Parkites shine at MTB Nationals
Mammoth Mountain, California, provided a familiar setting for Summit County mountain bikers at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships last weekend.
Riding at elevation on dusty trails felt like home, leading to four national championships and a slew of other impressive finishes for local riders.
Haley Batten, Katie Clouse and Tom Noaker all brought home national titles, with Clouse earning two — one in the XC Women Junior 13-14 category and the other in the Short-Track XC Women Junior 9-16 competition. Batten earned first place in the XC Women Junior 17-18 Cat 1 competition and Noaker finished first by more than two minutes in the XC Men Master 65-69 contest.
For Batten, who earned her fourth career national title, the strong performance was just another step in a strong summer season. Batten, 16, had previously won a title at the 13-14 age group and two at the 15-16 level.
"I was feeling pretty confident for this race," she said. "I’ve had a lot of good races throughout the season across the country, so I was feeling strong and confident."
She said the Mammoth course played to her strengths, allowing her to ride comfortably for most of the day.
"A lot of the climbs were really steep," she said. "I think it was a good course for me because I’m good at climbing and descending."
Though she enjoyed the technical aspects of the course, Batten said conditions made for some tough riding.
"The dirt was really loose and dusty, which made it really hard for every athlete," she said. "You wanted to stay really smooth. One of the main things is if you’re behind someone on a descent, the clouds of dust build up really quickly. My goal was to get in the lead on the downhills so I could choose my lines through the dust."
Noaker agreed that conditions were adverse at times. Even though he won his race by more than two minutes, finishing 2 minutes, .9 seconds ahead of Parkite Dwight Hibdon, he said there was still a lot of traffic ahead of him on the course.
"At Nationals in the Cat 1 divisions, there are a lot of divisions that start two to three minutes apart," he said. "I ran into the back of the group that started in front of me right away. You’re definitely picking your way through traffic."
But Noaker, who won his third mountain bike national title (previously winning the 45-49 title in Mammoth in 1996 and the 50-54 title in Durango, Colorado, in 2003), said he built enough of a lead early to avoid having to take too many risks.
"I simply rode my own race and it was good enough," he said. "If I was challenged more, I could have gone faster. Once I got a gap, though, I just wanted to have some fun with it."
Park City rider Keegan Swenson also turned in an impressive result at nationals, finishing second in the XC Men Pro division. It was a step up from where the 21-year-old normally races, but he said he was competing against some familiar faces, including race-winner Howard Grotts.
"Howard and I both raced up," he said. "This whole year we’ve been racing with those guys. It wasn’t too much different — we knew what we were up against."
Grotts and Swenson were both with the lead group of riders for the entire race. Swenson said he wasn’t able to keep pace when Grotts broke away late.
"I couldn’t quite close the gap down before the finish," he said. "It was a good race."
Summit County riders amassed 12 top-10 finishes at this year’s competition. Noaker said it’s easier to become a good rider in the Park City area than it is in other areas.
"It says a lot about the venues that are here," he said. "When you have access to a terrific trail system right out your door, it’s easier to improve."
"I really think the trail associations we have and the mountains we have really lend a hand to building some great riders," Batten agreed.
The next big event on Batten’s schedule is the World Championships event in Andorra in early September. Meanwhile, Swenson will travel to Canada for a World Cup event before heading back to the U.S. for a World Cup in New York.
For full results from the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships, visit http://www.usacycling.org .
Top Park City finishers
XC Women Junior 17-18 Cat 1
1. Haley Batten — 1:05:13.4
XC Women Junior 13-14
1. Katie Clouse — 55:17.1
6. Mila Leger Redel — 1:00:29.5
7. Sydney Palmer Leger — 1:02:14.4
Short-Track XC Women Junior 9-16
1. Katie Clouse
XC Men Master 65-69
1. Tom Noaker — 1:34:01.2
2. Dwight Hibdon — 1:36.02.1
XC Men Pro
2. Keegan Swenson — 1:43:16.0
XC Men Junior 13-14
2. Skylar Patten — 47:11.2
DH Men Senior 19-24 Cat 1
4. Jack Drain — 3:55.706
DH Women Pro
4. Amanda Batty — 4:55.414
XC Men Junior 15-16 Cat 1
9. JonJon Drain — 1:19:43.5
XC Men Junior 17-18 Cat 1
11. Daniel Fendler 1:17:04.7
Steele DeWald has his life in Park City down to a routine. After some strange encounters in his 20s, he’s OK with the mundane.