Quinn Simmons had to surrender a Stars and Stripes jersey Thursday. He earned a new one Saturday.
The 16-year-old mountain biker from Durango claimed the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships cross country race in the men’s Category 1 15-16 age division at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. He crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 16 minutes, 50 seconds. He was well ahead of second place Harrison Klapheke of Tennessee. Klapheke crossed in 19:06, and third place went to Virginia’s Sam Roach, who crossed in 1:19:55.
The win for Simmons came two days after taking second place in the short-track cross country national championship race for junior men 15-18, a race in which he was the defending champion. Simmons finished closely behind new champion Caleb Swartz, an 18-year-old of Wisconsin.
“I worked really hard to win this one,” Simmons said. “I’ve been third twice in cross country, and I’m happy to get it.
Course conditions were once again muddy with rain falling throughout the week on the West Virginia course. Simmons said he was swapping glasses each lap.
“It rained start to finish, and it was misty, too. It was like racing through a cloud,” Simmons said. “It was like nothing else I’ve ever raced in before. I moved through the mud not very gracefully.”
Going into the final lap, Simmons had a lead of more than two minutes. With that knowledge, he rode a more cautious final lap aiming to avoid any mechanical problems, especially in the man-made rock garden sections where so many flat tires have occurred this week.
“Once I was more cautious, I made more mistakes than when I was at full-race speed,” he said. “It was nerve-wracking knowing only those rocks could really keep me from it.”
Durango’s Cobe Freeburn finished 25th in the race in 1:31:07. In the Category 1 men’s junior 17-18 race, Durango’s Lucas Robbins placed 45th.
The junior women were in fine form, too. Durango’s Madeline Robbins got on the podium in third place of the Category 1 15-16 race. She finished in 1:12:34. The winner, Littleton’s Katie Clouse, finished in 1:11:00. Utah’s Sydney Palmerleger was second in 1:12:01. The bronze backed up a silver medal Robbins won two days earlier in the short-track race for riders ages 11-16
Durango’s Katja Freeburn earned a bronze in the Category 1 17-18 race. She crossed the line in 1:35:09, as the winner, Savilia Blunk of California, finished in 1:34:11. Breckenridge’s Ezra Smith was second in 1:34:33.
Earlier in the week, Durango’s Ian Kutzleb placed 11th in the junior men’s 11-14 short-track race.
The national championships were the last big races of the year for Simmons, though he still has a few events on his calendar. He dominated his competition most of the season, competing against professionals in short-track races on the same day he has raced cross country events in his own age division. All of the wins against riders 18-and-under and the ability to learn from pros has made it an ideal season for the junior.
“This was by far my best season ever,” said Simmons. “My training and working out went well, my team (Whole Athlete) was dialed and my equipment was strong with no real mechanicals this year. It’s been great.”