Posted by Editoress on 11/2/19
In wet, muddy and cold conditions, both Maghalie Rochette (Specialized/Feedback Sports) and Michael van den Ham (Easton-Giant p/b Transitions Lifecare) successfully defended their Elite titles at the Canadian Cyclo-cross Nationals on Saturday, in Peterborough, Ontario.
Peterborough hosted the national championships for the second consecutive year and, while riders avoided the overnight snow that last year turned the course into an icy run under very cold conditions, they were faced with intermittent rain and temperatures in the 4-6 degree Celcius range.
The women's race came down to a battle between Rochette and last year's silver medallist - mountain biker Jenn Jackson (AWI Racing p/b The Crank and Sprocket). However, last year, Rochette immediately rode Jackson off her wheel to win by 1:34, while in this year's race, Rochette struggled to distance herself from her rival, with Jackson even gapping Rochette on the second lap. Rochette finally opened a gap on the third lap, but was only able to finish 38 seconds ahead of Jackson, admitting that Jackson pushed her all race. Sandra Walter (LIV Cycling Canada) took third.
Rochette took the lead from the start
Jenn Jackson leading over the barriers
"It was a hard day today," said Rochette. "I knew Jenn would come out firing today and she really did. She brought a solid battle which really brought the best out of me. I had to ride hard to shake her. I stayed pretty calm [when she got a gap]. I've been working on that, so I let her go in front for a bit and used this opportunity to recover a bit. So I stayed calm, but I also realized that if I wanted to win, I had to do it from the front, so I quickly went back to the front and tried to put the pressure from there."
"It was a tough battle which had me on the edge most of the race. I had to stay focussed and make sure I wasn't making any mistakes. In the end, I'm super happy to be able to wear the maple leaf jersey again for one more year! Thanks to everyone who came out and who battled the cold temperature to cheer us on!
Van den Ham faced a similar task in the men's race; last year's silver medallist, the multi-time champion Geoff Kabush was racing the Iceman Cometh instead, but last year's bronze medallist Marc-Andre Fortier (Pivot Cycles-OTE) proved to be a much stronger contender this year. The two rode away from the rest of the field on the first lap, but when van den Ham crashed on the third lap, it opened the way for Fortier to open a 15 second gap. Van den Ham didn't panic, and pulled back Fortier within a lap, before moving into the lead when Fortier crashed. Last year, van den Ham beat Fortier by 1:49; this year it was only 24 seconds. Alexandre Vialle (Toyota St-Eustache) took third.
Marc-Andre Fortier leading over the barriers
"It's never easy when it's 'Jersey Season'," said van den Ham, "everyone wants to win one. Marc had nothing to lose today and he was out there gunning for me. Marc and I were really throwing down the first couple of laps and then we sat up a bit. He did a good attack up a climb, and I can say that he had me a bit on the rivet, and I just made a silly mistake, got caught in a rut and lost my front wheel. Fortunately, we were close to the pits because I had bent my [brake] hoods in a bit. After that, it just became a time trial; I knew that I was riding big sections of the course stronger than him."
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