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Durango’s Chris Blevins sweeps Boston Rebellion, wins US Cup series

Durangoan cleaning up in rookie season

Christopher Blevins wasn’t sure if he would race the full US Cup mountain bike series when he began his first full season as a professional cyclist. Two early-season wins in California helped make the final two events a priority.

Blevins, a 19-year-old and 2016 Durango High School graduate, completed a dominant run through eight races across four stops on the US Cup circuit this summer with a sweep of the Boston Rebellion event July 28-30. He won both the cross country race and short-track cross country event in Walpole, Massachusetts.

In the eight races, Blevins never finished off the podium. He swept the opening two races at the Fontana XC in California wand took first in XC and third in STXC at Bonelli Park in California. The week before the USA Cycling mountain bike nationals in West Virginia, Blevins placed first at the Eastern Grind XC race and second in STXC at the two races in Vermont. His two wins at the Boston Rebellion came one week after his impressive performances at nationals that included a win in the under-23 cross country race.

For winning the series, Blevins earned a bonus $10,000 on top of his earnings at each race.

“It doesn’t feel like I really should be making money,” Blevins said. “It’s what I’ve been doing, bike racing my whole life. It’s really cool, and I’ll put that money in the bank.”

The Boston Rebellion was the final stop of the US Cup for mountain biking and also is a UCI HC category race. That brought in a big name racer in Daniel McConnell of Australia. Still, Blevins was strong enough to hold of the 31-year-old who is ranked 16th in the UCI.

“It was an honor for sure,” Blevins said of lining up with McConnell. “I think he’s probably the most accomplished at the world cup level I’ve raced against. I didn’t really have expectations to stay with him, but the course was one that was less of a power course than world cups. It played in my favor a little more.”

The Boston Rebellion course took expert skill with tight winding turns. Blevins said he felt the previous two weeks of racing on the East Coast helped him be prepared for the features of the course.

Blevins finished the Boston XC race in 1 hour, 32 minutes, 46 seconds. McConnell was second, 52 seconds back. Sandy Floren was third, 54 seconds behind Blevins, and 24-year-old Cameron Ivory, another strong Australian rider, was fourth at 1:07 behind Blevins. North Carolina’s Luke Vrouwenvelder was fifth, 1:10 behind Blevins.

Durango’s Stephan Davoust was 21st, 6:05 behind Blevins.

Blevins was first to the line in the STXC event. McConnell was second, and Ivory placed third.

Blevins’ Specialized teammate Kate Courtney won both women’s races in Boston and also claimed the series title. Courtney, who is good friends with Blevins’ older sister, Kaylee, is one third of a young but powerful Specialized team that includes Durango’s Howard Grotts.

“After the two races in (Southern California), I saw the calendar lined up to be at each race of the US Cup,” Blevins said. “I wanted to give it a shot, and that’s what Kate and I both were thinking after California’s races.

“We’ve got a good group with Howard, Kate and I and our super mechanic Brad Copeland. It really makes it fun having one another. With Howard, it still feels like we’re teammates with Durango DEVO, and Kate is like a second sister.”

Support from across the cycling community has been shown to Blevins. Durango’s Todd Wells, a 14-time national champion and three-time Olympian, called Blevins the sport’s rookie of the year this week.

“I have the confidence that I’m there, but at the same time I don’t want to be satisfied,” Blevins said. “I still feel young. Todd and Howard are so established, and I know I’m not at their level of consistency. It’s great that I’ve had such a good season and people notice that, but I’m keeping it in perspective and remembering it’s still my first year.”

Wells finished fourth in the US Cup overall standings despite not racing in Boston. Grotts was fifth and didn’t race at either Fontana or Boston.

Blevins will now turn his attention to the Colorado Classic, a four-stage road cycling race in Colorado Springs, Breckenridge and Denver to be held Aug. 10-13. It will span 313 miles and produce 20,000 feet of climbing. There also will be a two-stage women’s race that will cover 70 miles and feature 5,800 feet of climbing.

Blevins has proved to be a contender no matter which bike he rides. He placed 10th in the time trial at the USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships and was 15th in the road race, finishing ahead of many elite pro riders. Blevins will competed for the Axeon Hagens Berman team in the event that features many more WorldTour teams and riders.

jlivingston@durangoherald.com

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