Behlen rides to solo Under 23 national cross country title

Jill Behlen rode to a solo victory in the Under 23 women's cross country national championship race on Friday morning in Sun Valley, Idaho. Kaila Hart finished in second place ahead of Sarah Sturm (Fort Lewis College) in third.

Behlen, who will turn 20 at the end of the month, is a second-year Under 23 racer, and she was delighted to take her first national title after eight seasons of racing. Her win also earned her an automatic spot on the US National Team for the world championships in Champery, Switzerland, in September.

From the start of the race, Behlen, Hart, Erica Zaveta and Sarah Sturm took to the front on the brutal, fireroad climb right from the gun.

"Going up the steep hill together, we started to get spread apart," said Behlen who is from Boulder, Colorado, but goes to college in Laramie, Wyoming. "Sarah kind of slipped a pedal, so I got around her and got a little gap. Then I just kept going. I had no mechanical issues - everything was perfect."

Hart, who will turn 20 years old in October, was happy to log her best-ever U23 nationals finish of second after finishing third last year.

"I knew Jill was a great descender so she pinned it on that first climb because she wanted to be first into the singletrack," said Hart. "I was second so I grabbed her wheel. The descent is where she got it, she just kept opening up the gap there."

Sturm finished second while Catlin rode to a fourth. "I was a little afraid of the altitude and shooting straight up the climb to start," said Catlin, "but the course was fun and I felt good going into it."

Sturm and Catlin go to school in Durango, Colorado, but the latter has spent the summer in her hometown of Fairfax, California, at sea level.

"I'd say this was the perfect course for me because it wasn't very technical," said Catlin. "I'm more of a smooth singletrack rider than a technical root rider. I actually never rode the rock garden in the pre-ride because they closed it after a crash during the pre-ride. So I went into it blind, but it was fine."

The course featured two man-made rock gardens, one long and flat and one steeply downhill.

Junior women 17-18

Alicia Rose Pastore (Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory) raced to her third consecutive cross country national title. This year's win was her second in the junior 17-18 category and she's previously won the 15-16 category. Grace Alexander (Boise Young Rider Development Squad) finished second ahead of Sofia Hamilton (Whole Athlete / Specialized) in third.

Fresh off a second place in the junior race at the Windham World Cup last weekend, Pastore was in good form.

"It was fun, but that climb is super hard and steep," said Pastore after winning. "The first lap on the climb, there were a few of us, and then I was on my own except for some Under 23 women."

Remarkably, Pastore of Durango, Colorado, almost caught Behlen the winner of the under 23 race at the end of the three-lap junior race and she finished ahead of all the other under 23 women despite the juniors starting several minutes later. The Under 23 women raced one additional lap.

Pastore stayed at the front throughout, but she did have a mechanical scare. "At the end of my first lap, something was really loose on my bike and making a lot of noise. I was worried what would happen to it on the next two laps, but it worked out well."

Alexander, a resident of Boise, made the Idaho home state crowd proud with her silver medal.

"That climb is a grinder and it can take it out of you. With that and the elevation, it's tiring out there, but I had a good time," she said.

Despite fracturing her jaw in three places and breaking her arm a few months ago in a crash during a criterium that she doesn't fully remember, Alexander was clearly on form after winning the time trial and finishing fourth at the junior road nationals in Augusta a few weeks ago.

Alexander is racing age 17 and has one more year left as a junior.

Hamilton of Marin County, California, was happy with her third place. "My race went better than I was expecting. I was just trying to make it up the climb and not get off and then go as fast as I could on the downhill while keeping it smooth."

"The rock gardens were fun. I practiced them a lot beforehand, so they went well." Hamilton was second last year at junior nationals.

Junior 15-16 women

Kate Courtney (Whole Athlete / Specialized) won the junior women's 15-16 race ahead of Kaylee Blevins and Josie Nordrum. (Whole Athlete / Specialized).

"It was incredible out there. It was a tough, brutal course, but we were prepared for it. We were acclimated and it went awesome," said Courtney, who is from Kentfield, California.

"I had no issues, and my race went perfectly," she said upon receiving hugs from her many teammates after the finish.

Courtney broke away at the start. "I started catching 17-18 girls. I passed a group of them and then was alone the rest of the time, except for catching two others later on. Catching them was motivation - it helped me a lot."

Blevins of Durango, Colorado earned the silver medal. "My race was good, but tough. I was in second the whole time. Most of the climb, I could see Kate, and then she would get ahead."

"The rock gardens were technical and challenging, but it was a nice course."

Nordrum of Corte Madero, California, was surprised to hear she finished third as she crossed the line. "It was awesome out there today. I felt superb. I was so stoked that they picked such a good course."

Full Results

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Under 23 women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jill Behlen1:30:39
2Kaila Hart0:00:44
3Sarah Sturm (Fort Lewis College)0:02:53
4Lauren Catlin0:02:59
5Erica Zaveta (BMC Mountainbike Development Team)0:05:20
6Katie Sodergren0:05:28
7Corinne Prevot0:15:32
-1lapPetra DavisRow 7 - Cell 2
DNFMaren CosensRow 8 - Cell 2
Swipe to scroll horizontally
Cat. 1 Junior women 17-18
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Aliciarose Pastore (Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory)1:03:15
2Grace Alexander (Byrds (Boise Young Rider Dev Squad))0:01:09
3Sofia Hamilton (Whole Athlete/Specialized)0:05:31
4Shayna Powless (USA)0:07:46
5Alexis Ryan (The Team - Socalcross)0:10:41
6Mackinzie Stanley (Whole Athlete)0:12:28
7Victoria Yoham (Whole Athlete/Specialized)0:12:40
8Nina Karinen0:16:50
9Elizabeth White (Blue Steel Cyclery)0:18:02
10Lindsay Dye (Boulder Junior Cycling)0:18:17
11Ariana Dittmer0:20:16
12Maranda Stopol (Mud Honey Cycling)0:21:25
13Jacqueline Kabel0:23:38
DNFElizabeth ShullRow 13 - Cell 2
Swipe to scroll horizontally
Cat. 1 Junior women 15-16
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Kate Courtney (Whole Athlete/Specialized)1:08:52
2Kaylee Blevins0:02:50
3Josie Nordrum (Whole Athlete/Specialized)0:06:11
4Karen Brocket (Ethos Racing)0:09:28
5Britney Wimberly0:11:20


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