Posted by Editoress on 11/18/12
One day after battling in mud and rain at the 2012 Canadian Cyclo-cross Nationals, riders returned to the South Surrey Athletic Park for the UCI C2 category BC Grand Prix of Cyclo-cross. The weather conditions were different, as was the course, but the results were the same, with both newly minted national champions winning the Elite races - Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox) for the men and Mical Dyck (Stan's No Tubes) for the women.
A slight drizzle in the morning had dissipated by the time the Elite women's 40 minute race took place, and strong winds quickly dried the course out, making all the slippery climbs from the day before rideable. The course had also been shortened from 3.25 kilometres to 2.7, with most of the zig-zag turns removed, as well as the stair run-up. This led to very tactical races, especially with the headwind blowing straight into riders' faces for the climbs.
Natasha Elliott (The Cyclery) took the lead on the opening paved climb into the first set of barricades. Elliott is back to racing after struggling with illness for the past 18 months, and is already showing strong form. However, her lack of racing fitness was evident as she faded when Dyck, Wendy Simms (Kona), Pepper Harlton (Juventus CC) - and later Catharine Pendrel (Luna) - caught up and set a hard pace. The only significant rider missing was Nationals bronze medalist Emily Batty (Subaru-Trek), who had closed out her Olympic season the day before, and tweeted that she was hiking on Grouse Mountain.
Dyck took charge of the lead group, but Pendrel was also looking strong until she was bumped into the tape by another rider, wrenching her back as she went down. The reigning Mountain Bike World Cup champion wasn't sure if she would be able to continue initially, but then rejoined the race nearly a minute down. Pendrel mounted an impressive comeback, powering to within 13 seconds of the lead three before fading slightly in the last lap to finish fourth.
At the front, the remaining leaders - Dyck, Harlton and Simms - swapped off the lead in the wind, although Dyck still seemed to be taking on the greatest portion of the load. On the final grass section of the last lap (500 metres to go) Dyck attacked with Simms on her wheel and Harlton dropped slightly. However, Simms got caught in tape, allowing Dyck to open a gap and also Harlton to get by her.
In the final 150 metre paved uphill drag to the finish Dyck nearly lost the race when she misjudged how close Harlton had caught up, and had to throw her bike to take the win.
The men's 60 minute race saw Mike Garrigan (Stage Race - Blacksmith) grab the lead into the barricades, but he was quickly swarmed by Kabush, Under 23 national champion Evan McNeely (Specialized Canada), Andrew L'Esperance (Norco Factory), and U.S. riders Steve Fisher (Hagens Berman p/b Raleigh) and Spencer Paxon (Kona), who had both come up for the UCI points on offer. This front group established a gap on chasers Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain), Aaron Schooler (Norco Factory), Derrick St John (Stevens Racing p/b The Cyclery) and American Sean Babcock (Kona).
L'Esperance was dropped from the front group, with the four remaining riders seeming content to ride together, sharing duties at the front in the headwind, until Fisher crashed 40 minutes into the race while in second. This gave McNeely a gap on the others, and he promptly charged away. Kabush took off after him, and ate up the 12 second gap fairly quickly. The two at the front then slowed, allowing Fisher to catch on, but Paxon couldn't manage to rejoin.
With just over a lap to go, in the final technical section of the lap, Kabush went to the front to control the pace and McNeely in second place made a critical error, touching wheels with Kabush, forcing a foot dab and giving the national champion a small gap, which he immediately took advantage of, powering away to victory, with McNeely holding off Fisher for second.