By Mark Deterline
2015 could be the strongest showing to date of Utah riders at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, with five Utahns out of thirty-nine total athletes named to the 2015 national squad by USA Cycling. Americans will compete in elite, U23, and junior cross-country events, and in the elite and junior downhill races.
The World Championships will be held from August 31st to September 6th 2015 in Vallnord, Andorra, Europe's sixth-smallest country.
Alex Grant, popular local pro and co-owner of Gear Rush (gearrush.com) shares: “For any cyclist, the World Championships are one of the biggest events of the year. For fans and riders alike, each race is its category's most important one-day event, where the coveted “rainbow jersey” of World Champion can be won, to be proudly worn for a whole year.
“Long before I was a professional cyclist, I was a fan, and I have always followed MTB ‘Worlds' closely. In 2001 I made the trip to Vail, CO to watch them in person, and will always remember the energy and atmosphere. This year, for the first time, I get to race them myself!
“The whole thought process started for me after I placed 3rd in both Short Track and Cross-country at Nationals in Mammoth last month. I have been riding really well at altitude this year, and am enjoying the best form of my career, so I decided to petition to go. The course in Andorra is at about 7,000 feet, which suits me well. I figured this is my year to give it a try.
“I am super excited to go and experience Worlds as an athlete, and test myself against all the best riders in the world. I don't have any specific results in mind as a goal, I just want to feel that I laid it all out there and gave it the best effort that I could. As long as I do that, I don't care where I end up.
“It is pretty awesome how many riders from Utah are going. We have a rider in men's elite, a rider in U23, a junior racer, and two riders in the junior women's race. That really shows the strength of the sport here in Utah.
“I want to thank some of my longtime sponsors for their support over the years; without them I would never have reached this point in my career. Namely, Cannondale Bicycles, who I have been with since 2009; Sho-Air and Ridebiker Alliance, who I have been with since 2013; ENVE Composites; and CTS Training Systems and my coach Adam Pulford. I also want to thank two Utah companies who are new sponsors — Squatters Craft Beers and La Barba Coffee. I'm proud to represent local companies this year! I also need to mention Enduro Bites, who has been fueling my training rides this year with their delicious bars and pre-ride Beta Red drink mix.
“Lastly as always I owe a ton to my wife Sammi who supports my crazy riding habit, well at least tolerates it… For this trip she will
cheering from home with our 4 month old daughter Eleanor!”
The 2015 Utah roster for Worlds is as follows:
Junior Women Cross-country
Rachel Anders of Sandy, Utah | Summit-Competitive Cyclist
Haley Batten of Park City, Utah | Whole Athlete Specialized Cycling Team
Junior Men Cross-country
Anders Johnson of Huntsville, Utah | Whole Athlete Specialized Cycling Team
U23 (under 23yrs of age) Men Cross-country
Keegan Swenson of Park City, Utah | Sho-Air/Cannondale
Elite Men Cross-country
Alex Grant of Salt Lake City, Utah | Ridebiker Alliance Professional Program
Seventeen of the thirty-nine athletes earned automatic nominations to the team. (To learn how athletes earn nominations based on USA Cycling selection criteria, visit www.usacycling.com.)