Canadians proved to be an adaptable bunch on Saturday, taking seven of the top nine spots in an elite men’s US Cup that took place a day earlier than scheduled.
U.S. World Cup winner Christopher Blevins proved to be the class of the field, taking his third win in as many days. Gunnar Holmgren led the Canadian effort, placing third in the finalé of a trio of US Cup events this week in Arkansas.
Elite men’s US Cup XCO: Canadians start fast, Blevins ups the pace
The elite men lined up late Saturday afternoon for what was supposed to be Sunday’s XCO final in Fayetteville. Gunnar Holmgren and Marc Andre Fortier proved ready for the rescheduled start, putting the Pivot Cycles-OTE jerseys on the front for the start loop.
Holmgren led across the line onto the first full lap only to quickly be overtaken by Christopher Blevins (Specialized Factory Racing) and Andrew L’Esperance (Maxxis Factory Racing). Blevins’ explosive power quickly created a gap. The XCC world champion set off on his own solo adventure off the front of the field.
16 minutes into the race, L’Esperance was joined in his chase by Riley Amos (Trek Factory Racing). The duo had seven seconds to make up to Blevins. Close behind, a trio of Canucks including Tyler Orschel (Canyon Devo), Holmgren and Quinton Disera (Canyon Devo). They were soon joined by Peter Disera and Sean Fincham of Norco Factory Team, Cole Punchard of CHC Armada and Luke Vrouwenvelder (Giant Factory Off-Road).
Amos splinters the chase
Riley Amos soon took off in pursuit of Blevins. That left L’Esperance riding in thrid with Orschel, just a handful of seconds from the rest of the chasers.
With two laps to go, Blevins pushed his advantage over Amos out to 25 seconds. Amos, showing signs of fatigue, nearly went over the bars on a series of small drops. Holmgren, L’Esperance and Orschel were in an all-Canadian chase 53 seconds further back. Another Canadian quartet of the Diseras, Fincham and Punchard sat at 1:15 back, just behind Vrouwenvelder.
Holmgren was the first to try take advantage of Amos’ error. The Candian was steadily closing in on the U.S. rider as the race wound quickly towards the finish.
Blevins remained all alone, flying at the front of the race to his third win in three days. Holmgren crossed third, running out of real estate in his pursuit of Riley Amos. It’s another strong result for the Canadian in his first year of elite racing. It comes just weeks after an impressive World Cup debut in Brazil.
Andrew L’Esperance outsprinted Tyler Orschel for fourth place. Sean Fincham, Peter Disera, Quinton Disera and Cole Punchard followed in that order, placing sixth to ninth. U.S.A. takes 1-2, with Canadians in third to ninth.
There were Canadians on all four of Saturday’s main event podiums in Fayetteville. Jenn Jackson earned silver in elite women. Zorak Paillé was bronze in junior men. Gunnar’s younger sisters, Ava and Isabella Holmgren, had a remarkable 1-2 finish in the junior women’s UCI race.