If Stephan Davoust needed any extra motivation as he held a 20-second lead Saturday, he only needed to look outside the tape lining the course.
The 26-year-old mountain biker from Durango, who rides for the Giant Factory Off-Road Team, turned in a huge weekend at the three-day Solider Hollow Bike Festival in Utah. After he placed second in the short-track race behind teammate Luke Vrouwenvelder of North Carolina, he then stormed to victory in the cross-country race Saturday. It was his first career win in a International Cycling Union (UCI) points race.
“It was super fun having a local race within driving distance and to have all the Durango Devo kids out there, too,” Davoust said. “That helped and was a big part of the motivation and inspiration to go fast. Those kids have great energy, and it’s fun to be able to watch them race and do well and then have them show up and yell for me.
“Coming off a year of no racing and not knowing what the future would hold team-wise or with what races we would even have this year, having a win and such a good team result makes it feel like I’ve been doing things right fort he last year. It keeps my spirit of being on the bike alive.”
Davoust crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 30 minutes, 9 seconds. That was 29 seconds in front of Boulder’s Bjorn Riley and 1:24 in front of Vrouwenvelder.
“Racing wise, I always do a pre-ride and this course never seems that sweet with not as many technical features, but then when you start racing, it’s a whole new ball game with fast, dynamic racing,” Davoust said. “The minute the gun went off, I knew I was feeling good. I got an early breakaway after feeling it out the first half. I realized I was leading the race, and it had not happened in awhile where I was off the front. I was hesitant to blow up, so I sat up and let the chase group catch me.
“I rode with them for a bit, but I quickly found myself with another gap. I said, ’Wow, I’m going to take this and see what happens and ride my own race.’ It was a solo effort that whole second half about 20 seconds off the front. It was rabbit and the fox, and I was the rabbit running.”
Davoust said it was refreshing to have so much positive feedback at the finish line and a group to celebrate with after a year of social distancing.
Also in the UCI men’s race, Fort Lewis College alum Ryan Standish finished sixth in 1“34”42. Durango’s Cobe Freeburn was 12th in 1:34:52. It was a big weekend for Freeburn, as he also finished third in the UCI short-track race in a stacked field.
“Last weekend was one to remember,” Freeburn said in a post to Instagram. “Over the years, I’ve had many fond memories of racing in Soldier Hollow, but this is by far the best one yet. It was a lot of fun to take my first UCI elite podium. It was pretty neat to be up with the front of the pro field.”
Durango continued to be well represented in the UCI men’s cross-country race, as Cody Cupp was 14th in 1:35:00 and Guy Leshem was 19th in 1:36:01. Keiran Eagen added a 30-th place finish in 1:40:39 and Colton Sacket was 39th in 1:42:42. There were 56 riders who finished and six starters who did not finish.
The UCI women’s race was won by Grand Junction’s Alexis Skarda in 1:31:47, 43 seconds ahead of Montana’s Rose Grant. Evelyn Dong of utah was third in 1:34:44. Durango’s Madelyn Roberson was 12th in 1:45:32.
For Davoust, his next race will come at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in Durango. He won the men’s mountain bike race the last time the event was held in 2019.
“I am hoping to defend the mountain bike title there,” Davoust said. “Our guy Howard Grotts is coming down, too. He’s going to be heavy hitting, I’m sure – fast as always.”
Ruth Holcomb remained perfect on the year in UCI junior women’s cross-country races. The 18-year-old won the cross-country race Saturday in 1:04:28 in a podium sweep for the Bear National Team and nearly a podium sweep for Durango riders. Tai-Lee Smith of Breckenridge was second in 1:06:34, while Durango’s Bailey Cioppa was third in 1:07:48 and Durango’s Lauren Aggeler placed fourth in 1:09:04. There were 28 junior women who finished out of 32 starters.
Holcomb noted it was a special day to spend on the bike, as it was International Women on Bikes Day. She quickly went from Utah to Germany to prepare for the first two UCI World Cup races of the season in Albstadt, Germany before Nové Město, Czech Republic.
“I could not be more excited to get out there and test myself against some international competition in these coming weeks,” Holcomb said.
The UCI junior men’s race was won by Littleton’s Brayden Johnson in 1:06:36. He was 1:11 in front of California’s Corbin Parsley. Ivan Sippy of Durango placed fifth in 1:08:59. Also of Durango, Jarier Laureno was 34th in 1:17:10, while Alex Green placed 64th down one lap. The field was loaded with 75 starters and 70 finishers.
Junior Women 15-16
Durango’s Maggie Holcomb showed her strength in her age group at Soldier Hollow. She won the junior women’s age 15-16 cross-country race in 48:10, which was 1:19 in front of Utah’s Andie Aagard.
Aagard won the time trial race Thursday, as Holcomb was second down 16.2 seconds.
Upcoming World Cups
The UCI World Cup season will begin this weekend with big stakes for several Durango riders.
While Holcomb will look to keep building her world ranking, Durango’s Riley Amos is also ready for a debut as part of the Trek Factory Racing team for the under-23 events.
With eyes on the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Durango’s Christopher Blevins will be pitted against Utah’s Keegan Swenson in elite men’s racing to determine which will be picked by USA Cycling for the one American spot in the Olympics. USA Cycling said in a news release Thursday that it will look to make its selection May 24.