Howard Grotts is heading home to Durango to get ready for some high-altitude racing.
After spending a few weeks in Europe on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup tour, the 23-year-old Specialized Racing team rider and defending cross country mountain biking national champion is ready to tear it up on home soil.
Grotts wrapped up his most-recent European trip Sunday at the La Bresse World Cup event in France. He placed 18th in the Men’s Elite category in a time of 1 hours, 31 minutes, 44 seconds. France’s Julien Absalon won on home soil. The 36-year-old finished in 1:26:38.
“After mishaps in the first couple rounds, it was nice to have a clean and consistent race,” Grotts said on his Facebook fan page. “Working my way up steadily from 40th after the start lap.”
Sunday’s race was the last chance for an American to automatically qualify for the U.S. Olympic team for the Summer 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and no one performed well enough to clinch a spot. Grotts and three-time Olympian and fellow Durangoan Todd Wells, 40, are both on the short list for selection.
“While we were racing around the Southwest, the big showdown was happening in France at the (third) round of the World Cup,” Wells said on his blog after completing the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. “It is going to be a hard coaches selection with no one having a breakout performance and only one slot up for grabs due to the (country’s) poor ranking over the last two years. I’m glad I don’t have to pick the (mountain bike) or road teams for the games.”
Grotts entered the month of May ranked 55th in the Elite Men’s individual standings with 602 points. That came after an eighth-place finish at Bonelli Park in California at the first U.S. Cup event. He also placed 81st at the first UCI World Cup event in Cairns, Australia.
Grotts saw improvement at his next World Cup race May 22 in Albstadt, Germany, but a mechanical issue derailed his day. Still, he managed to finish 31st in 1:34:33. Durango’s Christopher Blevins won the Junior World Series race in Albstadt the day before and credited part of his success to riding the course earlier in the week with Grotts.
World Cup points leader Nino Schurter of Switzerland won the Albstadt race in 1:28:38.
“Albstadt World Cup was a huge improvement over Cairns but still not quite a clean run,” Grotts said on Facebook. “Had a solid start up to 14th, then a trip to the tech zone for a new dérailleur hangar took me back to 72nd. Engaged diesel mode for 31st in the end.”
The next U.S. Cup race is scheduled for June 18 in Missoula, Montana. It will rap up July 30 at the Boston Rebellion in Wapole, Massachusetts.
The GoPro Mountain Games XC Mountain Bike race is scheduled for June 11 in Vail.