The first American man to win a cross-country mountain bike under-23 World Cup race, Riley Amos knew he had a target on his back at his first national championship race in the age category.
Fresh off his World Cup win last month in Austria, Amos returned home to the U.S. and trained in Durango for the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in his home state of Colorado.
The 19-year-old admitted he didn’t have his best form Saturday, but he did enough to win the four-lap race in 1 hour, 24 minutes, 32 seconds.
“There was definitely a lot of pressure,” Amos said. “From the start of the race and even a couple of minutes in, I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy race to win by any means. I didn’t run away with it today, but it feels awesome to win it.”
Robbie Day, Amos’ fellow Bear National Team athlete from Evergreen who shined at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic pro men’s road race this year which Amos also won, was second. He finished 1:14 behind Amos. Boulder’s Bjorn Riley was third, 1:49 behind.
“Robbie Day has been on an absolute tear. At the top of the first lap, he was cranking it up,” Amos said. “I couldn’t hold him off the top of the climb. On the descent, I got back on his wheel. He made one little mistake in the rock garden before the start/finish area, and I did everything I could to get away from him.
“It was a suffer-fest watching him get within 10 to 15 seconds of me every climb and then me trying to get it back to 35 or 40 seconds on him every descent.”
Also for Durango, Cobe Freeburn would place ninth, 7:21 behind Amos. William Dowling was 39th and Garrett Meifert was 54th in the 64-rider race.
Sunday, Amos won the men’s under-23 short-track national championship, too. He held off Caleb Swartz to win by 14 seconds. Day was third, 15 seconds behind Amos.
Amos had debated staying in Europe after his World Cup win, which was his second podium in his first three career U23 World Cup races, so that he could remain in the hunt for the season overall title. But he decided against staying longer than originally planned so he could attend the national championships and return home to Durango.
Because of his early success, many asked if he would skip the under-23 race at nationals and jump directly into the elite men’s pro field at only 19. But Amos said he wanted to win at least one Stars and Stripes jersey as a U23 rider before making that move.
“It has been such a good week of watching my teammates also have amazing success, watching everyone from Durango have amazing success,” Amos said. “It put so much life back into me. I am glad I came home, raced with buddies and had such a good week. It put the stoke back into me for the sport for the rest of the season.”
Amos will contest Sunday’s short-track championship race. And when he does return to Europe during several races over the next year, he will be proud to wear his new national championship jersey.
“To have this jersey is an incredible feeling, and it is going to make me even hungrier for next year,” Amos said. “A lot of people asked if I would race up with the elite guys this year, but I am really happy I didn’t in my first year in this U23 category. I want to carry this jersey to the last couple of World Cups this season. It is huge to wear it for the year. This is what I wanted to do so I could have the chance to bring the flag to the world scene the entire next year.”