Stovall leads SSCV at USA Cycling mountain bike nationals

Landon Stovall crosses the line to finish fourth in the 17-18 division cross-country race at the USA Cycling mountain bike nationals last weekend.
Rick Stovall/Courtesy photo

Landen Stovall’s fourth-place finish in the 17-18 juniors cross-country race headlined a bevy of excellent local performances by Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes and members of the Vail Junior Cycling team at the USA Cycling mountain bike national championships in Winter Park over the weekend. VJC had 12 athletes — six girls and six boys — compete.

“It was a hard week of riding and racing for everyone,” stated head coach Marshall Troutner.

The competition ran from June 18-24 and consisted of cross-country, downhill, dual slalom, enduro and short track cross-country events. In the cross-country event, elite, U23, junior (11-14, 15-16, 17-18), Masters 55+, amateur and single speed categories were contested for both men and women.

“It was a fun weekend, especially after that fourth-place finish. Everybody got all hyped and excited,” Stovall said of the celebration at the team house after Friday’s race.

Stovall blitzed three laps of the “red course” — a 5.2-mile loop with 696 feet of elevation change — in 1 hour, 9 minutes and 13 seconds, 2:55 behind winner Cayden Parker of Bear National Team. His teammate Jack Spranger was second, with Marcis Shelton rounding out the podium in the 114-member field.

“The entire last lap was just a battle fighting for the lead,” Stovall said of his back and forth duel with Shelton and Dan English.

“(Shelton) got some space on me on that final downhill,” described Stovall. “I gave it everything I could and I almost caught him.”

Just 23 seconds separated third from fifth, with Stovall in the unenviable fourth position, eight seconds off the podium.

“Yeah that was a bit of a bummer,” he said. There was a silver lining, however.

Landon Stovall climbs up a steep hill during the USA Cycling mountain bike national championships last weekend in Winter Park.
Rick Stovall/Courtesy photo

“It felt really good because I had a season-ending injury back in May,” the Eagle Valley High School student said.

“I completely broke my wrist, kind of got told my season would be over.” Stovall’s last race was May 6 in Soldier Hollow, after which he had surgery on his radius.

“I was on the trainer for weeks after that; it ended up healing in time,” he said. His 15-hour weekly regimen ended up paying off when he showed up for nationals, where he wore a brace on his arm.

“My goal (going in) at most was just a top-20,” he added.

“I really didn’t have that many expectations — I hadn’t been able to race for months. I was just happy to be racing.”

The 17-year-old will be the top returner in the 17-18 category in 2023. Before then, he’s hoping to win a state title in the high school season and maybe even “squeeze in” the newly announced Vail 100 in between race weekends.

“It’s on my radar,” he said of the race, adding that once he reaches the 18-year-old age limit for the Leadville 100, that event is a goal, too.

“I’ve always wanted to do that race,” he said.

The climbing specialist, who credits his sprinting abilities to his BMX background, particularly enjoyed the course’s main climb.

“It was so steep and every single lap it was just packed, lined with people on both sides,” he described.

“The noise was crazy. I’ve never experienced that much hype from all sides.” 

Stovall will decide if a gap year is right after next season is over. Otherwise, Fort Lewis is one school the soon-to-be senior is looking at.

“I have a lot of friends that go there,” he said, pausing and then adding, “Really good bike team.”

True Bennett came in 44th (1:15:40) in the 17-18 division, a result he wasn’t altogether pleased with. “I didn’t produce the results I trained for,” he stated.

Troutner noted that Bennett “suffered a major mechanical during his qualifying heat, still managed to qualify for cross-country, and made big gains all race.”

After using valuable energy to make the qualifying top-50 earlier in the week, he was in the 13th row for Friday’s final. “Which meant I had a lot of work to do,” he said, adding that he ended up behind some crashes as well.

“The big takeaway is you have to have a start in the front if you want to have a good clean ride,” Bennett stated, adding that he’ll finish his year doing high school mountain bike races as well as potentially racing cyclocross nationals.

Aiden Brown recovered from a recent bout with pneumonia to finish 38th out of 110 riders in the junior 15-16 division (1:19:40). He was 9:42 back from champion Nicholas Konecny of Breckenridge. Brown worked his way up from 109th place after the first lap.

“Although I was (a) ways away from top five I still accomplished some major goals I set at the beginning of the season and I couldn’t ask for much more,” he posted on social media after the races.

“I’m already looking forward to next year.”

Reiner Schmidt, another SSCV athlete who was racing for the Olympic Development Academy, raced four days in a row, qualifying for both cross-country and short track. He placed right behind Brown in 39th in the cross-country event.

Konecny went on to win his third national title in the short track on Sunday.

“I don’t know if it has set in yet, but I am extremely excited,” Konecny told Cody Jones of the Summit Daily of his double-national-championship performance.

“I am not only happy with the two wins but the journey of the whole season to get there.”

Jones reported that Konecny is “done seriously racing for the rest of the season,” though he is contemplating racing the Breck Epic in August.

Konecny’s older brother Lasse placed eighth in the U23 cross-country race.

“I wanted more, but I am beyond happy with the result! Super stellar week here in Winter Park!” the 2022 Firecracker 50 runner-up posted on social media.

Also in the 15-16 race was SSCV Nordic skier Alex Current, who finished in 93 place. “He rallied for a third day of mountain bike racing to attempt to qualify for short track,” Troutner stated of Current’s championship program heavy lifting.

In the girls races, VJC was led by Lucy Perkins’ rally from the back of the pack to finish ninth in the junior 15-16 division. Kylie De Jager nipped the gifted SSCV Nordic skier at the line for eighth, with both riders finishing exactly 9:38 off of Andie Aagard’s winning time of 49:30. Perkins blitzed the two-lap course in 59:08.

Racing in their first national championship Eva Skiba (1:16:33) and Maggie Linscott (1:20:35) “pushed themselves harder than ever,” according to Troutner. They came in 55th and 61st, respectively. The coach said Keely Hendricks (1:12:25) “stayed strong” en route to finishing 46th out of 66 riders in the girls junior 17-18 race on Friday.

Troutner said the week was a “team effort,” with athletes like Ben Suttor and Matas Katieb staying with the group after not qualifying to help support their teammates. Zosia Skiba, who broke her leg recently, also came out to cheer on athletes and keep the team house clean, according to the coach.

“There is no team without everyone and everyone deserved to be there. Every effort, every result, every extra set of hands on-site made this team possible,” Troutner stated, noting an extra well-deserved thanks to the parents who supported the group with cooking, cheering and more throughout the season.

“We learned a lot from our first trip to Nationals, and I think everyone is fired-up for what will be a very exciting season of racing in the Colorado High School League.”