Stephen Ettinger (BMC) raced to victory in the elite men's short track race at the US Mountain Bike National Championships at Bear Creek Resort on Sunday in Pennsylvania. Ettinger battled yesterday's cross country winner Todd Wells (Specialized) all race, and it came down to the final lap.
Having not been able to defend his cross country title the previous day due to two flat tires during the race, Ettinger was doubly motivated for the short track.
"Last year was my first elite cross country and this is my first elite short track win. Now I have one of each," said Ettinger. The elite men's short track and cross country titles were swapped from last year. This year, Ettinger goes home with the short track while Wells goes home with the cross country title.
Keegan Swenson (Cannondale) went for the hole shot and helped string things out from the gun. He was closely followed by the heavy favorites: Todd Wells, Russell Finsterwald (SRAM Factory Racing) and Ettinger. By the end of the first lap, the four men had created a gap.
Swenson and Wells spent a decent amount of time at the front, driving the pace.
On the fourth lap, Wells surged on the climb and created a slight gap, and Ettinger was quick to realize he needed to close it. The result was Ettinger and Wells rode off the front, leaving Finsterwald and Swenson behind. Fans were about to be treated to the Wells/Ettinger battle they had missed out on the previous day after Ettinger flatted.
"I knew that Todd would want it to be hard. I didn't know what he had in the tank, but I knew I had worked really hard the second half of yesterday's race to catch back up," said Ettinger. "I wanted to be patient and see where Todd was riding well and where I was riding well."
Neither man wanted to do too much work at the front and at times their pace slowed while they looked at each other. Each would try to apply pressure to the other by surging up the two climbs, but finally they realized that neither would get away from the other - they were too evenly matched.
"We had a good battle," said Wells. "I was hoping more of the guys would stay up there because then there are more guys to drive the pace. Once it was just Ettinger and I, we realized that we weren't going to drop each other and neither of us wanted to pull. But for me, it's better when the race is hard. There's some drafting out here and I knew he'd be able to sit on if I made it hard. We kind of looked at each other and then it was flat out the last couple of laps. We were dicing back and forth - there are some great berms out here you can throw it into."
Behind them, Swenson was the first to get caught by chasers, and he continued to fade. Finsterwald was also caught, but he stayed with the chasers, which included Troy Wells (Clif Bar), Howard Grotts (Specialized) and Jeremiah Bishop (Sho-Air/Cannondale).
On the final lap, Ettinger attacked enough to just get around Wells at the crucial last real place to pass on the course - at the top of a hill before some technical bits and a fast gravel downhill.
"I knew you had to be leading into the singletrack after the last climb because there's nowhere to pass between there and the finish line," said Ettinger. "So we battled a lot the last few laps on each of the climbs. There were a lot of elbows that we threw, but I guess I just had it today."
Ettinger held his advantage to take the lead and the title. Wells rode in for second.
"I wanted to win today, but I know how it is when you miss it the first day. You have extra motivation and everybody wants to win, but when you come close the previous day, it gives you just a little bit more," said Wells, who was happy to go home with the cross country title after winning the marathon title a few weeks ago.
"Two out of three ain't bad," he said.
Behind them, the cagey Finsterwald had saved just enough to beat his rivals for third place.
"Today was better than yesterday for sure," said Finsterwald, who had flatted the previous day while racing in the top three of the cross country. " Obviously, in short track, you want to fight for the win because that's what everyone remembers, but I went out there and did the best that I could."
"The first half I was holding on to them as long as possible. I felt my rear tire going a little soft today, so I had to be a little conservative in the corners. I figured third today would be better than not making it. I saw the others coming across and I knew it would happen, so I tried to make sure I had a few matches left to burn for when they got me. I needed to have one good punch to create some separation. It was hard - it was never easy to get away from Howie, Bishop and Troy for that third spot."
Bishop rode in for fourth and Grotts was fifth.
Ettinger complimented the organizers on their courses. "It was a fun track. There were a few technical sections and a few risky spots. They did a good job here. It was fun racing on both the cross country and the short track."
Wells said, "There's a great mix out here - a couple of punchy climbs, some drafting, one or two rocky sections - it's a lot of fun."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Stephen Ettinger (BMC Mountainbike Racing)||0:24:46|
|2||Todd Wells (Specialized Factory)||0:00:05|
|3||Russell Finsterwald (Sram Factory)||0:00:40|
|4||Jeremiah Bishop (Sho-Air/Cannondale)||0:00:40|
|5||Howard Grotts (Specialized Racing)||0:00:40|
|6||Troy Wells (Team Clif Bar Cycling)||0:00:57|
|7||Brian Matter (Ks Energy Services)||0:00:58|
|8||Kerry Werner (BMC Project Dirt)||0:01:03|
|9||Sepp Kuss (Rmcf-Devo)||0:01:09|
|10||Richard Cypress Gorry (Whole Athlete/ Specialized)||0:01:12|
|11||Alexander Grant (Sho-Air/Cannondale)||0:01:15|
|13||Tristan Uhl (787 Racing)||0:01:26|
|14||Eric Thompson (Plan C P/B Challenge)||0:01:28|
|15||Spencer Paxson (Kona Factory Team)||0:01:32|
|16||Keegan Swenson (Cannondale Factory)||0:01:40|
|18||Mitchell Hoke (Pro's Closet)||0:01:49|
|19||Lewis Gaffney (Team F.I.Taos)||0:01:57|
|20||Cole Oberman (Rare Disease Cycling)||0:02:02|
|21||Payson Mcelveen (USA U23)||0:02:08|
|22||Joseph Maloney (KS Energy Services )||0:02:16|
|24||Menso De Jong (Team Clif Bar Cycling)||0:02:24|
|25||Stephan Davoust (Durango Devo)||0:02:32|
|27||Noah Tautfest (Bicycle Express Racing)||0:02:41|
|28||Michael Broderick (Team Kenda/Stan's NoTubes)||0:02:48|
|-2 laps||Ryan Woodall|
|-2 laps||William Melone (Riverside Racing)|
|-2 laps||Alex Meucci|
|-2 laps||Casey Williams (Whole Athlete/ Specialized)|
|-3 laps||Kenneth Hall (Lindsey Wilson College)|
|-3 laps||Ryan Geiger (Tropix-Frm)|
|-4 laps||Levi Kurlander (Fort Lewis College)|
|-4 laps||Davis Bentley|
|-4 laps||Travis (Tj) Woodruff (Momentum Endurance)|
|-4 laps||Braden Kappius (Team Clif Bar Cycling)|
|-4 laps||Michael Sampson|
|-4 laps||Madison Matthews|
|-4 laps||Christopher Ziegler (Green Mountain Bicycle Club)|
|-5 laps||Daniel Sturm (Black Bear Cycling)|
|-5 laps||Christopher Hamlin (Bicycle Express Racing)|
|-5 laps||Andy Brooks (Giant Northeast Grassroots)|
|-5 laps||Joseph Clemenzi (Sports Garage Cycling)|
|-5 laps||Francis Cuddy|
|-5 laps||Mike Montalbano (Toasted Head Racing)|
|-5 laps||Robert Rimmer (Piney Flats Bicycles And Fitness)|
|-5 laps||Mason Shea|
|-6 laps||David Flaten (Giant Northeast Pro)|
|-6 laps||Craig Wohlschlaeger (Giant Bicycle)|