Savilia Blunk, Christopher Blevins win first round of US Cup

Haley Batten and Kate Courtney round out women's podium, while Cole Paton and Tyler Orschel are second and third men.

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After a day’s delay due to inclement weather, US Cup racing kicked off at Centennial Park in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Thursday morning.

In the women’s race, Savilia Blunk beat Haley Batten in a 1-2 sprint, while Christopher Blevins won the men’s race by a three-minute margin.

Read also: US Cup returns to Fayetteville with a techier course and a stacked start list

Christopher Blevins after laying it all on the line. (Photo: Courtesy US Cup)

Conditions on race day were muddy and slow. The men raced seven laps of the 4.2km course while the women raced six. Batten pulled away from the women’s field early, at one point with 40 seconds on the field. However, Blunk raced to perfection on the day, catching Batten to ride the final lap together.

On the final lap, the pair battled back and forth, each taking turns on the front. In the end, Blunk had the legs for the final sprint to the line.

Read also: Meet Savilia Blunk and Cole Paton, America’s off-road power couple

“I didn’t have such a fast start, I was on the back of that lead group,” Blunk said at the finish. “There were crashes and mechanicals in that first woods that I was caught behind, and I figured it was all about staying smooth and holding an even pace. I could see Haley at the top of all those climbs and just focused on slowly reeling her in.”

In the men’s race, Blevins took control from the get-go, riding off a lead group of three at the end of the first lap. As riders struggled over the muddy and technical course, the short track world champ made it look easy.

Blevins held his lead throughout the race and was across the line nearly three minutes ahead of Paton.

In addition to giving pro XC riders a chance to race in North America, the US Cup also serves as a final tuneup before World Cup season gets officially underway in Albstadt in two weeks. Blevins will be Germany-bound, but for second-finisher Cole Paton, all eyes are on Unbound Gravel. The 25-year-old will be focusing on the Life Time Grand Prix series for the rest of the season.

Blunk will be making her debut in the World Cup elite field this year. Batten and third place finisher Kate Courtney were both at the opening race of the season in Brazil before coming back to the U.S. to race in Arkansas.

Friday, the elites will race short track, followed by another XCO race on Sunday.

Elite women’s results

  1. Savilia Blunk, 1:37:22
  2. Haley Batten, 1:37:26
  3. Kate Courtney, 1:39:34
  4. Gwendalyn Gibson, 1:42:13
  5. Ruth Holcomb, 1:43:17

Elite men’s results

  1. Christopher Blevins, 1:35:58
  2. Cole Paton, 1:38:49
  3. Tyler Orschel, 1:39:46
  4. Andrew L’Esperance, 1:40:15
  5. Marc Andre Fortier, 1:40:35

A list of full results can be found here.

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