Todd Wells and Georgia Gould retained their national titles Saturday at the cross-country mountain bike championships at Sun Valley Resort in Idaho.
The duo’s victories were similar in that after the first lap of their respective races each moved to the front and then dominated the proceedings.
In the women’s event Gould (Luna Pro Team) jumped in the lead in front of a hometwon crowd on the first of five laps with an approximate 10-second gap on Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant). But Gould kept building her gap on Compton to around 20 to 30. The reigning champ won in 1hr 40mins 14secs. The race average speed was just shy of 11 mph.
Like the other 35 racers on each of the 3.6-mile long laps, Gould powered up a stiff ski resort service road climb that hit a pitch of nealy 20 percent. Behind her the race was for second between Compton, the 2010 short-track champ, and Leah Davison (Specialized Racing).
After a narrow, switchbacky singletrack descent that didn’t afford passing, riders hit two man-made technical features on the Sun Valley Resort course. One of the features being a short rocky descent off the ski hill and then a teeth-rattling rock garden about 50-yards long. But while the tech features made for interesting viewing for the healthy number of spectators, it was the climb that sorted out the 18-mile race.
“I wanted to be on the front because there really was no passing,” Gould said after her victory. “It was like everybody individually against the hill; there wasn’t much racing other people out there.”
That said, Davison and Compton were most definitely racing each other. Compton flatted on the fourth lap allowing Davison to catch her. Compton closed the gap but after five laps the climb was taking its toll on everybody.
“Leah came on strong in the end. She had time on me at the top of the hill,” Compton said. “That climb just wears on you. That last lap was pretty tough.”
Once the dirt settled on the first lap of the men’s contest it was Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) leading the 60-rider-strong field.
That, however, didn’t last long as Todd Wells (Specialized Racing) passed Schultz into the second of six laps and never looked back. While Schultz was able to close the 30-second gap Wells had built by about 10 seconds, it wasn’t enough to catch the defending champion.
“I tired to make sure that I had enough in the tank for the last few laps of the climb,” Wells said. “Schultz was going better than me on the downhill and I felt like I was going better on the climb.”
For his part, Schultz said he felt good from the gun and figured he may as well go out hard. Then it was a matter of trying to reel in Wells.
“I tired to hang on for a little bit,” he said. “On the lower section we were about even, but at the top where it got steeper I couldn’t quite hang with him. I was inside out — I just couldn’t quite go by.”
Adam Craig, the 2007 and 2008 XC national champ, rolled into third place on flat rear tire.
Meanwhile, Wells, who became the first man ever to win national titles in cross-country, short track cross-country and cyclo-cross in a single year in 2010, will defend his short-track title on Sunday.
USA Cycling’s Mountain Bike Cross-Country National Championships continue on Sunday with the amateur and elite short-track cross-country and Super D. Check Singletrack.com for more coverage from Sun Valley.
Women’s Brief Results (5.8km lap/5 laps/29km total)
1. Georgia Gould 1:40:14
2. Lea Davison 1:40:37 23secs back
3. Katie Compton 1:41:28 1min 14secs4.
4. Heather Irminger 1:45:30 5:16
5. Kelli Emmett 1:46:37 6:23
Men’s Brief Results (5.8km lap/6 laps/34.8km total)
1. Todd Wells 1:44:38
2. Sam Schultz 1:45:27 49secs back
3. Adam Craig 1:47:06 2mins 28secs
4. Jeremiah Bishop 1:48:43 4:05
5. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski 1:49:03 4:25