Ropelato and Cushman Win 2023 Pro Dual Slalom National Titles
Kitchen wins the Junior Men’s 15-18 Dual Slalom event and six more Amateur National Titles awarded on the first day of championship racing at Gravity Nationals.
RIDE ROCK CREEK, North Carolina (July 14, 2023) – The 2023 USA Cycling Gravity Mountain Bike National Championships have kicked off in Zirconia, North Carolina. The national championship has attracted hundreds of top professional mountain bike racers from across the country. A total of three events will determine the winners of the coveted Stars-and-Stripes jerseys for Downhill, Dual-Slalom, and Enduro. Mitch Ropelato (Ogden, Utah; Cannondale) and Kale Cushman (Slipping Gears Cycling; Old Town, Maine) were the first champions crowned after winning the Elite Dual Slalom national titles on Friday.
Friday night’s racing was jam-packed with spectators and racers going head-to-head in the Dual Slalom qualifiers and finals. It poured down rain earlier in the day, making the track challenging and slick. It seemed that the red course was catching quite a few riders and there was no room for error when racing for a national title.
Ropelato, Cushman, and Ryder Lawrence (Menifee, Calif.; Intense Cycles) set the stage with the fastest qualifying times in the Elite Men, Elite Women, and Junior Men’s 17-18 categories, respectively.
Mitch Ropelato (Ogden, Utah; Cannondale) did not lose a run all day. He would make his way to the big final racing against Christopher Herndon (Mills River, N.C.; Frameworks). Herndon made his come back to racing at his home race in North Carolina after retiring from racing in 2008. He gave Ropelato a battle, but Ropelato would take the 2023 National Championship title. Reigning National Champion Collin Hudson (Grand Junction, Colo.; Pivot Cycles) was knocked out early in the round of 16, by Jack Pederson (Breckenridge, Colo.; Southern Gravity Solutions) who went on to make the small final racing against Dominic Mudry (North Royalton, Ohio; Lees-McCrae). Pederson crashed on his second run, and Mudry claimed the bronze medal.
In the Elite Women’s race, the young riders were dominant and it was a battle between 16-year-old Kushman and reigning Junior Dual Slalom National Champion, 17-year-old Brooke Anderson (Portland, Ore.; YT Mob). It was all Anderson on the first run in the finals, but she would crash in her second run. Kushman rode her own race and would cross the finish line in disbelief that she won the Elite Women’s Dual Slalom National Title. Abby Hogie (Heidelberg, Ger.; Beyond Racing) is an American living full-time in Germany and she made the trip over to the U.S. for a chance at the Stars-and-Stripes in the Downhill event. Hogie traveled only with her Downhill bike and made the last-minute decision to enter the slalom events. She progressed to the small final, taking the win and the bronze medal over Amelia Capuano (Mechanicburg; Penn.; Michael David Winery pb/ Cranked Naturals).
The Junior Men’s 15-18 race had 30 riders starting in a round of 32. After setting the fastest time in qualifying, all eyes were on Lawrence. He won laps all night but would make a mistake in the semi-finals and would not transfer to the gold medal round. The third fastest qualifier, Nathan Kitchen (Bakersfield, Calif.; KHS Pro MTB) would ride his fastest laps of the night transferring to the final round against Lucas Dedora (Huntington Station, N.Y.; Pro Builds Racing). Kitchen laid down a perfect run to take the National Championship title.
Rain delays forced the organizers to alter the schedule moving the first Enduro stage that was originally scheduled for Friday to Saturday, along with the cancellation of the Cat 1 Downhill Seeding for Masters, Junior, and Open categories.
Vermette and Morrison Win 2023 Pro Enduro National Titles
16-year-old Asa Vermette wins the Pro Men’s race, and Amy Morrison successfully defends the title she’s held since 2019.
RIDE ROCK CREEK, North Carolina (July 15, 2023) – The 2023 USA Cycling Gravity Mountain Bike National Championships continued on Saturday in Zirconia, North Carolina. The national championship has attracted hundreds of top professional mountain bike racers from across the country. Stars-and-Stripes jerseys will be awarded in three disciplines, Downhill, Dual-Slalom, and Enduro.
The Enduro had an early start Saturday morning, with the Pros starting their day racing the Pro Downhill Course to start. Asa Vermette (Durango, Colo.; Frameworks Racing) had the fastest time on this stage with a 2:15.3, with Richie Rude (Golden, Colo.; Yeti / Fox Factory Race Team) three seconds back. Vermette and Rude both spent a fair amount of time on this course practicing for the Downhill race on Sunday. Vermette and Rude battled back and forth all day for the lead. Rude won Stage 1, Vermette won Stage 2 by a tenth of a second, Rude beat him on Stage 3, then Vermette won Stage 5. At the end of the day, Vermette won with a time of 14:30.3, beating Rude by a tenth of a second. Russell Bobbitt (Jefferson, Ga.; RBRC Bike Fettish/ Transition) finished only 10 seconds back, taking the bronze medal.
In the Pro Women’s class, Amy Morrison (Carson City, Nev.; Transition Bikes) defended her National Title, winning by nearly 30 seconds over Kathryn Lawrence (Boulder, Colo.; Yeti / Fox Factory Race Team). Morrison had the fastest time on every stage except for Stage 2, where Lawrence beat Morrison by six seconds. Morrison made up enough time on every stage to take the gold, with Lawrence taking second and Isabella Naughton (Flagstaff, Ariz.; Liv Racing) rounding out the podium. Morrison is now a four-time champion in the Enduro.
In the Junior categories, racers as young as 13 were racing the four-stage Enduro. In the 13-14 class, Mitchell Rodwell (Signal Mtn, Tenn.; HBC) took the win in the boys’ class, with Kallie Stewart (Livingston, Texas; Monster, Boone Cycles, Pedro’s, Continental, Revel) taking the girls’ win. In the 15-16 class, Colt Coffman (Morgantown, W.V.; Cycle Strategies Devo Team) won by two seconds for the men’s category. For the women, Mary McLarnon (Steamboat Springs, Colo.; WE Development) won by nearly 20 seconds.
The 17-18 class was the fastest of all the amateur categories. Henry Rapinz (Boulder, Colo.; Boulder Junior Cycling) set a total time of 13:03.4, beating Austin Haessly (Mooresville, N.C.; Xtreme Gravity Racing) by a second. Rapinz was fastest on every stage except for Stage 2, making up time on Haessly. Tj Hyser (Huntsville, Ala.; Dirt Camp Racing) took the bronze medal finishing 8 seconds back.
Lacey Dobbs (Chattanooga, Tenn.; Huck and Braaap) was the winner of the Junior Women’s 17-18 event with a total time of 17:29.6. Maylei Leaneagh (Frederick, Colo.; Boulder Junior Cycling) finished second at 17:46.7, and Janelle Soukup (Centennial, Colo.; Ibis, Trestle, Fasthouse, BC Goggles) was third finishing at 18:23.4.
In the 19-29 category, Levi Smith (Morgantown, W.V.) and Avah Cherry (Knoxville, Tenn.; Dirt South Racing) won their respective classes, both winning every stage of the day.
For the Masters, Willem Cooper (Newport, R.I.; CCF Devo) and Ginny McFall (Roanoke, Va.) won the Men’s and Women’s 30-39 categories, respectively. Petr Hanak (Winter Park, Colo.; Elevated Roofs) was victorious in the Men’s 40-49 category, with Miki Razo (Tryon, N.C.; Team Jtree) winning the women’s. For the 50-59 age group, Jason Cyr (Davis, W.V.; Cycle Strategies Coaching) took the win for the men, and Amy Haggart (Durango, Colo.; Durango Devo) for the women. In the Men’s 60+ race, Troy Zimmerman (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Zboys Racing) won the National Title.
Amateur Downhill Finals
Storms rolled in Friday night, canceling the seeding rounds for the Masters and Junior Downhill Categories. With some practice laps on the track Saturday morning, riders were ready to lay down their fastest runs of the weekend for the Finals.
Griffin Clayton (Mooresville, N.C.; Xtreme Gravity Racing) set the fastest time for the Amateurs riding to a 2:51.17, winning the Junior Men’s 13-14 race. Hendersonville local Eric Burgalia (Gravity Academy) took second, and Asheville local Eli Bernard (Angry Bear/ 100%/ Arma/ ODI) rounded out the podium.
In the women’s Junior 13-14 race, Ainsley Wolf (Winter Park, Colo.; Mojo Wheels/ Trestle Gravity) took the win with a 3:10.96 with Victoria Zenoni (Short Hills, N.J.; Deity, O-Chain) took silver, and Opal Barber (Durango, Colo.; Durango Devo)
In the Men’s 11-12 category, Silas Feiner (Charlottesville, Va.; Seven Rivers Enduro Team) took the championship.
In the Master’s categories, Donald Fritts (Arvada, Colo.; Intense Cycles) set the fastest time with a 3:01 to take the Stars-and-Stripes in the 55-59 class. Di Wood (Austin, Texas; Santa Cruz) claimed silver, and Troy Lenderking (Roanoke, Va.; Roanoke Valley Gravity) with bronze. Troy Zimmerman (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Zboys Racing) went on to win the National Title for the 60-64 class. In the next category up, Jeff Sims (Knoxville, Tenn.; Southern Gravity Parks) won the 65-69 class. Scott Lideen (Phoenix, Ariz.) was the oldest rider of the event, winning the Men’s 70+ category. The only Master’s woman of the day was Michelle Tischler (Grapevine, Texas; Bike Mart/Liv), who won the 55-59 category.
Elite Downhill Seeding
With such a short track, times are guaranteed to be tight, making for some exciting racing. Reigning two-time National Champion Dakotah Norton (Clinton, Tenn.; Intense Factory Racing) had the fastest time on the track at 2:06.48. Luca Shaw (Hendersonville, N.C.; Canyon Cllctv) finished less than a second behind with a 2:07.05, and teammate Dante Silva (Chula Vista, Calif.; Canyon Cllctv) at 2:08.81. For the Junior 17-18 Men, Ryan Pinkerton (Aliso Viejo, Calif.; GT Factory Racing) has proven to be one to watch as he lays down almost the same time as Norton riding to a 2:07.35.
In the Elite Women’s event, Anna Newkirk (Riehen, Switzerland; Beyond Racing) made the trek over from Europe to attend her first Elite National Championship. She laid down the fastest time for the women riding to a 2:28.60. She put 8 seconds on reigning National Champion Kailey Skelton (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.; KHS Factory Racing), who was second fastest on the day.
Hendersonville Local Luca Shaw and Anna Newkirk Win 2023 Elite Downhill National Titles at Ride Rock Creek
Pinkerton takes his fourth Junior title, and Kushman wins her first Junior Title.
RIDE ROCK CREEK, North Carolina (July 17, 2023) – The 2023 USA Cycling Gravity Mountain Bike National Championships concluded on Sunday in Zirconia, North Carolina. The final day of competition saw hundreds of athletes vying for the national downhill title across multiple age groups. Athletes from across the country took to the three-quarter of a mile track to beat the clock.
UCI Elite Downhill
Reigning two-time National Champion Dakotah Norton (Clinton, Tenn.; Intense Factory Racing) had the fastest time on Saturday for his seeding run finish at 2:06.48. Luca Shaw (Hendersonville, N.C.; Canyon Cllctv) was not far behind with a 2:07.05, but times were sure to be faster in Sunday’s final runs.
Shaw knew this was a special race so close to home. He lives 30 minutes from the track and slept in his own bed on race day. He has never won the Elite National Championship before, and if he were going to do it anywhere, it would be at Ride Rock Creek.
Austin Dooley (Yucaipa, Calif.; Commencal / Schwalbe) would be the first rider down to go under the 2:06 mark for the day. Dante Silva (Chula Vista, Calif.; Canyon Cllctv) would finish in the same second, but Dooley would still be faster. It all came down to the local hero Shaw and reigning Champion Norton. Shaw crossed the line with a 2:05.18. That put Shaw, Dooley, and Silva in the same second for the top 3 finishers. The crowd anxiously awaited Norton to cross the line, and he would finish with a time of 2:06.65, putting him in sixth after a crash out on the course. That gave Shaw the fastest time of the day and his first Elite National Championship title in his local community.
For the Junior 17-18 Men, Ryan Pinkerton (Aliso Viejo, Calif.; GT Continental Factory Racing) has proven to be one to watch after a podium this year at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cups and racing to times that would put him in the top finishers of the Elite Men’s race. Evan Medcalf (Evolve Racing; Albuquerque, N.M.) is another one to watch after his seeding time, also would have put him in the top 5 of the Elite Men’s race. Medcalf crossed the line four seconds ahead of Nathan Kitchen (Bakersfield, Calif; KHS Pro MTB), confirming their spots on the podium. Pinkerton was the last to drop and flew to a time of 2:06.35, taking his fourth junior title in a row.
In the Elite Women’s event, Anna Newkirk (Riehen, Switzerland; Beyond Racing) made the trek over from Europe for the chance to win her first Elite National Championship. After going fastest in seeding, she set her sights on the Stars and Stripes.
Reigning National Champion Kailey Skelton (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.; KHS Factory Racing) came down with a time of 2:29.45 to take the fastest time of the day before Newkirk dropped. Newkirk made her way down the hill with a time of 2:25.34, riding four seconds faster than Skelton. Newkirk’s Beyond Racing teammate, Abby Hogie (Heidelberg, Germany; Beyond Racing), would take the third-place spot in the Elite field.
In the Junior Women’s 17-18 race, the ladies were flying, with comparable times to the Elite Women. Even though she crashed in her seeding run on Saturday, Riley Miller (East Burke, Vt.; Killington Mountain School) was one to watch. She put down an incredible ride, and most thought she had won. Kale Cushman (Old Town, Maine, Slipping Gears Cycling) crossed the line beating Miller by six-hundredths of a second. Cushman doubled down following her Elite Women’s Dual Slalom win on Friday. Taylor Ostgaard (Selah, Wash.; Transition Factory Racing) took the bronze.
Amateur Downhill Finals
Men’s Junior 15-16 race was on par with the 17-18 Juniors. Asa Vermette (Durango, Colo.; Frameworks Racing) rode to a 2:07.71 putting him top-10 in the elite class. Ryder Lawrence (Menifee, Calif.; Intense Cycles) slid into second with a 2:13.28, and Cash Shaleen (Acton, Calif.; Commencal, DVO Suspension, Fasthouse Bike) finished third.
Ellis Tahi Kinikini (Salt Lake City, Utah; Racekraft) went on to win the Men’s Junior 11-12 with Connor Knipscheer (Monster / Commencal / 100% / ODI) taking the National Championship title in the next age group up, Men’s Junior 13-14.
Aleutian Hatfield (Marquette, Mich.; Quick Stop Bike Shop) won the Men’s 19-24 with a 2:27.57, and Josh Toth (Hickory, N.C.) won the 25-29 class riding to a time of 2:23.60
In the Master’s Men’s categories, Chase Spears (League City, Tex.), Micah van Horn (Harriman, Tenn.), Daniel Ennis (Brevard, N.C.), Petr Hanak (Winter Park, Colo; Elevated Roofs), and Kevin Liebig (Havre de Grace, Md.; GT Bikes/ Racers Edge) all won their respective categories ages 30-54. Hanak went three for three this weekend winning Dual Slalom, Enduro, and Downhill.
For the Master’s Women, Amanda Domingus (Pittfield, Vt.; Chaingang Racing) won 30-39, and Laura Slavin (Vernon, N.J.; Yeti Cycles) won the 40-49 category.
Aletha Ostgaard (Selah, Wash.; Transition Factory Racing) dominated the Women’s field, winning the 15-16 class with a 2:26.60, which would have put her second in the Elite Women’s race, making her one of the fastest women on the mountain.