Posted by Editoress on 10/9/09
Tomorrow, the final Canadian national championships of 2009 will take place, with the Cyclo-cross Nationals in Edmonton, Alberta. For the second year in a row they will be presented by the Juventus Cycling Club, and will take place at the Argyll Park surrounding Edmonton's velodrome.
However, there are some significant changes from last year. First, the course has been completely redesigned and, secondly, the weather conditions are drastically different. In training today, the course had a good dusting of snow, making it slippery and slow, despite the hard ground. The strong, gusty wind lowered the temperature with wind chill to -6 or -7 Celcius, and could definitely be a factor in the racing.
The 3.2 kilometre course has cut out the wooded valley section the riders hit early in the lap. Instead, after an opening flat section around the end of the velodrome, riders go over a purpose-built bridge and along a long, fast straightaway (tailwind today) before entering the 'bowl' at the far end of the circuit, where most of the race takes place. Dropping into the bowl they zig zag their way around the rim by dropping up and down from the base to the top multiple times. Almost all of the 'up' sections have switchbacks that force riders to slow (and many to run). Once they finally finish here, there is a long flat run (including a paved section) into the headwind with a deep sandpit at the end, and then a couple more zig zag sections on grass before finishing the lap.
The wind is going to mean that it will be unlikely any rider gets away on their own too early, and a slide out on the slippery grass and snow will make it hard to chase back up to a group if you come off.
There are a total of 160 riders pre-registered, and that number will likely go up a bit today. Racing begins with the Masters in the morning (9:00 am local/8:00 am Pacific/11:00 am Eastern). At 1:00 pm local the U23 Men race, where former Canadian Junior champion Evan Guthrie (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) will make his first appearance as a U23. Guthrie, for one, is not concerned about the weather: "It's going to be awesome!" he stated, dressed in multiple layers and out training on the circuit.
The women's race (2:30 pm local) will be missing a perennial favourite - Wendy Simms - who is here, but some seven weeks from having her first child. This definitely makes Natasha Elliott (Garneau/Chaussure-Oglivy) the favourite. Elliott is coming off back-to-back wins last week at the Gloucester GP. However, Elliott will go up against the vastly experienced tactician Alison Sydor (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain). If a small group stays together for much of the race, it could very much favour Sydor, with her strong road background. Also in the mix for the women's race will be local favourite Pepper Harlton (Alberta), road racer Sarah Stewart (Total Restoration) and mountain biker Mical Dyck (Trek Toronto/Terrascape). Dyck is coming back from a bad crash at Mountain Bike Worlds, but was carrying the best form of her life at the time. The Junior men will be on the course at the same time as the Elite women.
The men's race (3:30 pm local), as usual, comes down to a question of whether anyone can beat defending champion Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain)? Potential rival Chris Sheppard (Santa Cruz) is out with a broken hand, but Derrick St John (Garneau/Chaussure-Oglivy) is getting stronger every season, and has posted strong results so far this year in both mountain bike and cyclo-cross. Another challenger is former champion Mike Garrigan (Ontario), although he has not raced enough this season for a clear picture of what his form is like. Other podium possibles include Aaron Schooler (Team H&R Block-Kona), elite newcomer Kyle Douglas (3 Rox Racing) and Robin Baillie. However, it will be considered an upset if any topples Kabush from the top step of the podium.
Our live coverage will start with the U23 men.
On Sunday, the same competitors (including new national champions) will race in the UCI Jim Horner Grand Prix.
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