Not everything has gone according to a perfect plan for Savilia Blunk during her time as a under-23 mountain biker. But the Fort Lewis College athlete has found a way to make 2021 her year.
Blunk won Saturday’s under-23 women’s cross-country mountain bike national championship race at the Trestle Bike Park in Winter Park.
She finished three laps in 1 hour, 14 minutes, 40 seconds to finish 1:14 ahead of Boulder’s Madigan Munro and 2:58 ahead of third-place Michaela Thompson, also a FLC cycling athlete.
“It’s been a long two years since we last had national championships,” said Blunk, who is originally from California. “When I left this race in 2019, it was a bitter feeling because I had gotten a flat tire. To come back a year after COVID canceled nationals and in my last year as a U23 to win the national championship, it definitely feels good.”
Blunk would make it consecutive wins Sunday, as she conquered the elite pro women’s short-track national title race. She stunned the field to finish six seconds ahead of California’s Gwendalyn Gibson. Montana’s Rose Grant was third, 33 seconds behind Blunk. The three U.S. women – Haley Batten, Kate Courtney and Erin Huck – who will represent at the upcoming Olympics, did not compete Sunday.
Blunk, who started her own team with partner and FLC cycling alum Cole Paton going into the 2021 season, said the new Stars and Stripes championship jersey was extra validation for the decision by herself and Paton to forge their own path in professional racing.
“Putting together our own program the last 12 months, it’s been so much work. To see it come to real fruition and to reward the people who have believed in us with this jersey, it feels so good to see all the hard work on and off the bike pay off,” she said.
Blunk also had won the Pan-American Continental Championships under-23 cross-country race earlier this season. But a bad crash suffered at a U.S. Cup race in Arkansas set her back going into nationals.
“This has been a tough year with some hiccups along the way,” she said. “The big crash back in April, I’ve had some hard days on the bike between then and now. I’m coming around and feeling like myself again, finally.”
Blunk was able to get a gap on the big descent on the second lap. Munro had held onto her wheel until then. Racing at altitude, Blunk said it was important to pace herself well to not blow up.
“The sport is so healthy right now,” she said. “It’s funny, I’m now the old one in the category. That happened fast. There are so many super strong up-and-comers, and it’s amazing to see what is possible for the U.S. ladies.”
Blunk will next contest the Belgian Waffle Ride in San Diego next weekend. Then her focus will shift to preparing for the world championships once more. Those are scheduled for late August in Italy.
“I am going to race out of my comfort zone a bit, and then it’s back to Europe for another block,” she said. “I will be back at Fort Lewis this fall and am committed to mountain biking another season for FLC. I will probably dabble in cyclo-cross this year, too. With nationals in the U.S. this year, it will be fun to get in the Durango cyclo-cross scene.”