Durango’s mountain bike talent is only getting stronger. The evidence was in the juniors races at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia.
Three riders age 18-and-under combined to win five national championships over the weekend. Riley Amos swept the short-track and cross-country championships in the 16-and-under junior men’s category, while Quinn Simmons accomplished the same feat in the 18-and-under men’s races. Maddie Jo Robbins also won the junior women’s 18-and-under cross-country national championship race despite a broken scaphoid, a large bone in the wrist that affects thumb movement.
“I think we took almost every single title we could here or at least podium,” said Howard Grotts, Durango’s four-time elite professional cross-country mountain bike national champion. “We showed Durango is incredibly talented and we have a lot of young stars. I can’t wait to see where they go in mountain biking.”
Simmons repeated as the junior men’s cross-country champion and also earned his second short-track Stars and Stripes jersey in the three years of junior racing. Last year, he finished second in short-track and was disappointed not to retain the jersey. But this year, earning the sweep wasn’t always part of the plan.
“I was riding short-track with the goal of helping my teammate Nolan Jenkins get the win,” Simmons said. “But it became clear it wasn’t his day halfway through the race, and my legs were there, so I decided to go for it. Any time you can win a national championship, it’s a great feeling, and I’m glad I got the jersey back for our team.”
Simmons, who rode for the Whole Athlete team, won the short-track in 28 minutes, 9.27 seconds. Jake Yackle of Washington, formerly of Cortez, was second in 28:10.02. Jenkins finished fifth in 28:43.62.
In the cross-country race, he completed four laps on a 3.3-mile loop that featured 362 feet of climbing per lap in a time of 1:08:19.48. He again beat Yackle, who finished in 1:08:55.10. He pre-rode the course Friday, and it was his first time on a mountain bike in over a month, as he recently returned from a long stint of road racing in Europe.
“Race day was only my second day on the mountain bike,” Simmons said. “I went all out for two laps and had a 90-second gap. After that, I kind of made sure I didn’t have any crashes because I have more races coming up. The gap got down to 30 seconds or so, but I brought it home.”
Simmons’ recent road racing, in which he has been highly successful, paid off in the short-track. He raced in a group with six to seven in the main pack and then kicked his way around Yackle to the finish. He will return to the road bike for junior road national championships in Maryland beginning Thursday. After Saturday’s road race, he and his Lux Cycling Team will fly to Belgium for another round of road racing there and later in France.
“I know Quinn has been split on road, but it will be cool if he sticks with mountain biking for a bit and we can have some battles with him in a few years,” Grotts said.
Robbins, riding for the Bear Development Team, had targeted the national championships all year with the goal of qualifying for the world championships in September in Switzerland. Despite the broken scaphoid, she completed three laps on the course in 1:03:59.48 to blow away the competition. Katie Clouse of Park City, Utah, was second in 1:06:44.48.
“I am beyond stoked to fulfill and dream and grab the Stars and Stripes jersey in the XC,” Robbins said in a post to Instagram. “The course was fun and unique with plenty of slick rocks and roots as well as fog and rain. But bike racing idn’t done all on your own, it takes a village. I am lucky enough to have an outstanding village by my side, and I cannot thank all those who contribute to my village enough.”
Robbins did not race the short-track event.
Amos got his nationals sweep started Friday night with a win in the cross-country. Thanks to a massive field registered for the junior men’s short-track, USA Cycling split the junior men into two categories, one for riders 17-18 and another for riders 15-16. Amos fell into the 15-16 category and didn’t have a chance to race Simmons, but it opened the door for another gold.
The Durango Devo rider finished in 25:14.80. Bjorn Riley of Boulder was second in 25:18.87. Riley claimed the Colorado Cycling League state championship with a two-second win against Amos in the fall, and Amos was thrilled to get him back in the national championship race.
“It was a bit of redemption for me,” Amos said. “I consider myself a good technical rider, and that played to my strengths this weekend. The short-track was short and punchy and a lot of double-track, so it was going to come down to whoever had the best legs.”
Amos said he felt honored to represent Durango at an event dominated by Durango talent through the years. The young rider hopes to add to the legacy.
“When you show up to nationals and you’re from Durango, it raises eyebrows because people know you’re going to be pretty good,” he said. “To represent the town and win feels really great. It’s continuing the legacy from Ned Overend all the way down to guys like me and even some younger kids we have coming up that are really fast. It feels really great to be here and see guys like Howard (Grotts) and Chris (Blevins). They are great supporters and mentors for us, and they’re willing to work with us and help us get better. It’s great.”
Riders from pro Payson McElveen to Simmons were impressed with Amos’ big weekend and expect him to only get better in upcoming years.
“Riley had a really good weekend,” Simmons said. “I wasn’t expecting him to get the sweep at all. Then you see what Maddie Jo did and she gets to go to worlds now, so it’s great to see Durango have a really fast girl, too.”