Two younger Americans raced to impressive performances at the second round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Houffalize, Belgium this weekend. First-year elite rider Stephen Ettinger (BMC) was the top-placed American in the elite men's race while Keegan Swenson (Cannondale Factory Racing) made the podium in the junior men's race.
"It was a cold overcast day and the race was run over a course that had many sharp climbs and technical drops with a very circuitous lap that felt like a long cyclo-cross course," said USA Cycling Mountain Bike and Cyclo-cross Director, Marc Gullickson. "Very large fields representing the strongest riders across Europe and the world were on hand for this classic Belgian World Cup."
Racing on Sunday morning before the elite contests, Swenson, 18, earned the bronze medal in the junior men's cross country. It was the only US medal won during the weekend. The Utah native held the lead heading into the final lap until he fell victim to the soft course and was passed by French and Swiss riders.
"I felt strong, and thought that the course suited me well," said Swenson. "I'm way stoked with my finish and hope I can improve on it next time!."
A bit later in the day Ettinger, 22, proved that his solid performance in his elite debut in South Africa's round one was no fluke, this time turning the top American result in the elite men's cross country contest. Finishing in 36th place of 166 starters, he crossed the line just over six and a half minutes behind winner Julien Absalon (Orbea).
"I knew I could be up at the front of this race. I knew I had that race in me but to have it all come together was great," said Ettinger, riding his second World Cup as an elite. "It makes the Olympic bid come that much closer."
The next best elite man was also one of the younger riders on the US Olympic Long Team: Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) was 37th. The more veteran American racers Todd Wells (Specialized), Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale Factory Racing) and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Trek) were 45th, 61st and 83rd respectively in the elite men's race.
Check out Cyclingnews' full coverage of the eliminator and cross country racing at the Houffalize World Cup.