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Durangoans lead Team USA relay to podium

Team USA finishes third
Team USA mountain bikers show off the bronze medals they won during the cross-country Olympics team relay at the world championships on Wednesday in Les Gets, France. The team included Durangoans Bailey Cioppa, second from left, Christopher Blevins, second from right, and Riley Amos, right. (Bailey Cioppa/Instagram)

The 2022 UCI mountain bike world championships got underway Wednesday in Les Gets, France, with the cross-country team relay. Cyclists from Durango made up half the team and led Team USA on to the podium with a third-place finish.

Durangoans Christopher Blevins, Riley Amos and Bailey Cioppa were joined by Haley Batten, Madigen Munro and Cayden Parker on the relay.

“The team had a consistent, good effort from start to finish, and it was good enough for the last step of the box,” Amos posted on Instagram. “Love this event and thankful for the trust by USA Cycling for my first race back.”

Amos broke his collar bone training before the national championships in July, but had surgery to repair the injury and healed enough to race in the championships.

Switzerland won the relay championship in 1 hour, 17 minutes and 14 seconds. Italy placed second, six seconds back, and the USA finished third out of the 18 teams that started the race in 1:17:28, just 14 seconds off Switzerland’s pace.

On Thursday, downhill qualification took place as well as the junior cross-country Olympic races. “Nerves have turned to excitement, can’t wait for xco tomorrow afternoon,” Cioppa posted after the relay. In a different post, she said, “So excited to put the stars and stripes back on for my last junior races.”

In the junior women’s cross-country Olympic race on Thursday, Cioppa led the USA and nearly reached the podium again. Cioppa placed seventh in the race, finishing 3:56 after the winner, Monique Halter of Switzerland, who crossed first in 59:37.

Fellow Durangoan, Lauren Aggeler, finished 21st (+7:08) in the junior race.

The world championships will continue Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

On Friday, the elite cross-country short track championships will take place, which Blevins won last year, as well as the E-mountain bike races.

“It’s been quite an honor and a whole lot of fun racing in the stripes this past year. Tomorrow we fight for them again in XCC,” Blevins posted Thursday on Instagram.

Sofia Gomez Villafane, a former Fort Lewis College rider, will compete in the women’s elite e-bike race for Argentina.

“First e-bike race tomorrow and nonetheless at the World Champs,” Villafane posted. “The course here is wild: some really technical climbs, massive log hops, and lots of rock gardens.”

Savilia Blunk is on the start list for the elite short track and cross-country Olympic races. The men’s short track field features 63 riders, and the women’s has 50.

“Whelp, I emptied the ‘tank’ a little sooner than expected,” Blunk posted. “Finally recovered from some food poisoning over the weekend and ready to ease carefully into a beautiful week at World Champs. Feeling like myself again and the vibes are high with (Orange Seal Off Road Team) and USA Cycling.”

On Saturday, the junior and elite downhill championships will take place.

The world championships will then wrap up with the U23 and elite cross-country Olympic races on Sunday.

“Energy is high, legs are open, and now full focus for Sunday,” Amos posted.