Four Vermonters Make MTB National Team

USA Cycling announced today the 44 athletes that will represent the United States at the 2017 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, September 5-10 in Cairns, Australia. And among those are four Vermonters, including Olympian Lea Davison and three juniors who well may become the next Lea Davisons:  Gaelen Kilburn of Burlington, and downhillers Aidan Casner of Montpelier and Mazie Hayden of Pittsfield and the Killington Mountain School.

“I have high hopes of earning medals in cross-country, downhill and 4X at Worlds this year,” said USA Cycling’s Mountain Bike Program Director, Marc Gullickson. “We have an exceptionally strong team with a number of obvious contenders and the depth of our young riders is outstanding.”

Reigning cross-country national champion Howard Grotts (Durango, Colo./Specialized Racing) will headline Team USA in the elite men’s cross-country race. The 2016 Olympian will be joined by number-two in the 2017 Pro XCT rankings, Keegan Swenson (Park City, Utah/Cannondale-3Rox Racing) and by national championship bronze medalist Payson McElveen (Durango, Colo./Team RideBiker). In the elite women’s cross-country, a pair of 2016 Olympians will kit up in the red, white and blue. Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt./Clif Pro Team), who earned silver at Worlds last year, and Chloe Woodruff (Prescott Ariz./ Stan’s-Pivot Pro Team) will be joined by Americans Erin Huck (Boulder, Colo./Cannondale-3Rox Racing), Rose Grant (Columbia Falls, Mont./Stan’s-Pivot Pro Team) and Alexis Skarda(Grand Junction, CO/Stan’s-Kenda) at the start line.

Well-known strongwoman Kate Courtney (Kentfield, Calif./Specialized Factory Racing) will lead Team USA’s U23 women’s contingent in Australia. With three World Cup wins under her belt so far in 2017, she’ll be one to watch on course. The gold and silver medalists from this year’s national championships – Haley Batten (Park City, Utah/Clif Pro Team) and Hannah Finchamp (Kennewick, Wash./Clif Pro Team) – will also put their wheels to the line for the USA in the U23 women’s event.  On the men’s side, reigning U23 national champ and two-time Pro XCT event winner this year, Christopher Blevins (Durango, Colo./Axeon Hagens Berman) will race for the USA. He’ll join forces with teammates Luke Vrouwenvelder (Chapel Hill, N.C./Bear Development Team), Sandy Floren(Berkeley, Calif./Bear Development Team), Jerry Dufour (Birmingham, Ala./Bear Development Team), and Cole Paton (Cashmere, Wash./Giant Co-Factory Off-Road Team).

Junior men’s and women’s reigning cross-country national champions 

Aidan Casner rounds the corners on Evolution in the Mad River Valley. Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
Aidan Casner rounds the corners on Evolution in the Mad River Valley. Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur

Kevin Vermaerke (Rancho Santo Margarita, Calif./Whole Athlete p/b DNA) and Savilia Blunk (Inverness, Calif./ Bear Development Team) with headline the junior squads in Cairns. In the men’s race, Vermaerke will be joined by silver and bronze medalists from nationals, Gaelen Kilburn (Burlington, VT/Hot Tubes) and Connor Patten (Park City, Utah/Summit-Competitive Cyclist MTB Team), as well as by Calder Wood (Anacortes, Wash./Rad Racing NW) and Caleb Swartz (Madison, WI/Linear Sport-Trek). In the women’s contest, Blunk will team up with Gwendalyn Gibson (Ramona, Calif./NORCO), Ezra Smith (Breckenridge, Colo./ Competitive Cyclist MTB Team), and Katja Freeburn (Durango, Colo./ Bear Development Team).

Leading a talented and accomplished elite men’s downhill squad for the USA will be Aaron Gwin (Wildomar, Calif./The YT Mob). The reigning national champ has won two World Cup events so far in 2017 and will be looking for a medal in Australia. Also descending the mountain for the USA will be

Luca Shaw (Hendersonville, N.C./Santa Cruz Syndicate), Bruce Klein (Altadena, Calif./KHS), Charlie Harrison (Trabuco Canyon, Calif./Intense Factory Racing),Eliott Jackson (Westlake Village, Calif./Giant Factory Off-Road Team), Neko Mulally (Pisgah Forest, NC/ The YT Mob), and Dakotah Norton (Atlas, Mich./Morpheus). Four-time 4X world champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in BMX, Jill Kintner (Bellingham, Wash./Red Bull-NORCO) will be the sole American to represent the USA in the elite women’s downhill competition.

Samantha Kingshill (Sacramento, Calif./College Cyclery-Vittoria) got a silver medal in downhill at the world championships last year and she’ll be on course to race for another one this year. Kingshill will represent the USA in the junior women’s downhill and will be joined by fellow Americans Mazie Hayden (Pitsfield, Vt./KMS Cycling-Kilington Mountain School), Kaytlin Melvin (Sammamish, Wash./Sweetlines JR Racing), and Samantha Soriano (Littleton, Colo./Honey Stinger-ODI). When the junior men take to the mountain, you’ll see reigning national champ Nik Nestoroff (San Marcos, Calif./Intense Factory Racing), Armen Davis(Longmont, Colo./The Fix-Specialized), Steven Walton (Corona, Calif./Commencal), Aidan Casner (Montpelier, Vt./Eastern States Cup North American Downhill Team), David Kahn (Putnam Valley, NY/IJ Racing-Intense Cycles), and Devin Kjaer (Aptos, Calif.)

More than 300 of the world’s top mountain bikers from 35 countries are set to converge on the Smithfield Regional Park at James Cook University for Mountain Bike Worlds which will crown world champions in cross-country and downhill. Four-cross world champions will also be named in 2017 but that event is taking place separately and in conjunction with the World Cup finals at the end of August. Barry Noble (Sun City, Calif./DK Bicycles) will be the lone American vying for a title at the four-cross event.

To stay up-to-date on Team USA’s performances in Cairns, follow @UCIMTBAustralia and #mtbworldscairns on Twitter.
Cover photo: Lea Davison by Michael Cervany