Steamboat Springs The last piece of evidence Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club cycling coach Ben Clark said he needed to predict a great finish from Linnea Dixson came the day before her ride in the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross Country National Championships.
Clark lead the team on a ride last week, a day before seven of his athletes would saddle up with many of the best in the country. One section of the course, laid out on the SolVista Ski Area near Granby, was so tricky that Clark had to dismount.
He hauled his bike back to the top, though, and made it through the second time.
"Linnea, she's the greatest student of cycling I've ever seen," Clark said. "I said, 'Did you see that line I took. I bet you can take that and make it.' She did make it, and rode it better than I did."
Dixson helped lead the way for the seven Winter Sports Club athletes who tackled the three-day championships during the weekend. She was seventh in the 15- to 18-year-old division of the Category 1 (Expert) women's race.
Sam Chovan was first in the 19 to 29 division of the Cat. 2 men's race. Sarah Dixson was fourth in the Cat. 2 19 to 29 women's race, and Jamie Gay finished seventh in the 15 to 18 Cat. 2 women's race.
Jeffrey Gay was 21st, and Aiden Rohde was 47th in the men's Cat. 2 15 to 18 division.
"All the kids, I was pleasantly surprised with their results," Clark said. "They worked hard to train for this race in particular.
"It was a real eye-opener for them. They had seen regional talent before, but never talent of the national caliber. They all raced really well."
They weren't the only Steamboat riders to have their eyes opened as World Cup and Olympic riders mixed in with the same bikers who take to every week's Town Challenge events.
Barkley Robinson led the way for the locals in the men's Pro race, finishing 28th in 2 hours, 27 minutes, 41 seconds. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski won his fifth national championship in 2:02:10.
A pack of Steamboat cyclists was hot on Robinson's heels.
Brad Bingham was 32nd, Nate Bird 34th, and Jamie Morgan 39th.
Kelly Boniface represented the Steamboat women with a 22nd-place finish in the women's field. She finished in 2:17:37. Heather Irmiger, Horgan-Kobelski's wife, won the women's race in 1:55:40.
"It started out with a brutal, very brutal 300-yard climb," Bird said. "Then it was the longest 4.2-mile lap I've ever ridden. It was a giant, intimidating field."
Still, he and the rest of the Steamboat finishers were happy to have made the top half of the field.
"Everyone from Steamboat did great," Bird said. "I'm super stoked. I'm still fired up about my results. That was my first event like that, and to come in in the top part of the pack was my goal. It was great to achieve that and see all my friends do really well."
Also representing Steamboat was Ned Kajko, who finished eighth riding for the Steamboat Gravity Team in the 19 to 29 division of the men's open Super D competition.
Len Zanni, a Carbondale resident and co-owner of Steamboat's Big Agnes, was 17th in the men's cross-country pro division.
Jon Freckleton was 12th in the men's singlespeed category, ahead of Doug Karet in 17th.
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