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Blunk captures a pair of national titles

Former FLC cyclist gains momentum for second half of world cup
Savilia Blunk descends a technical rock section on Saturday during the elite women's cross-country Olympic national championship. Blunk won the title for the second straight year. (Courtesy John Vargus/Orange Seal)

Former Fort Lewis College cyclist Savilia Blunk (Ford Rockrider Racing) captured a pair of national titles over the weekend at the USA Cycling Cross Country Mountain Bike National Championship at Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania.

Blunk defended her elite women’s cross-country title on Saturday with a strong sprint at the end.

On Sunday, she scored a short-track title in a field also stacked with the top U23 female cyclists.

Savilia Blunk wins the elite women's short track national title after a muddy race on Sunday Pennsylvania. (Courtesy John Vargus/Orange Seal)

“It’s still sinking in for sure, but it felt amazing,” Blunk said. “I’ve had a little bit of a rough start to my world cup season and haven’t been where I want to be. But to defend my cross-country title and also win short-track is an amazing way to restart the second half of my season.”

In the first lap of the cross-country race, Blunk, Kate Courtney (Scott-SRAM MTB) and Gwendalyn Gibson (Trek Factory Racing) were all riding together at the front of the pack.

On the second, lap, Blunk and Courtney got some separation on Gibson and it became a one-on-one battle for the title.

“I’d lose contact with her on the climbs, but always bring it back on the descents,” Blunk said.

She also said she worked to stay on top of cooling herself down in the hot conditions.

“I was trying to be patient, ride my bike the best I could and be calm and patient,” she said. “I kept telling myself, ‘the race isn’t over until you cross the finish line.’”

On the final lap, Courtney got some separation on the final major climb while Blunk tried to keep her lead to 15 or 20 seconds so she’d have a shot at the end.

On the ensuing descent, Blunk caught Courtney but then had a mistake and clipped out of her pedal.

“It came down to a sprint at the finish,” Blunk said, noting that with 200 meters to go she was in second place. “I was super happy to finally nail a sprint and win it. It was super exciting.”

Blunk won the cross-country title in 1 hour, 20 minutes and 57 seconds. Courtney finished second five seconds later and Gibson finished third, 6:04 after Blunk.

On Sunday, a thunderstorm rolled in and the elite short-track cross-country races were postponed about three hours. USA Cycling then had to change the course up to hold the races.

“It was a wild afternoon of waiting and the course totally changed,” Blunk said. “We ended up racing on a different course because it was all they could do (to hold it).”

Racing in the mud, Blunk said she got some separation on the very first climb and then held it the rest of the race.

She ended up winning the short-track title by 21 seconds in 16:41. Gibson finished second and Courtney finished third.

“It was a super fun race, but it was just a mud slop,” Blunk said. “You have to be so focused in the mud because the course had no traction and things could shake up really quick.”

The field also included the top U23 female bikers, and several other Durango cyclists also landed in the top-10.

Michaela Thompson of Team Durango Segment 28 finished on the podium in fifth in 17:53, Bailey Cioppa (Bear National Team) placed sixth in 18:20 and Lauren Aggeler (Trinity Racing) finished 15th out of the field’s 23 bikers in 20:39.

“It was nice to have a little more competition and a bigger field,” Blunk said.

She also said it was nice to have her parents there to watch her, as well as Orange Seal and the Orange Seal Academy there supporting her.

Blunk will now turn her focus to the second half of the season, beginning with the world championships Aug. 8-12 in Scotland.

Savilia Blunk celebrates as she crosses the finish line first on Saturday during the elite women's cross-country Olympic national championship. (Courtesy John Vargus/Orange Seal)