Keegan Swenson defended his USA national championship jersey on Saturday, and Erin Huck added another to her collection as she prepares for the Olympic Games.
Racers lined up for a high-elevation race at Winter Park Resort in Colorado, the same venue that was used in 2019. The cross-country course featured a sustained climb and descent followed by a more rolling climb to finish out the five-mile lap.
The women's race set off first with Huck taking an early lead. She was 13-seconds ahead after the first lap and never lost her lead. The three-lap race was strung out with riders largely reaming in their respective positions.
Chasing Huck was Alexis Skarda and Rose Grant. Skarda, who is leading the national Pro XCT series this season, rolled over the line in second, more than 2-minutes behind Huck. Following in third was Grant, a five time Marathon XC National Champion.
"My first ever mountain bike race was in Winter Park, and to have the chance to race national Championships here is a dream come true," Huck said ahead of the race. "I am motivated and determined to absolutely race my heart out!"
Missing from the race was 2019 champion, Chloe Woodruff. Woodruff was initially selected to represent Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics but unexpectedly resigned (opens in new tab) from the team. Instead, Huck will be joining fellow Americans Kate Courtney and Haley Batten in the Olympic mountain bike race this month.
"It took hope, persistence, and all the toughness and grit I could muster; but I just couldn’t give up on my Olympic dream," Huck said on social media after being selected for the Olympics. "And I’m just now seeing my dream become a reality."
The men's race began with defending champion Keegan Swenson and current Marathon National Champion Russell Finsterwald setting the pace, but a large group of riders stayed together heading into the second lap.
Then Swenson went on the attack, gaining a 20-second gap ahead of a chase featuring Stephan Davoust, Howard Grotts, Cole Paton, and Luke Vrouwenvelder. The second chase group on course featured EF Education-Nippo's Alex Howes, in addition to Payson McElveen, Alex Wild, and Finsterwald.
Swenson extended his lead to win by over 2-minutes, keeping the stars and stripes jersey for another year. Davoust and Vrouwenvelder, who both ride for the Giant Factory Off-Road Team, were second and third.
"So stoked to be able to defend this number one plate," Swenson said. "Huge thank you to everyone in my corner who helped make this happen."
Earlier this season, Swenson missed out on being selected for the Tokyo Olympics. The American men only earned a spot for one rider, and Christopher Blevins rode to better results in key World Cup races. Blevins did not race at Nationals and instead is training in Europe ahead of Tokyo.
"Congrats @christopherblevs, I know you’ll make us all proud in Tokyo!," he posted on Instagram last month. "We both worked our butts off the last couple years for two spots but came up a bit short and only qualified one spot for the men’s Olympic XCO race."