There’s something about Missoula, Montana, that brings out the best in Howard Grotts. That something is big, sustained climbs.
The 25-year-old from Durango claimed the Missoula Pro XCt cross-country mountain bike race Saturday and went on to win Sunday’s short-track race, too. The event this year is an International Cycling Union (UCI) points race.
Grotts skipped the Missoula race last year to attend the GoPro Games in Vail. Before that hiatus, Grotts had won four consecutive Missoula XC events dating bate to his days as a under-23 rider.
“The course suits me really well,” Grotts said. “There’s 700 feet of climbing, and then you bomb back down to the start/finish line in two or three minutes. It’s basically one big hill climb. I did well here as a junior, and to come back as an elite I’ve been able to keep that streak alive.”
Grotts completed six laps of the course in 1 hour, 33 minutes, 33 seconds. In an impressive show of power, his fastest lap of the day came on the final lap, as he completed it in 15:10.
The Specialized Racing rider finished 46 seconds ahead of Richard Cypress Gorry. Fort Lewis College’s Cole Paton, who rides for the Giant Factory Off-Road team, was third, 2:217 back of Grotts.
Ryan Standish, a former FLC rider from Australia, was seventh, 4:39 behind Grotts. Nash Dory of Fort Lewis was 10th, 7:37 back. Fort Lewis’ Jason Rowton was 13th, 9:35 back. FLC’s Harrison Buckley was 22nd; Henry Nadell, the collegiate national champ, was 23rd; Matthew Turner of FLC was 24th; Durango’s Keiran Eagen, also of FLC, was 25th.
With the GoPro Games in Vail drawing many of the other elite pro cyclists, Grotts didn’t face the usual competition.
“It wasn’t as deep of a field as it has been, but it gave a lot of junior riders a chance to shine,” Grotts said. “I had some good battles with Cole Paton this weekend, Cypress Gorry as well.”
Grotts won Sunday’s short-track race in a tough battle with Paton. Both riders finished in 32:01, as Grotts won the sprint to the line. Gorry was third. Standish placed fifth, Rowton was ninth, Nadell was 14th, Dory was 15th, Buckley was 25th and Eagen was 26th.
Evelyn Dong of Massachusetts claimed the women’s UCI Elite cross-country race. The women completed five laps, and Dong was first to the line in 1:36:57. Former FLC cyclist Sofia Gomez-Villafañe found the podium again in second, 2:31 back of Dong. Durango’s Ellen Campbell, a current FLC rider, was sixth in 1:49:47.
Dong also won the women’s short-track in 28:52. Savilia Blunk was second, 14 seconds back. Gomez-Villafañe was third, 43 seconds back. Campbell again was sixth, 3:06 back.
Grotts and most of the elite men in the U.S. will travel to Nevada next weekend for the Carson City Off-Road, the third stop of the Epic Rides series. Grotts is the series leader with two races to go. He then will target to UCI World Cup events in July in Europe.
“Right now I’m trying to fit in some training,” Grotts said. “I want to do well in any race I enter, but I definitely will have a big training load this week through Carson City because my next big focus will be World Cups in Vai de Sole and Andorra.”
For more on the GoPro Games, follow www.durangoherald.com and see Wednesday’s print edition of The Durango Herald.