Kain Leonard named to U.S. downhill team
Local gravity-fed racers posted podium results at the third stop of the Mountain States Cup (MSC) mountain bike race series, the Chile Challenge, held in Angel Fire, New Mexico, May 23-26.
In addition to being a part of the MSC series, the Chile Challenge offered an opportunity for men and women professional downhill racers to qualify for the USA Cycling World Championship squad headed to the UCI World Mountain Bike and Trials Championships in Val di Sole, Italy in June.
Gunnison Valley rider and coach of the Crested Butte Academy Gravity Bike Team Kain Leonard had a phenomenal weekend of racing, taking fifth in the Mountain Cross for pro men and finishing in second place in the downhill.
Leonard has always liked the Angel Fire downhill track, posting numerous solid results there over the years.
“I call Angel Fire my home away from home because I always do well there,” says Leonard.
Leonard finished a mere three one-hundredths of a second off earning an automatic spot on the national team headed to Italy.
“It was so close,” says Leonard. “I missed the automatic bid to the worlds by a knobbies width. There was a ton of talent there and I knew a lot of guys were going for that top spot.”
While Leonard missed the automatic bid granted to first place, he was named to the team in the end and will be heading with the U.S. team to compete in Italy.
Academy team director and coach Christian Robertson had an incredible weekend as well, competing in the men’s expert class ages 30-plus.
Robertson won the Mountain Cross, airing out over jumps that he avoided in past years.
“To be competitive you had to hit them,” explains Robertson. “I was excited to go down there and hit those. I was having a good day and riding well.”
Robertson followed his Mountain Cross win with a third-place finish in the downhill, making for his strongest results at the Angel Fire venue ever.
“I’m really pumped on that one,” says Robertson. “That’s the first time I’ve ridden that track in good conditions. It’s really demanding and it all came together when it needed to.”
The local gravity race team had some impressive results also with several riders competing in their first races of the season.
Leonards’ fiancée and team rider Stephanie Hatalsky represented the team on the women’s side with a fourth place finish in the pro/expert category in the Mountain Cross and a ninth place finish in the downhill pro category.
Team riders Luke Cutler, Alex Prouty, Tim Ruggles and Taylor Reeves, got their first taste of downhill racing jumping onto the Angel Fire track and holding on for a good dose of experience.
“It’s such a rugged track and can wreck your day if you’re not careful,” says Leonard. “It’s really baptism by fire. It’s the toughest track of the season and the first track of the season.”
“For the first downhill I think they did awesome,” adds Robertson. “It was a great trip for the whole team.”
The Crested Butte Monkey Posse continues their tour on the mountain bike circuit with representation in a variety of categories.
Posse rider Kevin Bates finished 12th in the Downhill men’s expert category ages 25-29 and Matty Robb took 15th place in the expert category ages 30-39.
Cross-country competitors had an equally impressive showing at Angel Fire with Gunnison residents Brian and Jenny Smith of the Trek VW team placing fourth and second respectively in their pro classes.
Brick Oven/Crested Butte Builders rider Will Curry placed seventh and teammate Dawson Stucki took 16th place in the Junior X class.
The next stop on the MSC tour is the Wildflower Rush on Crested Butte Mountain, June 20-22. As of press time, race organizers are planning on holding the event in hopes that Mother Nature and some labor will have the trails cleared just in time.