Posted by Editoress on 07/19/13
This weekend the MTB XC nationals return to Hardwood Bike and Ski.
Here is our race report from August 10th, 1997 - Enjoy a walk down memory lane.
Sydor and Hestler National Champions
Today was one of the most exciting and competitive cross-country nationals in recent memory. Favourite Alison Sydor (Volvo-Cannondale) won the women's race, and Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain) staged a daring from the line charge that netted him the men's title, but behind them the competition was close.
Hardwood Hills Mountain Bike Centre, about 75 minutes north of Toronto, was the site for the cross country events. The 15 kilometre loop had been reduced overnight to 13.5 kilometre (almost all the reduction was in singletrack), but the course was still, in the words of Lesley Tomlinson (Kona) "unrelenting". It was a course that offered no opportunity to rest - the riders were either going up (on dry, sandy strength-sapping climbs) or down through technical singletrack that required full attention. Spectators were favoured by the double loop design that allowed them to watch riders multiple times per lap.
Sydor led the charge in the women's race, but her lead grew slower than she was accustomed to. This could be, in part, attributed to the fact this was her first race in 5 weeks - after her shoulder separation, suffered just prior to the Vail World Cup. Sydor has been training, primarily on her road bike, since she could not pull up on the bars of her mountain bike. "I was a little nervous, since I hadn't raced for so long. The only reason that I was able to do well was because I never gave up." The world champion steadily pulled away from the rest of the field, to win by an uncharacteristically small margin of 2:53 over her training partner Tomlinson. Tomlinson and third place finisher Chrissy Redden (Ritchey) duelled for the first lap and a half, until Tomlinson pulled away. Tomlinson: "I fell asleep a little bit when I lost sight of Alison - it was a case of out of sight, out of mind. So I probably didn't push it for a while." Tomlinson did pull away from Redden about halfway through the second lap, and finished some 3 minutes in front of the Ritchey rider by the end of the race, giving herself a slight scare in the last few kilometres when she crashed, knocking her rear brake out of whack - "it took me a few minutes to get myself sorted out." Redden seemed very disappointed with her result, possibly hoping that this would be the year when she could move past Tomlinson. It didn't happen this time, but she should be very pleased with her current 9th place world ranking - a tremendous jump from last year's 17th. Finishing off the top 5 were Melanie McQuaid (Rocky Mountain) in 4th and Melanie Dorion (Scott) 5th.
Hestler's charge took most of the top riders by surprise, having expected a relatively slow start to the long 4 lap race. Hestler: "with Kirk (Molday) riding the way he is this year, I wasn't going to race for second place. I knew that I had good form from training - I was just on all day, the day was right, the bike was right." It certainly was, as Hestler won by nearly 5 minutes over last year's champion Roland Green (Kona). Behind Hestler's perfect ride it was a battle between Green and Hestler's teammate Neil Grover for most of the race. Behind the chasing duo was Canada Cup leader Eric Tourville (Oryx) and Chris Sheppard (Haro). Sheppard, a rider rarely seen in Canada, as he primarily follows the Norba circuit, dropped Tourville in the last lap and bridged up to Green and Grover. Grover then "blew" (his own words), leaving the other two to fight out the silver medal position. Green: "Chris caught up with 2 K to go, which motivated me. We gapped Neil, and I managed to gap Shep on the last hill." The gap was very small - 1 second. Grover rolled in a minute later, the first Espoir rider. Tourville rolled in a further 3 minutes in arrears to round out the top 5.
In the Junior race, as expected, Ryder Hesjedal (Kona) won. However, he received strong late race pressure from Ontario rider Ryan Dey (The Bicycle Shop), a 16 year old newcomer who worked his way up from 4th to second - only 42 seconds behind the Kona rider. Commented Hesjedal: "that Ontario rider was really starting to nip at my heels - who was he?". Keep your eye on this rider in the future.
The organizers reported 1143 participants for the Nationals - the largest Nationals yet. Overall, we found the organization to be very efficient - kudos to Hardwood Hills!
Alison Sydor was sporting her VERY blonde new hair design. Very chic, but we didn't recognize her at first. Alison left immediately after the race for Toronto airport - she starts the Tour Feminin in France on Tuesday. Alison reports that she has been primarily riding her road bike for fitness while she recovers. We also got the chance spend some time with Alison's sister Jody - a very nice lady who did an excellent job of looking after Alison in the feedzone.
Kirk Molday was a non-entity in the race. He said afterwards that he hadn't planned on attending the race, but was told that the Nationals were required for anyone wanting to make the World's team. He explained that this race was training for him, since he is tied for first in the Norba Nationals series, with the final race in two weeks. He also confirmed that he will definitely be racing as an American next season: "I'm not happy with the CCA (Canadian Cycling Association) and the way they've treated me."
Ex-National team member Bruce Spicer has taken to motorized two-wheeled travel. He drove the lead moto for the women's race, and seemed to have a good time doing it. "This is my new career", he quipped.
Senior Elite Men
1 Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain) 2:27:36
2 Roland Green (Kona) at 4:51
3 Chris Sheppard (Haro) 4:52
4 Eric Tourville (Oryx) 9:12
5 Peter Wedge (Kona) 9:37
1 Neil Grover (Rocky Mountain) 2:33:30
2 Seamus McGrath (Kona) at 9:30
3 Josh Hall (Schwinn) 10:42
4 Geoff Kabush (Kona) 13:57
5 Mathieu Toulouse (OGC-Gary Fisher) 13:59
1 Alison Sydor (Volvo-Cannondale) 2:10:49
2 Lesley Tomlinson (Kona) at 2:53
3 Chrissy Redden (Ritchey) 6:00
4 Melanie McQuaid (Rocky Mountain) 9:02
5 Melanie Dorion (Scott) 14:05
1 Ryder Hesjedal (Kona) 2:04:31
2 Ryan Dey (The Bicycle Shop) at 0:42
3 Dana Ruddy (Rocky Mountain) 2:57
4 Lane Cooper (OGC-Proflex) 3:29
5 Stephane Labrecque (Oryx Boutique) 7:08
The World Championships team was selected after today's events:
Espoir Men (Under 23)
Marie Helene Premont
1 rider, undecided at this point
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