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USA Downhill National Championships preview

US Downhill National Championships: Aaron Gwin
(Image credit: Bartek Wolinski/ Red Bull Content Pool)

This Sunday will see America's best downhill racers battling for a stars and stripes jersey on the slopes of Winter Park Resort in Colorado. The venue is the same one used in 2019 when Neko Mulalley and Jill Kintner were crowned champions. 

It will be a similar track to 2019, using trails at the Trestle Bike Park, one of the largest lift-served downhill parks in Colorado. Like the cross-country race on Saturday, the high-elevation track will favor riders with great fitness who can handle racing at altitude. 

Track conditions are characterized by dry, loose dirt with numerous rock garden sections and the high-speed nature of the course could be impacted by wind or rain. 

The men's field will feature defending champion Mulalley in addition to fellow World Cup racers such as Aaron Gwin and Luca Shaw. There are fewer World Cup racers in the women's field, and Kintner is recovering from a broken finger so she won't be attending. Rather there are a number of riders like Kailey Skelton and Kialani Hines who have been fast this year at the National Pro GRT series and other regional races. 

Men's contenders 

Neko Mulalley 

Mulalley took the stars and stripes jersey in both 2018 and 2019, and he's a clear favorite to hold onto it. He has had a disappointing season so far, failing to qualify in both Leogang and Les Gets, so he'll be looking to redeem himself on home soil. 

Aaron Gwin 

Before Mulalley had the jersey, Gwin wore it for a number of years. The fast man from California's best result so far this season is a 22nd in Leogang, which admittedly not as great as the Gwin of a few years ago. 

Luca Shaw 

The Santa Cruz Syndicate rider has been second at Nationals before and is consistently on pace at World Cups. Maybe a good result at home will bolster his confidence for the upcoming World Cups. 

Dakota Norton

Norton stormed onto the DH circuit a few years ago and is definitely a fan favorite. He's looking fast this year with a 9th place result in Leogang. 

Matthew Sterling

Sterling is an up-and-coming rider on the Giant Factory Off-Road Team. In previous years he raced in the junior category on the World Cup circuit and is now in elite ranks. He could grab a sneaky result this weekend.  

Luca Shaw makes fast work of dusty conditions

Luca Shaw makes fast work of dusty conditions (Image credit: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool)

Women's contenders 

Kialani Hines

Hines was on the podium at Nationals last time around, so she'll be familiar with the track. The Pivot Cycles rider was recently fourth at the Northwest Cup in Port Angeles, Washington.

Kailey Skelton 

Skelton is the Nevada state champion and recently won a Northwest Cup race in Idaho. The KHS Factory Racing rider took 8th at Nationals in 2019. 

Jordan Scott

Scott was ninth at Nationals in 2019 and fifth at World Champonships in the juniro category that same year. This year she has been racing at Crankworx Innsbruck, including a trip to the podium in the pump track event.

Caroline Washam 

Washam is an East Coaster who regularly races at venues like Snowshoe and Windrock. The Liv Racing rider will be happy to tackle Winter Park's technical sections. 

Dani Johnson 

Johnson has been racing enduro this season in Southern California, so she may be at home if the track conditions are loose and dusty.

Race runs will begin at 1:30 p.m. local time on Sunday and can be streamed on FloBikes. 

Ryan Simonovich

Ryan Simonovich has been riding and racing for nearly a decade. He got his start as a cross-country mountain bike racer in California, where he cultivated his love for riding all types of bikes. Ryan eventually gravitated toward enduro and downhill racing but has also been found in the occasional road and cyclo-cross events. Today, he regularly rides the trails of Durango, Colorado, and is aiming to make a career out of chronicling the sport of cycling. 


Rides: Santa Cruz Hightower, Specialized Tarmac SL4