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Durango helps U.S. in team relay at mountain bike world championships

Blevins, Grotts turn in solid laps on five-rider team

Powered by a pair of Durangoans, the United State mountain bike team opened the world championships with a strong result Wednesday.

Durango’s Christopher Blevins got the Americans off to a strong start in the cross-country mountain bike team relay at the International Cycling Union’s 2017 Mountain Mike World Championships in Cairns, Australia.

Blevins turned in the top-American time on the five-rider team, completing his lap in 12 minutes, 16 seconds. That set the tone, and Durango’s Howard Grotts anchored the relay team with a lap of 12:22 to place the U.S. fifth in the opening event of the championships.

Blevins was the U.S. team’s under-23 men’s rider, while Grotts was the team’s elite men’s participant. They teamed with under-23 women’s sensation Kate Courtney of California, elite women’s rider Lea Davison of New York and junior men’s rider Kevin Vermaerke of California.

Courtney, the women’s U23 UCI overall world cup champion, completed the team’s second lap in 13:58. It was the second-fastest time for a U23 woman in the event.

Vermaerke completed his lap in 12:56, and Davison completed a lap in 14:08 before Grotts’ final leg. Grotts was in an all-out battle for fourth-place along with Great Britain and Italy. Great Britian took fourth in 1 hour, 5 minutes, 38 seconds, the U.S. finished fifth in 1:05:40, and Italy was sixth in 1:05:42.

Switzerland, powered by the fastest-lap of the day from Olympic gold medalist Nino Schurter, won the relay in 1:05:08. Denmark was second in 1:05:32, and France took third, also in 1:05:32. Eighteen nations competed in the event.

Schurter’s lap of 11:59 matched the time of New Zealand’s Anton Cooper as the fastest lap of the relay race.

The UCI World Championships will continue through Sunday. The men’s and women’s juniors will compete in the cross-country race Thursday, and Durango’s Katja Freeburn will represent the U.S. women.

The men’s U23 cross-country race will be contested Friday, with Blevins expected to contend for a medal.

The women’s U23 race will be held Saturday, with Courtney seeking a gold medal. The men’s and women’s elite cross-country races also will be contested Saturday, with Grotts and fellow Durangoan Payson McElveen racing in the men’s event.

Racing will wrap up Sunday with downhill events.

jlivingston@durangoherald.com

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