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November 8/04 5:02 am - 'Cross Nationals Story


Posted by Editor on 11/8/04
 

2004 Cyclo-cross Nationals - Dieppe, New Brunswick

Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) has dethroned the seven-time Canadian national cyclo-cross champion, Peter Wedge (Kona), in one of the most exciting 'Cross Nationals in the last decade. On the women's side, Wendy Simms (Frontrunners/Steed Cycle) repeated easily after her expected rival Samantha Nicholson (Alberta/Bianchi) got tangled up in course tape on the first lap and had to spend the rest of the race chasing back up to the silver medal spot.

After taking place on the west coast last year in Vancouver, the 'Cross Nationals moved all the way across the country to Dieppe, New Brunswick on the east coast, the site of the 2001 Road Nationals. The course was praised by riders for offering a strong mix of technical and fast sections. Rain the day before left the ground soggy, with some sections boggy and under water, while a 50 kilometre an hour wind chilled things down nicely (and almost blew some riders off their bikes). With two run-ups per lap, technique was critical factor.

In the women's 40 minute, 5 lap race, Tara Ross (Team Diet Cheerwine) took the hole shot, but was passed by Simms and Nicholson at the first obstacle - a low rock wall. While Ross and most others jumped off their bikes, the other two managed to hop the wall and get an immediate gap. That looked to take the race down to two riders, but Simms slid out shortly after while leading Nicholson, and the tape she broke when she went off the course managed to wrap itself all around her rival's rear derailleur and cogs.

"I had stop and pick it all out by hand," explained Nicholson, "and by that point I was at the back of the pack."

She made her way back up quickly, catching Ross on the second lap, and moving to within 20 seconds of Simms on the third, but that was as close as she would get, and the Naniamo rider pulled away on the fourth and fifth lap to finish a full minute in front of Nicholson. Tara Ross hung on for third place.

"It was an awesome course." said Simms afterwards. "I didn't know what happen to Sam, I thought she was there, and then she wasn't. When she came back up, I was able to see across parts of the course to how close she was, so I knew what I had to do, to set my pace."

In the men's 60 minute (10 lap), it was expected to be a battle between Peter Wedge, the "Godfather of Canadian 'Cross" (Geoff Kabush's words) and Kabush - "the strongest cyclo-cross rider in North America right now", according to the Godfather...

A year ago, in Vancouver, Wedge and Kabush were teammates, and when Wedge went storming off the front on the first lap, there was no response from Kabush. This year, Wedge attacked in a similar fashion at the first barrier, a few hundred metres into the race, but this time Kabush took up the chase.

Initially, Wedge open up a substantial 20 second gap, and Kabush - traditionally a slow starter - looked to be in trouble. However, the Victoria rider continued his steady (some would say inexorable) chase, and the gap began to shrink by the halfway mark, with the two crossing the start-finish line together with three laps to go. Almost immediately Wedge attacked again.

"I could tell that he was hurting, so I thought I would test him. It seemed to work at first."

Wedge quickly gained 12 seconds by the end of the lap, but then Kabush began to pull him back again, and the duo started the last lap together.

"I think Peter was saving a bit in the bank there", agreed Kabush. "He cracked me a bit there. It was a big effort to get back onto his wheel; I just didn't have the snap to get back on right away, but I was finally able to claw my way back."

Kabush decided to take charge at this point, and launched his own attack in the same place that Wedge had done twice before. It proved to be the race-winning move, since Wedge couldn't respond.

"I tried to respond" said Wedge, "but there was nothing left in the tank. The boggy sections were zapping my power as I tried to slog through the mud. Geoff was very methodical; I'm not that type. Unfortunately for me, the race was just one lap too long."

Kabush agreed: "On the rollers I was faster, and I was able to cut through the boggy stuff quicker, but I was really struggling to stay with him on the faster sections. The wind made my legs feel like bricks out there - that's definitely the hardest race I've done this year."

Race Notes:

- Christian Meier (Espoirs de Laval) gave New Brunswickers something to cheer about with his victory in the Espoirs category, working his way up from mid-pack to catch and pass early leader Shawn Bunnin (Saskatchewan). Nova Scotia's Jamie Lamb (Cyclesmith/Kona) also caught Bunnin to make it 1-2 for the Maritimes.

- Greg Reain (GearsRacing.com) was well pleased with his third place in the elite men's race, correctly recognizing that it would be a battle royal between Wedge and Kabush for the title. "It was my goal to finish top-5 for the Worlds qualification, but after the first lap I realized that I was able to ride the hills better than Roddi (Lega - Alberta, 2002 champion), so i went for third." Reain says he is definitely planning to attend Worlds in St Wendel, Germany at the end of January. At this point, neither Kabush nor Wedge plan on attending the Worlds.

- In the Junior men's 40 minute, 6 lap race, Quebec's Joel Dion-Jutras (Espoirs de Laval) was the leader from the gun, steadily pulling away from New Brunswick's Ian McAvity (Darlings Island) and Albertan Mikael Bidniak (Juventus).

- Luc Proulx (Nicolet) took the Master A men's title, ahead of Normon Thibault (Frontrunners/Haley Hans). Thibault was leading the race until the halfway mark, when his front tire started to soften. The B.C. rider continued to race on the softening tire, rather than risking losing second place, and finished on a half flat tire. Peter Toth (Alberta/ERTC) won the Master B category, finishing fifth in the Master A race in the process. Carolyne Haill (Midweek CC) took the Masters Women's title against local Jane Hadley (Radical Edge), whose son Matt Hadley was fourth in the Espoir Men's race.

- Maxxis brought the full team rig up to support Kabush, with team manager Eric Wallace and a mechanic in attendance. Wallace probably got as much exercise as the riders, with his constant racing from point to point around the course encouraging his rider. By the way, Wallace says that there is no truth to the rumour circulating that Roland Green is negotiating with Maxxis. "I have no idea where that one came from." He did say that Geoff Kabush's contract has been signed for next season, and that the team plans a stronger line up for 'cross in 2005. He hopes to announce the team in about a week.

- It looks like Dieppe will be putting in a bid for the 2006 Track Nationals. If they get them, we believe it will make the city the first in Canada to have held national championships in three disciplines - Road (2001), 'Cross and Track. (The Quebec City region comes close, with Road, Mountain and 'Cross, but they were spread around different towns, and a number have held Nationals in two disciplines).

 


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