We’re sharing some of what we thought were the more memorable moments from the 2016 Cyclocross National Championships. These people and events struck us as having a real impact on the event. You can see all of our memorable moments here. Today, we’re looking at two great rides from two younger stars of the sport, Sofia Gomez Villafane and Tobin Ortenblad.
Sofia Gomez Villafane hails from Nor Cal by way of Argentina and comes from a cycling family. Her brother took the title in the Junior Men’s 15-16 race this year. Of course her sister Carolina, or “Caro” as she’s know, has raced UCI races all over, including representing Argentina at Wolrd’s last year. She was in fact the first Argentinian to race the World Championships and is the most well-known of the three perhaps.
Given her lineage, Sofia was a rider to watch at this year’s Nationals.
For her fans, she lived up to the pre-race hype taking the Women’s Collegiate D1 title. But that wasn’t all. She raced from a last row call up in the new Women’s Youth race—a combined race featuring both the Women’s U23 and the Women’s 17-18 fields—to take the silver medal in the event. She was a dark horse favorite for the Women’s Youth race for sure against riders like eventual winner Ellen Noble, but for those in the know, they knew what was possible.
Gomez Villafane had an impressive ride at Nationals last year in Austin in the Women’s Collegiate race. That makes this year’s victory seem like the next logical step in a career that may well just be getting going.
The rides Gomez Villafane put in on the course at the Biltmore Estate were enough to earn her a spot on Team USA’s Women’s U23 squad. But it appears that’s not to be as a result of some missing paperwork with the UCI, making her ineligible to ride for the US in Zolder in just over a week’s time.
Nevertheless, Gomez Villafane’s performances in Asheville were nothing short of spectacular, and along with names like Emma White, Noble and Kaitie Anntoneau her racing bodes well for the future of Women’s Elite racing in the US.
And, lucky for her and racing fans everywhere, Gomez Villafane will still be racing in Zolder for her original home country of Argentina. So we’ll at least see what might have been for Team USA this year.
Tobin Ortenblad, for those who have been following American cyclocross from some time, is not a new name.
Ortenblad a Euro Cross Camp veteran, having raced the most iconic courses overseas, and has competed on the American Worlds squad in prior years and will again in 2016. Ortenblad is also a long-time rider for the powerhouse California Giant-Specialized squad.
Missing from Ortenblad’s palmares though was a national title. That changed in Asheville with a commanding performance in the Men’s U23 race. A risky move taking the inside line on an off camber right-hand turn, one that was previously un-tried by nearly any rider in the U23 field, near the end of the race, let him overtake and distance a determined Curtis White, with whom Ortenblad had battled for much of the competition.
Yes, his teammate Logan Owen could have again raced for the U23 title. But he chose not to, and that left the door open for Ortenblad to take his first championship. But it wasn’t really a surprise to Ortenbald’s fans that he could put in a championship-winning ride. After all, Ortenblad had an amazing year, besting the reigning Elite Men’s National Champion Jeremy Powers on occasion, and taking the the Lost and Found gravel race, he reached another level this season.
Ortenblad’s title win was an emotional affair for the rider and his supporters. This wasn’t just his first national title. It came in his final season as a U23 rider. And in the final year for his team, Cal Giant-Specialized. The appropriateness of this confluence of circumstances wasn’t lost on anyone as Ortenblad took to the podium.
There were, of course, great rides from a number of young riders at the 2016 National Championships. Owen, Noble and others all put in fine performances. But for those riders, it was perhaps expected.
For Gomez Villafane and Ortenblad there’s a sense that this was somehow hopeful destiny—one rider giving a glimpse of her abilities with an amazing week, the other taking the step that had to this point managed to allude him.
In both cases, we were thrilled to watch these performances.