Mo Wilson wins the Sea Otter Classic Fuego 80k

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Mo Wilson won the Fuego 80k at the Sea Otter Classic on Saturday after an aggressive effort on the final climb of the day sent her into the solo finishing chute. The 25-year-old completed the 50-mile course in 3:24:16, 20 seconds ahead of Sofia Gomez Villafañe. US National XC MTB Champion Alexis Skarda finished third with a time of 3:24:45.

Read also: Life Time announces 60 riders for the first series of Grand Prix races

Saturday’s race was aggressive and tactical from the start, with many riders crashing on the dry, dusty course. A group of eight women formed quickly and took on the first section of singletrack together, and by the end of the first lap it had narrowed down to four riders – Wilson, Gomez Villafañe, Skarda and Lea Davison. Those four would stay tight for the entirety of lap two until Wilson moved into the final hard-hitting climb near the finish.

Wilson’s victory adds to a rapidly growing 2022 track record that includes victory in multiple Grasshopper Adventure Series races, the Rock Cobbler and the Shasta Gravel Hugger. Nonetheless, winning the Fuego 80k has special meaning for Wilson, who rides for Specialized.

First, it puts her squarely in the camp of champions, from retired Olympian Davison to current U.S. National Champion Skarda.

“I feel incredibly humbled to be here in the first place with 30 of the best riders in the country,” Wilson told VeloNews, “and to have been on top eight all the way through the race, then slowly into the top five, four, three, two, to cross the finish line solo with all of these amazing riders, I am truly so honored to have achieved this victory.

Second, the win puts her at the top of the Lifetime Grand Prix standings ahead of the six-race series that runs until October.

But there is a more subtle realization in Wilson’s victory at Sea Otter. Last month she finished second at The Mid South gravel race in Oklahoma after Lauren De Crescenzo put in an incredible effort in a headwind to reach the finish line solo. It doesn’t exactly haunt her, but Wilson said she thought about it a lot after the race — the fact that De Crescenzo made a move and she chose to stay safe in a group and not follow.

It was a lesson “that I needed to learn that you can only learn on your own,” Wilson said. “You can ask people to tell you that you have to take your picture when you have it, but to experience it first hand, I think it had to happen.”

Wilson came to Sea Otter with a fire in her stomach after The Mid South, and she was able to put her learned lesson into action when she felt she had a chance to take a risk.

“Going into this last climb, I was like, ‘I’m going to take a risk here. I’m going to hammer as hard as I can, maybe these girls will stick together, maybe they can catch me if they work together on the track,” but I took that risk and I’m super glad I did.”

Sea Otter Classic Fuego 80k Women’s Open Results

  1. Moriah Wilson, 3:24:16
  2. Sofia Gomez Villafañe, 3:24:36
  3. Alexis Skarda, 3:24:45
  4. Lea Davison, 3:25:15
  5. Evelyn Dong, 3:25:46

A full list of women’s results can be found here.

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