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Savilia Blunk qualifies for Olympics with World Cup podium in Araxá

Riley Amos and Christopher Blevins also competed in Araxá
Savilia Blunk celebrates on the podium after a podium finish in Araxá, Brazil during the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup event there. (Photo by Noam Meresse)

Durango’s Savilia Blunk is Paris-bound.

The off-road cyclist finished third in both the women’s elite cross-country Olympic race and the women’s elite cross-country short track circuit in Araxá, Brazil from April 19-21. The criteria for a spot on the United States Olympic team was two top-five finishes in the first three World Cups. Blunk also finished second in the women’s elite cross-country race in the first World Cup race in Mairoporã, Brazil.

Blunk and fellow American Haley Batten will be racing for gold in Paris in Olympic Mountain Biking.

In the women’s elite cross-country Olympic race in Araxá, Blunk finished third with her Decathlon Ford Racing Team with a time of 1 hour, 23 minutes and 44 seconds after eight laps around the 2.17-mile track.

Batten won the race with a time of 1:23:04. Jenny Rissveds finished second with a time of 1:23:21.

“I had really big goals for the two weekends and I just couldn't be more proud of executing them and really like seeing all the hard work and focus pay off,” Blunk said. “It was just an incredible weekend and also to see the U.S. as a country do so well and really come in firing on full cylinders. That really showed the focus and the dedication and the level that our nation is at out now, especially in the women's.”

Blunk said she moved her training base to Europe in the winter to train for the first two World Cup events so she could give herself the best shot to qualify for the Olympics.

On lap one of the cross-country race in Araxá, Blunk was in sixth and moved up to fourth on the second lap and was at the end of the leading group of four. On lap three, Blunk dropped to fifth but quickly moved up to third on lap four. The leading group broke up and Rissveds took off on lap five.

But Batten took the lead on lap six and Rissveds came back to the pack. Blunk stayed in third on laps 4-7 but the top four bunched up to start the final lap. Blunk initially fell into fourth at the start of the final lap but got back into third. Batten and Rissveds took off on the ascent on the last lap.

“My goal going into the race was just to try to be really patient and not to stress if there were still a lot of riders in the group,” Blunk said. “I wanted to use my energy and just stay in control on the climb. So for most of the race, I was kind of hovering. It might have looked like I was dangling off the group a bit on the climbs, but I was just trying to stay in control and I knew where I could move back up.”

Blunk said she was tired from the short track race the day before where she also finished third and Batton took the win. Blunk said she always races for the win but in the cross-country race, she didn’t have the kick at the end that Batten and Rissveds had. So she was content racing for the top five result to qualify her for the Olympics.

Short track has been a race Blunk has never been able to nail it with how tactical it is, according to Blunk. She trains for cross-country races but regardless was able to get on the short track podium six seconds behind Batten who finished first.

After two very demanding race weekends in Brazil, Blunk is focused on recovering and relaxing before beginning to build for the rest of the season.

Amos dominates U-23 competition in Araxá

Durango’s Riley Amos continued his recent stellar form by winning both the men’s U-23 cross-country Olympic and short track races in Araxá, Brazil from April 19-21.

Amos, riding for Trek Factory Racing, won the short-track race with a time of 19:30 which was three seconds ahead of second place and fellow American Bjorn Riley.

In the cross-country race, Amos won the seven-lap race around the 2.17-mile track in 1:01:51. Switzerland’s Finn Treudler was in second with a time of 1:01:58. Brazil’s Alex Junior Malacarne was in third with a time 1:02:10.

Amos was in the top three group from the beginning. He was in second and bided his time behind Treudler. Amos took the lead to start lap six. At the start of lap seven, Amos had a nine-second lead. He kept that lead throughout the lap and cruised to a seven-second win.

The Durangoan won both the U-23 cross-country and short-track races the previous weekend in Mairoporã, Brazil.

“Obviously, the win is what you're going for, but I mean, with how often it actually happens is a lot less than you want it to be,” Amos said. “To be able to win both races in Mairoporã and Araxá was kind of a dream come true in the sense of, four months ago, we set these goals on the calendar. It was the first big performance goal for the season.”

Amos said once USA Cycling released the qualification criteria for the Olympics, he knew winning in Mairoporã and Araxá would give him his best shot to go to Paris.

The lap in Araxá was shorter and has less climbing than the one in Mairoporã, according to Amos. But the climbing in Araxá was more technical with multiple line choices with loose dirt and roots you had to get over.

“I really liked the track in Araxá because of that,” Amos said. “It makes it a harder track to ride and had a lot of really big jumps and mandatory gaps which was super exciting to watch and just also really fun to ride.”

Amos has not technically qualified for the Olympics but is in great shape. All he needs to do is remain in the top three of the World Cup overall at the end of the qualification period which is May 27. If he does that then he’ll auto-qualify.

Up next for Amos is the Pan American Mountain Bike Championships in Solider Hollow, Utah from May 8-12. Amos is proud of how much the Americans have risen in the UCI points rankings over the last few months.

Early crash ruins Blevins’ cross-country race in Araxá

After one of the biggest wins of his career in Mairoporã the previous weekend in the cross-country Olympic race, Durango’s Christopher Blevins followed that up with a second-place finish in the short-track race behind his Specialized Factory Racing teammate Victor Koretzky.

Blevins said he got in the right spot at the right time and worked with his teammate in the short track race.

Unfortunately in the cross-country race in Araxá, Blevins crashed in the start loop. He recovered to finish 22nd out of 98 riders.

Blevins crashed on the start loop on a climb. Blevins was going over a paved road into a dirt road and ran into a pole outlining the edge of the track as the track narrowed from the paved part to dirt.

“The start loop curved in an unusual place and you’re always fighting for position,” Blevins said. “Riders are aggressive so that's part of it. I just wasn't in the best spot so it’s a little bit of my fault. It’s mostly bad luck and a little bit of an aggressive nature of the start of the race. I've never had a crash like that to start before, so it's kind of kind of ironic and funny that was in a leader’s jersey.”

Blevins loved the passion of the fans in Brazil. He said he loved the course and had as much fun as he’s had in a race.

He’s also confident he’ll be heading to the Olympics along with Amos.

Like Amos, Blevins is racing in the Pan American Mountain Bike Championships in Solider Hollow, Utah.

bkelly@durangoherald.com