Chris Blevins was one flat tire away Thursday from landing on a podium with the top professional men’s mountain bikers in the United States. Sunday, he left no doubt who the top under-23 rider is in the nation.
Blevins, a 19-year-old from Durango and 2016 Durango High School graduate, won the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships cross country mountain bike race for under-23 men Sunday at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. He crossed the finish line in 1:27:54 to edge North Carolina’s Luke Vrouwenvelder, who finished in 1:28:42. Sandy Floren of California was third in 1:29:11.
“I wanted to race my own race and not wait around for a group to form,” Blevins said. “I knew the second place guy, Luke, he’s super strong and been riding well. I knew his goal was to stay with me as long as he could. He kept it close, but I maintained the gap and grew it.”
Blevins had rode at the front of the short-track race Thursday with eventual national champ Howard Grotts, also of Durango, before a flat tire derailed his day and sent him to a 21st-place finish among the professional men. Back in the under-23 category Sunday, Blevins wouldn’t be stopped from the start. He said he made a point to ride nice and smooth to avoid any more flat tires.
“I’ve surpassed my expectations this year,” Blevins said. “I’m happy to be where I am this season, to keep learning and growing and see where I can take it even further.”
Grotts, who is on the Specialized Factory Racing Team, said the young Durango phenom that is Blevins is helping keep him motivated in the elite pro men’s fields, too.
“It’s pretty clear that Chris is far and away above other kids his age,” Grotts said. “He’s already way far beyond where I was at his age. I would hope next year he’ll race the elite cross country race with us. He’s clearly on that level to compete for the title. I’m looking forward to battles with him in the future.”
Durango’s Stephan Davoust finished seventh in 1:31:06 and rode in the front three at the mid-way point of the race. His fellow Fort Lewis College rider Cole Paton of Washington placed in fifth in 1:30:13. Durango’s Jorge Munoz Jr. placed 33rd in 1:46:37. Fort Lewis College’s Henry Nadell, who is from Carbondale, was 23rd in 1:39:41.
The women’s under-23 race was won by Haley Batten (1:21:21) of Utah. Hannah Finchamp (1:30:14) of Washington was second, and California’s Kelsey Urban (1:31:31) placed third. Durango’s Ellen Campbell placed sixth in 1:36:26.
Blevins will race the Boston Rebellion, the final stop of the U.S. Cup series, next week before returning home to prepare for the Colorado Classic road cycling event.