Pagosa graduate podiums at Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals

Photo courtesy Western Cycling

Western Colorado University and former Pagosa Springs rider Ethan Bergdolt (second from right) stands on the podium for dual slalom at the Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships after placing third.

By Todd Bergdolt | Special to The SUN

Ethan Bergdolt, a recent Pagosa Springs graduate and former legacy rider for the DUST2 Pagosa Springs High School mountain bike team, recently secured a podium spot at the 2023 Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships. The event was held in Ride Rock Creek, N.C., Oct. 12-15.

The Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championship is the largest collegiate cycling event that USA Cycling hosts. The event crowned varsity and club national champions in cross-country, short track, downhill, dual slalom and team relay. 

Bergdolt, a freshman riding for the Western Colorado University cycling team, competed in two events at the national championship. Bergdolt competed in the varsity division, which is the elite and highest level, in both dual slalom and downhill events. 

As a Freshman, this was quite an accomplishment to compete at this level. 

Dual slalom qualifying and finals were held on Thursday, Oct. 12. Qualifying started off on a wet and slippery course, as it rained most of the night before. Bergdolt qualified sixth based on timing, playing it conservative in the mud. By the time the finals rolled around, the course had dried out well. 

Dual slalom is a head-to-head event where two riders race down the course side by side, each having to stay in their lane. The course is filled with jumps, berms and tight turns, making for very exciting racing. Based on qualifying times, the field was narrowed down to 32 riders who compete in a bracket format. 

The first few rounds saw Bergdolt win without issue, but in the semifinal round things got exciting. 

Halfway down the course in the semifinal round, Bergdolt and his competitor crashed at the same time. As both scrambled to get back and their bikes and going again, Bergdolt found that his bike was broken and unable to make it to the finish. Bergdolt’s Western teammates rushed to get him ready for the next round. Hurrying to get back to the start for the small final (racing for third place), Bergdolt used a borrowed bike from a teammate. 

Bergdolt came out on top, securing third place at the prestigious event. 

Bergdolt was quoted as saying, “I’m stoked to get 3rd place at Nationals, but really wish I had not crashed and could have had the opportunity to race for the championship. I feel I was riding well and could have had a shot at the title.” 

Downhill qualifying was held on Saturday, Oct. 14. 

In similar fashion to the dual slalom race, it rained the night before, making for a treacherous course that was very slippery and muddy. Downhill mountain bike racing has racers competing one at a time on a steep and fast downhill course, with electronic timing determining places. It is not uncommon for several racers to all be within the same second, making for very tight competition. 

Bergdolt qualified in 19th out of 61 varsity racers. 

The Downhill National Championship final was on Sunday, Oct. 15, and with no rain the course was dry and fast. Bergdolt improved his time 11 seconds from qualifying on the much drier course. 

He ended the day finishing 18th and was the second-highest finisher for Western Colorado University. 

Bergdolt was quoted as saying, “The course was almost scary fast, and not at all the type of course that I excel at. Steep and technical is more my type of course, but this was a great experience racing against the top riders in the country.”