Unsure what her future mountain biking career would hold, Fort Lewis College’s Savilia Blunk trained through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 with no races on which to set her sights. But after working hard to form a new team with her partner and races back on the schedule in 2021, Blunk was ready to show why she worked hard to remain in race shape for so long.
It paid off Saturday, as Blunk won the women’s under-23 cross-country race at the Pan American Continental Championships in Salinas, Puerto Rico.
Blunk finished in 1 hour, 20 minutes, 38 seconds. Second place went to Boulder’s Madigan Munro, who finished in 1:24:01. Chile’s Catalina Vidaurre was third in 1:25:00.
“This feels great. This was really the first week of big races in over a year for me, so it felt so good to put all the work I’ve been doing the last year to the test,” Blunk said. “I think a lot of athletes felt the same way. It was really nice to cross that finish line. I’ve been thinking about this one for awhile and working hard, so it felt good.”
Blunk said the course was pretty worn down after a week’s worth of races. She focused on riding as clean as possible and avoiding any crashes.
Blunk’s partner, FLC alum Cole Paton, would place sixth in the elite men’s race Sunday. He was the top-American finisher with a final time of 1:32:58. The win went to Mexico’s José Gerardo Ulloa Arévalo in 1:29:03. He was 1:26 in front of Colombia’s Jonathan Botero.
Paton and Blunk forged their own path to create their own sponsored team in 2021 with Pivot Cycles bikes and Orange Seal Cycling as the title sponsor.
“This was really our international debut with our new team together. Having the races go smoothly for both of us all week and putting our work to the test, it’s special to share it together and with our sponsors,” Blunk said. “We can’t say thank you enough to Orange Seal and Pivot and everyone who helped get us here.”
Also in the men’s elite race, North Carolina’s Luke Vrouwenvelder was seventh in 1:33:16. Durango’s Stephan Davoust placed 11th in 1:34:14. Russell Finsterwald of Colorado Springs was 19th in 1:38:48.
In the elite women’s race, FLC alumna Sofia Gomez-Villafane, representing Argentina, would finish second in 1:28:30. Mexico’s Daniela Campazano took the win in 1:27:02 American Kelsey Urban placed third after Gomez-Villafane narrowly edged her in a sprint finish.
Many riders will head to Arkansas next to race in U.S. Pro Cup races. Blunk then plans to head to Europe for the first two UCI World Cup races of the season.
“It’s going to be a long season with a ton of racing, which I’m ready for after not a lot last year,” Blunk said. “This win is a confidence booster telling me where I’m at, and I’m excited to build on it with training as I start focusing on more races through the year.”