Mountain biker Hailey Swirbul gets her gold medal
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
It was one year ago that Hailey Swirbul, then 11 years old, walked away from the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships with a silver medal saying, “I wish I would have won that race and won the stars and stripes jersey that goes with it.”
Knowing the national race would be held again in Granby, Colo., in 2010, she knew she had a chance at being national champion if she trained hard – and had a little luck, too.
Swirbul spent this summer training with Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s newly formed junior mountain bike team, hitting the local trails, racing in the local Aspen Cycling Club race series and participating in the state-wide Mountain States Cup Series.
All that riding paid off on July 16 in Granby, where she won the title of national champion, taking gold by three minutes in the junior women, age 11-12 category.
As the temperatures soared in the afternoon heat, Swirbul pulled away from the pack early on in the race, finishing the eight-mile course in 53 minutes, 53 seconds.
“I like a course with more climbing and technical sections, but I’ll ride anything for the national title,” she said.
Hailey’s brother, 14-year-old Keegan Swirbul, also had impressive results in his Cat. 2, age 15-18 race at nationals. He took second place among a competitive field of 64 top juniors from around the country.
Said Keegan, who rides for Basalt Bike and Ski: “In the staging area at the start, I didn’t think I had a chance since we were lined up alphabetically and I was in the back of the pack. Then, there were three crashes within the first minute of the race, and I watched the guys in the front pull away.”
But they didn’t pull away for long.
Once Swirbul got going, he put his climbing strengths to good use. The 17-mile, technical course – with approximately 3,600 feet of elevation gain – suited his racing style well. In the end, he had to pass nearly 100 racers on the course to capture silver. He was 1:50 off the lead.
“I had to use so much energy passing people,” Keegan said.
Hudson McNamee, 14, also competed in the Cat. 3, age 15-18 division and took fourth place on an 8.4-mile course with 1,700 feet of elevation gain.
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