Savilia Blunk Elite stxc National Champion
National Championships

Savilia Blunk Returns to Winter Park With Eyes on Elite XC National Title

By: Jim Rusnak  July 14, 2022

The U23 Cross-Country and Elite Short Track National Champion has focused her season on peaking for the 2022 USA Cycling National Championships at Winter Park on July 18-24.

Savilia Blunk grew up in an artistic family. Her father worked with wood, and her mom was—in Blunk’s words—"very musical.” Blunk herself was homeschooled through ninth grade with her two brothers in the small town of Inverness, Calif. There, she spent a lot of time outdoors, dabbling in all different kinds of art before finding a medium that fit her best—mountain biking.

Last year, Blunk won the U23 Cross-Country title at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships and also took first in the Elite Short Track. She has made her way into the elite ranks this year and will be looking for similar results at Nationals on July 23-24.

“[Art] was always part of my life, and it still is,” Blunk said. “But as I got more and more focused in biking and racing, it kind of took over. I kind of feel like [mountain biking] is my form of art now.

“I think sport is so multifaceted, and there are so many ways to improve and keep improving throughout your career. It’s definitely a craft, and I think any type of craft is some sort of art, and you’re always learning, improving, making mistakes. Just being able to work on something all the time is what keeps me so engaged, and I really love that part of it.”

Blunk has been busy honing her craft this year. She and her boyfriend and teammate Cole Paton spent January and February at a training camp with Orange Seal Offroad Team in Girona, Spain.

Her first two big UCI races of the year were in the Spanish towns of Chelva and Banyoles, where she finished 7thand 6th, respectively. She then returned stateside to finish third in the Mid South Gravel Race in Stillwater, Okla., and then on to the US Cup in Fayetteville, Ark. There she won the first XC short track race and finished third in the XC race the next day.

“That was kind of a cool format, racing back-to-back with XC, short track, and XC again,” Blunk said of the US Cup. “They packed a lot into a really awesome weekend.”

In May, she hit a couple UCI World Cup XC races in Albstadt, Germany and Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, where she finished 44th and 58th. After getting a bit of a break, she went back over to Europe for the Lenzerheide World Cup where she had her best elite result finishing in 27th.

“The first two in didn’t go super smoothly for me,” Blunk said. “But I spent some time in the U.S., kind of back in my home base of Durango, Colorado, the past month or so, and really had a super good time to train and focus for [the Lenzerheide World Cup]. Nationals is next, and the season continues.”

Also noteworthy for Blunk is that this season marks the first in which she’s competing in the Elite category in international races. She also switched to a new coach back in December.

“That has been really awesome for me, working closely with him, and has really showed me a lot of areas I can improve in,” she said. “There have been some things we’ve been working on, and then this is my first year jumping up into the elite category. In the U.S., we always race together—the U23 and the elites—but over in Europe is where it really changes. It’s really such a different competition level. The fields are bigger, and it just brings it up a notch. I’m definitely learning so much on the racecourse. That goes from battling for position technically, to fitness-wise just racing with these super-fast ladies. It’s been a learning process, but I’m really enjoying it.”

Looking ahead, Blunk said she’s really excited about competing in the upcoming National Championships. She and her coach have structured her season around it. In fact, they’ve skipped a couple World Cup races this year to focus more on Nationals. Among her goals are to defend her title in the Elite Short Track, and to see if her U23 win from last year’s XC race can translate into a win in the Elite class this year.

“It’s back in Winter Park, at 9,000 feet, so that kind of adds a whole other dynamic to how we prepare for it,” Blunk said. “I feel like I’m really a different athlete than I was a year ago. I’m really excited to see what I can do with that. It will be my first year racing the elite cross-country race, and then go back for short track. I always love the short track event. There are just so many tactics and strategy behind it, and it’s super exciting for the spectators.”

In order to be her best come race day, Blunk said she really likes to focus on the little things she can control — pre-riding the course, making sure her lines are dialed and making sure her bike is dialed —rather than on the things she can’t.

“For any big race where you have high expectations for yourself, the one thing I really like to focus on is the process,” Blunk said. “You can’t control other riders. You can’t control mishaps. Just focus on the little things you can do leading up to the event.”

She said it’s also important to remember it’s such an honor—and fun—to be competing at an event like Nationals.

“Think about that and just be excited you’re there,” Blunk said. “There’s so much hype around the National Championships vs. other races. It’s always exciting to just be there for that event. There are so many riders of all ages coming, and seeing everybody is like a big reunion. It’s really fun.”

As for the rest of the season, Blunk’s also got her sights set on the World Championships, Aug. 24 in Les Gets, France. Her goal is to finish in the top 10. She’ll also be competing in some World Cup races leading up to Worlds.

“I want to have races that I’m proud of, not just result-wise, but in the effort,” she said. “I think people sometimes don’t want to put a result goal on things, but I think at some point you need to. I’m a really performance-driven athlete, and so for me having that in my head is actually helpful. It’s important to note that having those process goals along the way is how you get there. I think it’s important to know what you’re reaching for, then back up and build that process step-by-step for yourself.”