Posted by Editor on 04/7/19
Canada's Raphael Gagne won the Elite men's title at the Continental Mountain Bike Championships on Saturday, in Aguascalientes, Mexico. He previously won the silver medal in 2013 and bronze medal in 2014. Catharine Pendrel was the top Canadian in the Elite women's race, finishing fourth.
Held at 2000 metres altitude, the Pan American championships offered important UCI ranking points towards Olympic qualifications, and all six Canadians competing finished in the top-10 in their respective races.
"Definitely over the moon with this win," said Gagne, a member of Canada's 2016 Olympic team. "I came second, nine seconds from winning, in 2013 and one minute from winning in 2014 with bronze. Today I finally got it."
"I was hoping for a clean strong start and that's what I delivered; third into the first singletrack I never looked back. After Lap One I was fifth and within 10 seconds of the lead group - I was not letting myself start too fast and go in the red just yet. Then I caught the lead group forming a five rider group."
"The Brazilian [Guilherme Gotardelo] attacked and Mexican [Jose Gerard Ulloa] followed, but I slowly followed in a gentle acceleration only bridging to them after a 10 minute effort. I raced Laps 2 to 6 with the strong Mexican, I was patient and smart, he was confident and aggressive. In the end I had saved more than him, by being gentle in every start of climbs and every acceleration, pacing and micro pacing, and it paid off. In the last 7-8 minutes climb he attacked me first, too strong for me but he overcooked his chicken and I could reel him in. I then attacked and he followed, but with three minutes to the top of the last climb I went all in and attacked again and build a 20 second gap quickly. It was in the bag, with a fun technical super bumpy descent to the finish."
"I'd like to thank the Canadian national team supporting me here and at some of the key races this season when I need it the most. It's a tough situation now with no team, and the Québec team is there to help me at some races too. I am really happy I could make it happen for myself, but I am more thankful to those that are helping me right now."
Gagne also commented on his difficult start to the season, after his pro team - OMX Pro Team - collapsed, leaving him with no sponsorship - "It wasn't with a perfect preparation, but it all worked out on the day, no matter what happened in this early season. Bouncing back from set-backs - in February I was racing two stage races and got a gastro viral infection that lasted more that 15 days, then I had a major cold at the US Cup opener in Bonelli that took some time to go away. It's important to stay positive, resilient and to believe and dream big; I have to say that I long dreamed about this one, but there's been moments of doubts, plus all the frustration and complications of losing my team in the early season despite a nice three year contract."
Leandre Bouchard finished seventh in Elite men, while Quinton Disera was sixth in the Under-23 men's race.
The Elite women's race was led from start to finish by world champion Kate Courtney (USA). Pendrel, the Olympic bronze medalist in 2016, was part of the four rider group that dropped the rest of the field and challenged for third in the final laps. Canadian champion Emily Batty finished sixth and Sandra Walter was ninth.
"I had a good race!," said Pendrel. "Racing at altitude is always a bit of an unknown but I had a good start and made the top four selection. Kate [Courtney] attacked Daniela [Campuzano - Mexico] at the crest of Lap One after a ten minute climb to 2100m, and quickly got a gap. Unfortunately I made a mistake in a rut and lost the group. Daniella flatted with one lap to go but got back in while I passed the tech zone so we did the final climb together, which was cool. She attacked at the crest and held a small gap to the finish, which got the Mexican fans excited."
Sandra Walter said, "I feel like I raced hard and well, but I struggled with the altitude and also never found flow on the extremely rough and dusty course. Altitude is such a weird beast - my legs felt strong, but whenever I pushed myself too hard on the climb, I had to pay for it after, so I tried to pace myself. I still had some ups and downs in terms of energy, but I was happy to finish strong and hold off two riders who had been hunting me down and with whom I had been back and forth with in the second half. It has been a really fun project and I’m so happy with how the team rode and showed resilience. Huge congrats to Raph on becoming Pan American Champion! Big thanks to Jeff and [team mechanic] Adam [Trotter] for the support this week."
Jeff Ain, Canadian team manager, said, "the course is a tough one with the desert heat and altitude, but we came in with a well-laid out plan and everyone executed really well. Raph showed some exceptional tactical nous to pull off the win in the elite men, and Catharine was in a tight last lap battle for bronze. Everyone was in the top-10 with some very deep fields. Racing in Central and Southern America can be quite the adventure, and the group we have here has shown exceptional resiliency and maturity to deal with everything thrown at them."
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