Courtesy of USA Cycling. Photo by Philip Beckman.
On Saturday Jill Kintner (Bellingham, Wash./Red Bull-Norco Bicycles) followed up Friday’s dual slalom win with a convincing 15.64-second downhill margin of victory, crossing in 4:03.95 to earn her 15th career professional national championship. She defeated dual slalom silver medalist Jacqueline Thomas (Winter Park, Colo.), who earned downhill silver in 4:19.59, while Rebecca Gardner (Marlboro, N.Y.) took bronze in 4:55.05.
“It definitely feels good to get another win. I’m happy to keep my sleeve a bit longer,” Kintner said. “I’m happy with how the day went and to represent America.”
The pro men’s downhill competition came down to Aaron Gwin (Wildomar, Calif./Specialized Racing), the six-time downhill champion and No. 1 seed in the event. On the final run of the day, Gwin assembled a 3:20.52 effort that upended Michael Sylvestri’s (Truckee, Calif.) then-top time of 3:23.45 to take the win. Sylvestri earned silver and Luca Shaw (Hendersonville, N.C./SRAM-Troy Lee Designs) won bronze with his 3:24.47 run.
“National Champs have always been a special event for me,” Gwin said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win it a few times, and it’s always a race I look forward to, one that I definitely want to do well at. I’m really stoked to keep the Stars-and-Stripes sleeve for another year and take it back to the World Cup.”
Chloe Woodruff’s (Prescott, Ariz./Team Stan’s NoTubes-Niner) second gold medal of the weekend was not as lopsided, as the Arizona native outlasted Erin Huck (Boulder, Colo./SCOTT-3Rox Racing) in a final sprint, crossing in 1:39:39, one second ahead of Huck’s1:39:40 finish. Woodruff and Huck battled throughout the majority of the five-lap race, two constants at the front that at times also included Rose Grant (Kalispell, Mont.) and Georgia Gould (Fort Collins, Colo./LUNA Pro Team). Defending champion Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt./Specialized Factory Racing) suffered a rear flat early, causing her to settle for sixth place and opening the door for other riders like Grant, who finished third in 1:40:16, to reach the podium.
“I had a lot of nerves coming into this weekend,” Woodruff said. “I wasn’t really thinking about (winning), but I had some people telling me, ‘Hey, you’re going to do it. You’re going to come away with two jerseys.’ I thought that’s a pipedream. I knew I could do it; it was just a matter of hanging with Erin.”
In the final event of the day, the 22 year-old Howard Grotts (Durango, Colo./Specialized Factory Racing) dethroned three-time pro cross-country champion and teammate Todd Wells (Durango, Colo./Specialized Factory Racing) following a daylong battle with the defending champion. Grotts and Wells played cat and mouse through the first four laps, with Wells creating space on the ascents and Grotts catching up on the climbs, until Grotts took over on the penultimate lap.
With Keegan Swenson (Park City, Utah/Sho-Air-Cannondale), Stephen Ettinger (Bozeman, Mont./Sho-Air Cyclery) and Alex Grant (Salt Lake City, Utah/Ridebiker-Cannondale) gaining, Grotts attacked and never looked back, crossing in 1:42:13, 1:03 ahead of the field. Swenson earned silver in 1:43:16, while Grant claimed bronze in 1:43:51. Like his fellow 2014 XC champion Davison, Wells finished sixth in 1:46:34.
“On the second-to-last lap I gave it a go because I saw Keegan was coming up to us so I had the opportunity to get as much time on the climb (as possible),” said Grotts. “That was enough of a buffer on the last two descents that I had to do to roll in for the win.”
On Sunday Kintner completed her three-event sweep of women’s pro gravity and enduro events on the final day of the 2015 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships on Sunday, taking the first ever women’s pro/open enduro title at Mammoth Mountain.
Mitch Ropelato (Ogden, Utah/Specialized Factory Racing) climbed the podium as the inaugural men’s pro/open national champion.
Men’s and women’s pro/open and 15-60+ divisions raced the four-stage event, which included various sections used in the pro and amateur downhill courses, as well as trails not yet utilized at the five-day event. A rider’s final time was the accumulated tally of the four runs minus transfer time.
Kintner left little doubt on the day, taking the top time in each of the women’s pro enduro legs to accumulate a 34:54.79 result, 2:17.39 ahead of the field. Georgia Gould (Fort Collins, Colo./LUNA Pro Team) took silver in 37:12.18, followed by Lauren Gregg (Santa Cruz, Calif.) in 37:58.40 for bronze.
The championship is Kintner’s third in three days and 16th elite pro national championship of her career.
“That was really hard,” Kintner said of winning her third Stars-and-Stripes jersey in as many days. “Stage 2 was a massive flat pedal for 11 minutes or something. I trail ride at home and I got to ride the downhill, so I had that pretty dialed. My plan was to get a gap on that and I was definitely winging the rest of it because I hadn’t seen the other trails. There’s something sort of special about being in the present and winging it, sort of riding a trail as you see it.”
Ropelato opened the day with a division-best 3:52.77 time on the first run, which he followed with three consecutive second-place finishes on the ensuing runs, giving him a 29:03.18 final time. The result, which was good for gold, topped Brian Lopes’ (Laguna Beach, Calif./Intense-Maxxis- PearlIzumi) 29:11.68 silver medal finish and Kyle Warner’s (Chico, Calif./Marin Sr. Suntour Amain.com) bronze medal-winning 29:17.53 time.
“It was a nice, easy day,” said Ropelato. “Climbing wasn’t too bad, but you were sprinting pretty good on all the runs. All the courses were pretty fun. I was a little nervous on Stage 1 because it was pretty rowdy, but other than that it was a great day.”
To see full results of all the national championship events, visit the event website.