July 16/06 1:44 am - MTB XC Nationals: Report & Photos
Posted by Editoress on 07/16/06
Cross Country Nationals Sun Peaks, Kamloops BC
Reports made possible by the support of MAXXIS and Rocky Mountain
Elite & Espoir Men's Photos
Elite & Espoir Women's Photos
Junior & Cadet Men's & Women Photos
Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) and Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain Business-Objects) both repeated as national champions at the Canadian Mountain Bike Cross-country Championships on Saturday. Both Premont and Kabush began their races with setbacks in the first lap - Premont going off course and Kabush crashing.
Held at the Sun Peaks Resort north of Kamloops, the circuit proved to be more demanding than anticipated, with the women's race being shortened by a lap. The 5.4 kilometre course was similar to that used in the past, with two major climbs and lots of technical, rooty descending. Riders had praise for the course, calling it both physically demanding and technically challenging. "The most complete mountain biker won here" said women's third place finisher Kiara Bisaro (Team R.A.C.E.).
The women did four laps (plus a start loop), with Premont and team mate Alison Sydor moving into the lead by the end of the start loop. Wendy Simms (Velo Bella-Kona), Melanie McQuaid (Orbea) and Catherine Pendrel (Norco) were a few seconds back, with Bisaro leading the field just behind them.
Premont had stretched her lead to over 20 seconds when she took a wrong turn, missing a course change. "The course changed a bit after I pre-rode it the day before, so I didn't realize that I was going the wrong way at first. But once I got back on course it was okay, I wasn't too worried."
Premont quickly realized her mistake and rejoined the race in fifth place. Within a lap she had moved back into the lead, passing Bisaro, who had moved into second. Bisaro hadn't realized that Premont had gone off course.
"When she went by me, I though 'Alison is really moving', but then I realized it was Marie-Helene. At first I thought that she had just opened a gap on us really fast!"
After that initial confusion, Premont took her predictable place at the front and gradually rode away to a comfortable three minute winning margin. Behind, there was a battle going on for second, with Sydor relinquishing second to Bisaro for the second lap, and Pendrel moving up to within 15 seconds of Sydor by the main climb. Trish Sinclair (Scott) had also moved up, to fifth, and was within sight of second place.
However, this did not last, with Sydor making a strong move into second place on the third lap. "I know that I've been starting well, then fading hard in the second lap. I was trying not to fade so bad in the middle (of the race). In the past I've been chasing Marie-Helene too much, so I was concentrating on second today, expending my energy better."
"I really like this course - you suffer on the climbs and look forward to the downhills. I pre-rode the course and knew where I could make time, where I could pass. I caught Kiara with a lap and a half to go on the steep climb; she was going slower on that climb. Kiara and Catherine are very good descenders, so that was where I could make my time. I haven't had too many confidence-inspiring races recently, so this was good for my head."
Bisaro finished 41 seconds back, with Pendrel losing over a minute in the final lap, and Sinclair taking fifth. In the Espoir race, Jean-Ann McKirdy (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) successfully defended her title, finishing tenth overall, 50 seconds ahead of a late charging Catherine Vipond (Team Ontario), with Meaghan Kindree (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) taking the bronze medal.
In the men's race, Kabush crashed hard in the first lap while a member of a group chasing early leader Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain-Business-Objects). Landing on his hip and shoulder, Kabush was shaken by his crash, losing a dozen spots before beginning to chase.
"That was one of the hardest crashes I have ever had. It really shook me up and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to continue. Coming out of the last single track there is a ditch, which I've been jumping, so I was pedaling hard to get up to speed. I caught a root and launched, landed on my hip and shoulder."
"I probably stood there for 30 seconds, getting my bearings, checking if the bike was broken. It took me until the feed zone to feel like riding again. But once I got going, all I could do was push it as hard as I could, and see what happened."
It turned out, after the race, that Kabush had also suffered a Grade One concussion in his crash.
Once he did get going, Kabush had a magnificent ride up through the field (from the high teens). By the halfway point he was back up to fifth, but still 1:45 down on the leaders. Plaxton had not managed to extend his lead beyond 15 seconds over Ricky Federau (Team R.A.C.E.) and Seamus McGrath (Felt). Matt Martindill (Cove), Neal Kindree (Kona) and Mat Toulouse (Maxxis) were a further 20 seconds back.
Plaxton admitted afterwards that he may have gone out too hard, and paid the price in the middle of the race when Federau and McGrath caught and dropped him late in the third lap. Federau then dropped McGrath on the fourth lap, and looked to be on his way to his second national title in three years.
But Kabush seemed to have shaken off the effects of his crash and was getting faster as everyone else slowed. By the end of lap four Kabush was up to second but, more importantly, had knocked 50 seconds off of Federau's lead. McGrath was in third, with Plaxton dropping to fourth, and in danger of losing the lead in the Espoir race to Kindree, who was closing on him in fifth.
By the start of the last lap Kabush was 35 seconds behind Federau, who still looked strong, but just didn't have the power Kabush was pumping out. And, at the start of the steep main climb, Kabush pulled off what what been unthinkable at the end of the first lap when he passed Federau to take the lead.
"On laps four and five everyone was telling me Geoff was coming. I had to give it all I could, but Geoff was just too strong today. I was riding the descents really well - my (Specialized) Epic was really awesome in that stuff compared to the guys on hardtails. Seamus was stronger on the climbs in the early part of the race, but I would gap him on the descents."
Kabush took a further 48 seconds out of Federau in the final half lap, with Kindree passing Plaxton and McGrath to take third - and the Espoir title. McGrath hung on for fourth, with Mat Toulouse moving up to fifth. Max Plaxton dropped to seventh (second Espoir) after also being caught by Kris Sneddon (Kona), with Marty Lazarski (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) the third Espoir in 11th overall.
- There were some very strong and promising results in the Junior races earlier in the day. Emily Batty (Team R.A.C.E.) defended her title in the women's race, with Kaitlin Michener (Team Ontario) taking second. An impressive ride was put in by U17 (Cadet) woman Leah Kirchmann (Manitoba/Trek), who managed to move up to fourth in the Junior category before her race finished (a lap shorter than the Juniors).
In the Junior men's race there was a real battle at the front for the title. Andrew Thomas (Saskatchewan) led out the start but was overtaken by a group of four - Cody Canning (Alberta), Francis Morin (Quebec-Devinci), Jeff Clarkson (B.C.) and Matt Savage (B.C.). Clarkson and Savage were dropped (Savage DNF'd) and then Canning dropped Morin in the final lap. Behind, first year Junior Michael Mitchnick (Ontario/Sportswap) was moving up steadily, and would overtake Clarkson and Morin for second, with Clarkson also passing Morin for third.
"Me and Morin were side by side on the climb watching each other" explained Canning "but it looked like we were going to get caught, so I had to go. I went on the first descent; I hammered all the descents. I'm more of an all around rider - I can hang with the climbers, but gap them on the descents."
Mitchnick, who is trained by Steve Neal, finished only 35 seconds down on Canning, and may have been closer except for poorer technical skills. "I had a perfect start and slowly picked my way through to the front. On the last three laps we were all together at the front but I'm bad technically, so every lap they would open a gap on me. On the last lap (Canning) got a gap before I could catch on again. I chased, but there just wasn't enough time left in the race."
- For many top riders, the Nationals falls during a transition time - World Cups are past, but they are gearing up for Worlds. Seamus McGrath was trying to hold the fitness that put him on the podium in Mont Ste Anne, but had not trained to peak for Nationals. "I was faking it a bit out there; I don't have the fitness right now so wasn't too surprised or upset when I couldn't stay with Ricky."
For Federau, Kabush and some others Nationals were important for Worlds qualifications. "Second's okay - I got my spot at Worlds" - Federau. "It is a really strong result and locks up my Worlds spot, so I'm pretty pleased." - Kabush.
- Neal Kindree was a little shocked to take the Espoir title, and finish third overall. "Max was having an off day. I never expected to win the national title. I was riding a solid race, and when Geoff came by I tried to get on his wheel, but that didn't last too long! Then I could see Max ahead of me and that gave me extra motivation to chase him."
Prior to the awards ceremony, Kindree was getting instructions from Marty Lazarski on how to open a champagne bottle - "I've never done this before!"
- While Kabush suffered some bruising on his right hip and shoulder, the more serious injury was the concussion. He has been told to stay off the bike for a week and (more seriously) no alcohol! So, this meant less celebrating after his victory (although he did take a swig of the champagne on the stage).
- Ricky Federau is not developing fond memories of Sun Peaks - specifically where he was caught on the course by Kabush. "I was caught there, in the same place, in 2001 by Peter Wedge and in 2004 by Max ... it sucks!"