The two men who are slated to wear the stars-and-stripes in London at the Summer Olympic Games, defending national champion Todd Wells (Specialized) and Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek), dueled throughout the 34.8-kilometer, six-lap contest. On the last lap, Schultz attacked on the climb and Wells was unable to answer due to a flat tire, allowing Schultz to ride away with the first elite national championship of his career.
"We just kept on going back and forth before he got a flat," Schultz said. "He would come around me at the bottom of the climb. I just nipped him before the singletrack because he descended pretty well. I wasn't descending that great, so I just made sure I got ahead of him. It would have been real intense if he hadn't flatted. It definitely would have come down to that last lap."
Schultz and Wells showed early in the race why they were selected the London Games. The two men quickly found themselves at the front of the 56-rider field, quickly opening an advantage. The chase group, comprised of Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Trek), Ryan Trebon (Bend, Ore.) and Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale) fought valiantly to keep up, but were unable to get closer than 30 seconds. Schultz pulled away from Wells on the last lap to earn the Stars-and-Stripes jersey and the winner's share of the $1,000 purse offered in the professional men's cross-country race.
The two women selected to represent the United States in the Olympic Games, Georgia Gould (LUNA PRO TEAM) and Lea Davison (Specialized Racing), also showed the large crowd scattered throughout Bald Mountain with their performances. Gould, who began her mountain bike cross-country career as a resident of Ketchum, Idaho, built an early lead and did not relent as she rode away with the fourth national championship of her career.
"It's really special," Gould said of winning the national championship. "It never gets old. To be able to wear the national champion's jersey at all the races all year always makes me proud. Every time is special. It never gets old. I'm always proud to be the national champion."
Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Trek) attacked the field early in the race, building a lead that grew to 30 seconds, but Gould countered and by the time the two riders had reached the top of the climb, Gould had passed Irmiger and began pulling away on the descent, building a 20-second lead. For her part, Davison completed her first lap in fourth place just behind Irmiger and the leader of the USA Cycling Pro Ultra-Endurance Tour, Pua Mata (Sho-Air). By the time the women turned into their third of their five-lap-contest, Gould's lead grew to close to a minute and Davison was sitting in third place after overtaking Mata and was closing on Irmiger for second. After a poorly-timed mechanical issue cost Gould the top spot at the International Cycling Union Mountain Bike World Cup event last weekend in Windham, N.Y., Gould carefully chose her lines and rode a safe race through the last two laps, ensuring her victory in Idaho and the winner's share of the $1,000 purse. Davison finished in second place, 1:42 behind Gould. Irmiger earned the bronze medal, finishing just over one minute behind Davison.