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National Championships

Savilia Blunk Embraces Longer Season with World Cup Circuit and Nationals in Sight

By: Jim Rusnak  June 01, 2023

Reigning XCO National Champion Savilia Blunk sets her sights on the Olympics and Nationals, showcasing the resilience, dedication, and excitement that fuel her pursuit of greatness in the sport.

Last year, Savilia Blunk took a more conservative approach to her first season as an Elite Class athlete, skipping some of the grind of the UCI World Cup circuit to focus on the USA Cycling National Championships and UCI World Championships.

That strategy paid off, as Blunk won the women's XCO title at Nationals in July in Winter Park, Colo., and then went on to finish 10th in the women's short track and 13th in the women's XCO races in August at World Champs in Les Gets, France.

This season, Blunk's back in the saddle with a longer, more ambitious schedule that runs through October. Her racing itinerary includes more stops on the World Cup Circuit, the World Championships in August in Scotland, and the USA Cycling Cross-Country Mountain Bike National Championships, July 5-9 at Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania.

"The season is even longer this year, with the World Cups going all the way into October," Blunk said. "It's going to be a long season but an exciting one."

As the reigning national champ, Blunk will have the honor of wearing the red, white and blue jersey at all her races this year and will be sporting it when she competes at the first World Cup race of the season, May 21 in Sakarya, Turkey.

"I'm excited to head over to the first world cup in a couple of weeks repping it," Blunk said.

Early Season

One of the most significant changes for Blunk this season was making the transition to Rockrider Ford racing team. She spent the first three months of 2023 training with her coach in Girona, Spain, and competing in some early season races to earn enough points to be in the top 40 for the short-course race at the first World Cup.

"That was super important just to have a better start position for the XC race," Blunk said. "That was something I struggled with last year, having not so good of a start position and starting in the fifth or sixth row."

Blunk finished her training block in Europe with the French Cup in Marseille. She then came back to the U.S. last month for the U.S. Pro Cup race in Fayetteville, Ark. There, Blunk came out on top of a tight, three-way race between her, Gwen Gibson and Kate Courtney.

"That was great for me," Blunk said. "It shows the focus and the work we put in in the early season paid off. I'm so excited to head to the first World Cup and get to line up for that short track."

Big Goals for the Season

This is Blunk's first year with the new team, and she will be racing a full World Cup calendar for the first time. With such a long season ahead of her, her main goal will be to have a healthy, sustainable year and finish well.

The World Championships is the first qualification race for the 2024 Olympic Games and is, therefore, a big priority for Blunk this season, as is Nationals.

"This year, I feel like I'm focusing on my process more than ever," Blunk said. "I think that's so important, especially as we get into the year before the Olympics with lots of pressure building up."

Blunk has been working with a mental training coach from Enso Mental Performance, and they've helped her focus on building sustainable process goals to reach her bigger goals for the next year or two.

"The mental side of the sport is so important, especially as we are competing at the highest level," Blunk said. "We're constantly under a lot of stress and pressure and training and changing environments. In the last couple of years, I've realized that I'm living out of a suitcase most of the year. It's my new way of life – living on the road, and I think that's true for many athletes. Creating a healthy, sustainable life from that is super important."

The New Team

Moving to Rockrider Ford has been a significant change for Blunk. Between the new bike, new equipment and new teammates, there have been a lot of adjustments. But ultimately, she thinks it will be a big advantage for her as the season progresses.

"I feel like now I'm really comfortable with the bike and loving it," Blunk said. "And the team environment has been great. Having such a big resource like them in Europe and at the World Cups will be huge for me, and I'm excited to race a full calendar with them at the World Cups and have that support. I think it's a game-changer when you have the support in Europe. I'm super grateful."

On Her Career Trajectory

Looking back on how far she's come – especially in the last year – Blunk says it's taken a lot of hard work to get where she's at now. She's looked up to so many women racers over her career – Leah Davidson, Rose Grant, Kate Courtney – and says it's a tremendous honor to compete against them as peers.

"What's really exciting about where I'm at now is how strong the entire women's field in the U.S. is," Blunk said. "It's so competitive, and I think we've shown that at the World Cups last year and in Arkansas this spring.

"It's exciting. We're all just pushing each other to the next level. When we go to Europe now, it's just much more competitive. I feel like it's something we never had -- or haven't had -- in a long time. We have at least five or six top female racers who are very competitive. It pushes us all to the next level, and that's really exciting for the sport, the year, and the future. I'm honored to be a part of that right now."

This Year's Nationals and Defending the USA Jersey

As mentioned earlier, Blunk has the honor of wearing the red, white and blue jersey at each race this year as the defending national champion. It's an honor that she says will be "super important to defend" when she competes at Nationals in July.

"Since I won the jersey last summer, it's still sinking in," Blunk said. "Every time I get to wear it, especially with my French team, it's really exciting. I'm cherishing every race I have with it. It's something I'll be thinking about when I head to Nationals, and I'm going to do everything I can to defend it."

We hope to see you at the USA Cycling Cross-Country Mountain Bike National Championships at Bear Creek Mountain Resort July 5-9, 2023.