One Durango woman helped the American relay team hold onto a lead, and another finished off the victory.
Durango High School’s Ruth Holcomb was the third of six USA Cycling riders to hit the course Thursday at the Pan American Continental Mountain Bike Championships in Salinas, Puerto Rico. She held off two men’s under-23 riders during her lap and helped the U.S. team get to the sixth and final rider, Savilia Blunk, with a strong lead. A Fort Lewis College athlete from California, Blunk was able to come across the finish line first on the sixth lap, and that gave USA Cycling a team relay victory ahead of Chile and Costa Rica.
“The team rode amazing, and this was definitely a special experience to share with some awesome people,” Holcomb said. “I had never done a team relay before, and being part of a bigger team was pretty special.”
Elite men’s rider Russell Finsterwald of Colorado Springs got the U.S. team off to a strong start. Bradyn Lange filled in for injured Durangoan Riley Amos as the men’s under-23 rider, and he built a strong lead after the second lap. Junior men’s rider Ethan Villaneda went fourth before women’s under-23 rider Maddie Munro of Boulder’s fifth lap. Then the race result fell on Blunk as the anchor.
“We had a bit of a lead after our second rider, and we grew it from there,” Blunk said. “When it was passed to me, the team had done a ton of awesome work. I was able to finish it off, and it was special to do it at my first-ever Pan Ams. It’s been such a cool experience here in Puerto Rico.”
Official race results and lap times were not available at press time.
Blunk said the course had worn down a bit since last weekend’s UCI points races on the same course. But all the Americans were able to ride smooth, she said.
“By the time my lap rolled around, we had a pretty decent lead,” Holcomb said. “But I was in the gate with two under-23 boys, so I knew it would be challenging to keep that lead going strong. The 10-12 minute effort isn’t something I was super used to, but it was basically just everything you could do without making stupid mistakes Aside from running over an iguana, I think it went super well, and I was happy with my lap.”
Blunk will race again Saturday in the women’s under-23 race. Holcomb will look for a win in Friday’s junior women’s race.