Olympic veterans Christopher Blevins and Haley Batten lead US mountain bike team for Paris Games

Short-track world champion Christopher Blevins, who has become a mainstay on the mountain bike World Cup podium over the past three years, and Haley Batten will lead a U.S. team with medal ambitions into the Paris Olympics next month.

USA Cycling announced its four-person lineup Tuesday. Riley Amos and Savilia Blunk also made the American team.

The U.S. earned the maximum quota of mountain bike riders after its men finished in the top five and women in the top three in the qualification rankings compiled by the UCI, the governing body for global cycling.

“The United States has steadily been regaining prominence since Tokyo (in 2021) and we are excited to show the world what we are capable of,” said Alec Pasqualina, the mountain bike director for USA Cycling. "Each one of our four mountain bike Olympians in 2024 continues to impress us and we know they will represent our nation well.”

Off-road bike racing largely was invented in the U.S., but Americans were long ago lapped by European nations when it came to cross-country racing. Since its introduction at the 1996 Summer Games, the U.S. has won only two of the 42 medals awarded in the discipline — bronzes by Susan DeMattei at the inaugural event and Georgia Gould at the 2012 London Games.

The American contingent struggled once again at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games in 2021, where Batten had the best finish on the team with ninth. Kate Courtney was 15th in the women's event while Blevins finished 14th in the men's race.

Much has changed in the intervening years, though. The four American riders that will tackle the course at Elancourt Hill near Paris on July 28-29 have combined to make six podiums in the first three World Cup events this season. That includes the most recent event in the Czech Republic, where Batten finished second to Pauline Ferrand-Prevot in the women's race.

“The magnitude of the Olympics is one of the most special things to experience as an athlete,” Blevins said. “I was proud to make it to Tokyo in 2021, and maybe even more so to make my second Olympic games.”

Blevins certainly has medal ambitions for Paris. He ended a 30-year drought for American men in World Cup races in 2021, then returned to the top step of the podium at the first World Cup race of this season in Brazil.

Batten is likewise on a roll, sweeping the short-track and cross-country races at the second World Cup race this season.

Then there are the newcomers: The 25-year-old Blunk is the two-time and reigning U.S. champion, while the 22-year-old Amos has established himself as arguably the most dominant under-23 racer on the World Cup circuit.

“I really don’t think it has sunk in yet that I will be representing my country in Paris this summer,” said Amos, who like Blevins hails from the mountain-biking hotbed of Durango, Colorado. “I think when I get to feel that atmosphere and really experience it all for the first time, it’s all going to sink in.”


AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games