sixth in 1:40:53. Riley Amos (Trek Factory Racing) crossed eighth in 1:42:47, and Ivan Sippy (Team Durango Segment 28) finished 35th out of 94 riders after completing five laps in 1:19:25. Toby Hasset (WE Development) did not finish.

“There’s always a bunch of Durango guys,” Blevins said. “It’s good to see everyone regardless, but it’s especially good in a competitive, national field.”

In the women’s elite race, Haley Batten (Specialized Factory Racing) took an early, 40-second lead. Blunk, however, reeled her in and caught her by the final, seventh lap. Blunk then beat Batten in a sprint to the finish, crossing first in 1:37:22, four seconds ahead of Batten. Ruth Holcomb (Bear National Team) also scored a top-five finish, placing fifth in the elite race in 1:43:17. Natalie Quinn (Meta by BJC) crossed 17th in 1:51:38, Madelyn Roberson (Team Durango Segment 28), finished 21st after four laps in 1:16:49, and Michaela Thompson (Team Durango Segment 28) placed 28th in 1:20:01. Sabrina Hayes (Kelly benefits) did not finish.

Bailey Cioppa (Bear National Team), meanwhile, won the junior women’s XCO race by more than a minute, completing five laps in 1:12:04. Cioppa also won Friday’s junior 15-18 short-track race, winning the three-lap sprint by four seconds in 14:43.

Blevins, the defending short-track world champ, said short-track races are more tactical. His strategy on Friday was to be patient and attack at the end, and it paid off. Blevins ended up winning his specialty, completing five laps in 20:35, four seconds ahead of Quinon Disera (Canyon Devo Racing) and six seconds ahead of Amos in third. Davoust (21:10) finished 14th, Sippy (22:20) placed 42nd, and Hassett (22:35) finished 54th.

In the women’s elite short track race, Blunk placed seventh in the four-lap race in 18:57, just four seconds behind the winner, Maghalie Rochette (Specialized/Feedback Sports). Thompson (19:15) finished 13th, Holcomb (19:36) finished 15th, Roberson (19:57) finished 20th, Hayes (22:41) placed 39th.

The U.S. Pro Cup will conclude Sunday with another XCO race. The U.S. tour will then have three stops: May 7-8 in Midway, Utah; May 21-22 at Fall River, Wisconsin; and June 10-11 in Missoula, Montana.

Blevins will race at the U.S. National Championships in Snowshoe and said he’ll do some gravel races here, but his focus this year is on the World Cup’s nine stops.

Blunk, meanwhile, will debut in the World Cup elite field this year.

The World Cup also added a short-track series this season, which interests Blevins.

“Being the world champ, there’s more incentive to represent in every race I do,” Blevins said. “It’s definitely a focus.”

The World Cup stops feature short-track and XCO races, and Blevins also wants to do well in both.

“I’ll try to do my best in every race,” he said.

Blevins, who has been part of the Specialized family for about the past eight years, also joined the Specialized factory Racing team this season. He called it a “strong program” with “great support.”

Blevins began his season at the eight-stage Cape Epic in South Africa. “That was the hardest race I’ve ever done,” he said. “Having such a hard block like that, your level just goes up. I think it will pay off all year.”