Posted by Editoress on 10/25/14
The 2014 Canadian National Cyclo-cross Championships, held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, saw Catharine Pendrel (Luna) repeat as the Elite women's champion, while Mike Garrigan (van Dessel) dashed the hopes of Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox) winning a sixth title in the Elite men.
The Winnipeg organizers put together a course that garnered high praise, taking place in the middle of the city through The Forks park area, on the banks of the Red River and the Assiniboine River. At the south end of the 2.2 kilometre course was the Forks Market, and at the top the new Canadian Museum of Human Rights, with much of the course following along the edge of the Red River.
The circuit began on pavement before heading onto a long grassy section with numerous off-camber turns and some barricades. After going by the pit area the first time, the riders headed along beside the river, with a couple of steep drops; the first followed by a fast, steep climb, and the second drop by a very steep and long run up.
At this point the riders were near the far end of the circuit, and had to plow through back-to-back long sand pits in front of the raucous beer garden. The course then hit pavement again as it went around the Market, before another twisty grassy and cobblestone section, and then back to the finish for the final paved 200 metres.
The sunny but cool weather made for a very fast course, with Pendrel's Luna team mate Maghalie Rochette setting a fast pace on the first lap until the sandpits, when she got off the fast line, bogging down and allowing four riders by, including Pendrel, 2012 champion Mical Dyck (Stan’s NoTubes) and Sandra Walter (Liv Canada).
Pendrel and Dyck immediately opened a gap on the rest of the field going into the second lap, with Walter sitting third, and Rochette chasing hard. Dyck then crashed hard in an off-camber grassy turn, leaving the reigning mountain bike world champion alone at the front, and she proceeded to ride away for the win. Rochette recovered to pass Walter for second.
"Maghalie led out the race, and she was so strong," commented Pendrel. "Then she went high in the sand and it totally sucked up all her speed and that created the gap. Then Mical had a washout, so it was a series of things going wrong for other people and that gave me a chance to get off the front. I felt really good, and just went with it. I was pretty confident I had good form, but the other girls have been racing really well this fall, so I wasn't sure how it would go."
The men's race saw Garrigan get his patented fast start, opening a gap on a chase group containing Kabush, last year's Under-23 champion Michael van den Ham (Trek Red Truck) and Evan McNeely (Norco Factory). Aaron Schooler (Focus CX Team), one of the pre-race favourites, crashed out of medal contention on the first lap, but would recover to take fourth.
Garrigan has often had strong starts before fading in the latter stages of the race, but the 2007 national champion, racing a day after his birthday, did not fade on this day. His lead reached a maximum of 20 seconds as Kabush and van den Ham dropped McNeely in their constant chase to reel him in.
The lead began to drop in the final three laps and was under ten seconds with a lap to go. Kabush, who had let van den Ham do a lot of the work came to the front on the final lap and the gap went down to seven seconds, and then five, but the chasers had left it too late or didn't have enough in the tank, and Garrigan was able to cruise across the line two seconds clear of Kabush, with van den Ham taking third.
"I tricked them," joked Garrigan, "I've had two years of fast starts and then fading! A couple of times I was really hurting, and if I didn't have the experience that I have racing and feeling pain, then they probably would have caught me. But I could see them on some parts of the course and how close they were, and I figured I'd have enough snap at the end. It feels great to get the title back; I love 'Cross and after winning Nationals I'm going to do my best to represent the Jersey."
In the men’s U23 and junior races, the top of the podium was taken by local Winnipeg riders to the great pleasure of the crowd. Danick Vandale (Team Manitoba) went shoulder to shoulder in a passionate and exciting sprint to the finish with Ontario's William Elliot (Team NCCH-DEC Express). On Elliot’s wheel for most of the last lap, Vandale launched his sprint with about 100m to go from the finish line, and Elliot simply couldn’t answer.
In the junior race, Oliver Evans (Team Manitoba) easily controlled the race, and cruised solo to the finish line, showing an impressive lead over his closest competitor.
Anna-Gabrielle Traxler (Team Alberta) won the junior women race.
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