Tad Elliott impressed with a near podium finish in the elite men's cross country at the US Mountain Bike National Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho, on Saturday. No longer an under 23 racer globetrotting to do events as part of the development team, Elliott hasn't been seen at many national-level races this year, so his sixth place finish was a surprise to some and even himself.
"I joined this new Rocky Mountain Chocolate Devo team and we've been racing a lot in Colorado. I raced all right at Ironhorse and a few Mountain States Cup," said Elliott, who lives in Durango, Colorado.
"For the last month, I've been doing some secret training for nationals. I guess it paid off. I didn't go do the World Cups like these guys. I trained a lot and then tapered for this race. I thought I'd be top 10 but to finish sixth, I'm pretty amped."
Elliott had come off of a few weeks of preparation in Park City, Utah, where he stayed at a US Ski Team house. The talented young mountain biker is a world class cross country skier, too. This year, he won the 30km skate ski at the US cross country skiing championships.
"I took a mid-summer break to ski train because I had some obligations with the US Ski Team," said Elliott. "I skied this winter - it was a good season. I definitely love mountain biking and that's been almost all of my training this summer."
He seems to be finding a good balance between the two sports and has been enjoying a pressure-free summer of mountain bike racing. When he's not preparing for skiing or cycling, he likes to play golf with fellow Durango residents Todd and Troy Wells.
"This year since I wasn't U23, I didn't go to Europe with USA Cycling. I got on the local team instead, and I've stayed in Durango instead. Last night before the race, I was up laughing with my teammates until 10:30 pm. It was so relaxed and then I figured I should probably go to bed."
Elliott is headed next to the US Pro XCT finals in Missoula, Montana, next weekend. In the meantime, he's not looking too far ahead.
"I don't know what sixth place at nationals opens up, but I'm happy with it right now," he said.
The next day, Elliott finished 14th in the elite men's short track national championship.