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First national champions crowned at Purgatory

Skyhawks finish in top 10; dual slalom suspended because of darkness
Nathan Colavolpe of Fort Lewis College competes in the USA Cycling Collegiate MTB Championships men's club cross-country race on Friday at Purgatory Resort. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Fort Lewis College and Colorado Mesa University started the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships with dominate performances in the cross-country races Friday at Purgatory resort.

In the women’s varsity race, the top 8 finishers came from the two schools.

In the varsity men’s race, eight of the top 10 riders were either Skyhawks or Mavericks.

Madigen Munro from Mesa won the women’s varsity national championship in the mud and snow in 58 minutes and 29 seconds.

The next two finishers, however, were Skyhawks. Michaela Thompson finished second in 1:01:02, and Natalie Quinn crossed third in 1:01:28. Fort Lewis’ Ruth Holcomb wasn’t far back, crossing seventh in 1:03:29.

Natalie Quinn of Fort Lewis College rides up the fly over during the USA Cycling Collegiate MTB Championships women's varsity cross-country race on Friday at Purgatory Resort. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“My team’s been amazing,” Holcomb said. “Finishing second and third is incredible. I’m so happy for everyone. I think we put in a great start toward winning the overall (team title).”

“It was pretty fun,” Thompson said, despite the challenging conditions. “On the second lap, the mud was really sticking and my bike got clogged. Honestly, it was about powering the pedal.”

Michaela Thompson of Fort Lewis College placed second in the USA Cycling Collegiate MTB Championships women's varsity cross-country race Friday at Purgatory Resort. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The mud did affect how she rode, and she said she had to jump off her bike and push it five or six times in the race.

“Sometimes I felt like I was running it more than riding,” Thompson said.

Holcomb said she was hoping for a top-5 finish, but was content with placing seventh.

“It was really good, especially in these conditions,” Holcomb said. “It’s so crazy out there. It just made the uphills so brutal. Even if you wanted to rest, it took everything to make it up because the climbs were so slippery.”

The bikers gained roughly 1,000 feet in the climb before a long descent.

“The climb was really tough,” Thompson said. “In the open area, it was super-slimy mud; I was just spinning.”

For the most part, however, Holcomb said her bike held up in the muddy conditions, but her lockout did break and get stuck in a rigid position.

Other Skyhawks who competed in the women’s race included Madelyn Roberson (12th, 1:08:19), Aleah Austin (13th, 1:08:19) and Olivia Gordon (19th, 1:13:21). Seven of the 51 competitors didn’t finish the race.

In the men’s varsity race, Tyler Orschel from Brevard College won the stars and stripes jersey in the three-lap race in 1:19:44. Torbjorn Roed from Mesa finished second 2:11 later.

Tyler Orschell of Brevard College wins the USA Cycling Collegiate MTB Championships men's varsity cross-country race on Friday at Purgatory Resort. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

All five Skyhawks who raced, however, finished in the top 10, led by Guy Leshem with a fourth-place finish. Cobe Freeburn placed fifth in 1:26:06, Toby Hassett placed sixth in 1:27:46, Sam Brown finished seventh in 1:27:50 and Nathan Colavolpe crossed 10th in 1:32:33.

“I think we did pretty well; we were all in the top 10,” Leshem said. “Hopefully we do well as a team and win the overall (team title).”

Guy Leshem of Fort Lewis College placed fourth in the USA Cycling Collegiate MTB Championships men's varsity cross-country race on Friday at Purgatory Resort. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Leshem had a good start, moving from the third row into third overall by the time they reached the main trail. Behind him, several riders crashed on the first straightaway.

“The start was pretty good, but I paid the price passing so many riders,” Leshem said. Not long after that, however, he said he found his rhythm and rode with Scott Funston from Colorado Mesa for most of the race.

“On the last lap, the mud was so thick it was hard to ride so we had to run,” Leshem said. “He does cyclocross, so he’s used to it. I managed to close the gap on the descent and almost caught him. ... It was so hard. Some sections I’d pedal and barely move. It was wet and slippery.”

Brevard also had five finishers in the top 15. Western Colorado University’s Eric Difolco, who crossed 12th, was the only biker who placed in the top 15 who wasn’t from Fort Lewis, Mesa or Brevard.

In the women’s club division cross-country race, Mckenzie Steiner of the U.S. Air Force Academy won the championship in 1:08:49, finishing 57 seconds ahead of Anna Yamauchi of California Polytechnic-San Luis Obispo. Gabriella Dube from the Colorado School of Mines finished third in 1:10:03.

In the men’s club cross-country race, five of the top 10 riders came from the Colorado School of Mines, including the champion Keegan Pelton (1:29:00). His teammate, Aidan Duffy, finished second in 1:31:42, and Cal-Poly’s Calder Wood crossed third in 1:32:02.

After the cross-country race, gravity riders competed in the dual slalom, racing head-to-head down a short bumpy track.

With red and blue courses, the riders raced down each side to see who would advance with the fastest times.

Like the cross-country races, several riders crashed in the dual slalom.

Lights were lined up on the course, but the event was eventually suspended because it got too dark to proceed and complete the 200 rounds of action.

Several riders from Fort Lewis are still in contention when the dual slalom resumes on Saturday. The short-track national championships and downhill qualifications are also scheduled to take place on Saturday. The downhill practice, however was canceled on Friday because the course was too icy so the course might be changed up a little.

On Sunday, the championships will conclude with a team relay and the downhill finals.

The Fort Lewis riders also seemed to enjoying the support. “Its amazing to have it here on our home soil,” Leshem said. “It’s crazy to have all of these people cheering for us; it’s an amazing atmosphere.”

Complete results are available at https://my.raceresult.com/184044/results