Posted by Editoress on 04/29/12
Perfect conditions marked the beginning of the 2012 Plastiglas Ontario Cup Mountain Bike Race Series. Sunny skies and moderately cool temperatures combined with a fast, flowing course had racers of all levels raving about the day's racing.
It was a battle of provincial champions in the Senior Elite Women's category, with Ontario's Amanda Sin (Scott - 3Rox Racing) overcoming the fast start of Cindy Montambault (CVM - 2 Vals), the Quebec champion of the past two seasons. The 29-year old native of Val D'Or stayed tucked in the bunch for the initial start climb, but then moved forward once into the singletrack. "My strategy was to stay in the back to draft and then go as fast as I could when we were in the woods" explained Montambault. "It's my first race this year so it's hard to know exactly what any of the other girls can do, but I knew that Amanda has already done a few races this year so I knew she wasn't going to quit that easily so I expected her to pass me but when I didn't know."
Down 20 seconds after the opening lap, Sin didn't allow Montambault's early surge to cause her any panic. "She had a really strong start and was able to punch it up the short climbs. I didn't feel like I could start like that today so I was just patient and took my time and slowly worked my way up." The Collingwood resident moved into the lead on the second lap and never looked back, finishing strongly with a comfortable advantage.
Haley Smith (Norco Evolution) rode a steady race to finish in third. "I was hoping to get on the podium," said the 18-year old from Uxbridge. "I am surprised that I managed to do it, and happy about it too." Smith attributes her result to both her physical and mental strengths. "I trained really hard over the winter and (relied) on mental determination too. I just didn't want to give up."
With two World Cup races under her belt already this year, Sin is focussed on the highest level. "I want to improve my finishes at the World Cups and to continually work my way up and get better at that level." For her part, Montambault has put her job as a miner on hold to devote all her time to cycling. "I've moved to Val David to train and only be a cyclist. I'm not in the top-20 of World Cup rankings yet, but that's a goal for sure." Also on her 'to-do' list is a third successive provincial championship.
With a number of the usual suspects absent, the Senior Elite Men's race saw a strong contingent of under-23's at the head of the race. Racing in what could be considered his backyard, Steven Noble (Opus/OGC) took off early with Evan McNeely (Team Specialized) for company. Twenty seconds back and chasing was the duo of Andrew L'Esperance (Norco Evolution) and Tyson Wagler (Scott - 3Rox Racing). Starting the second lap, McNeely was able to gap his rival on the opening climb and gradually increased his advantage to over a minute by the finish. The victory was his first mountain bike win as a senior.
"I felt great out there" said the winner. "Not too many big names showed up for the race as last year but it was still a pretty solid field of the espoir guys and with some of the 3Rox guys and Steven Noble. It was a good race to come out here and test your legs. I'm going to Europe in a week and a half so I really wanted to open it up on the start and try to simulate a European World Cup."
Having recently returned home after a year at the University of Victoria, Noble was happy to be racing on local trails. "I just live up the road a little bit," he recounted after the race. "This is where I learned how to ride." The 20-year old kinesiology and bio-chemistry student was pleased with his performance. "I was able to pedal throughout almost all of the sections of the course, which is my strength I think. I don't really like the courses where you have to punch really steep climbs and then descend without pedaling. I'm quite happy with what place I finished in. None of the elites from the province were here so it was kind of expected."
Further back, L'Esperance was able to fight off Wagler for the third step on the podium. "I came into this race a little unprepared," explained the Halifax resident. "I just got off a plane last night, but everything worked out well and I'm happy with how I felt." After contesting last weekend's Sea Otter races in California, L'Esperance travelled to Moab, Utah for some training, before finding himself in a traveler's nightmare. "I spent the other night in the airport in Denver but I managed to get here on time and I managed to have decent legs." The Dalhousie University mechanical engineering student spoke favourably about his new bike: "I did this race last year on my 26 inch bike and now I'm on the 29er. On the flat rolling stuff where you're pretty gassed from the climbing it felt really good. I was able to roll a lot faster on that stuff."
- The top six and eight of the top ten finishers in the men's race were all under 23's.
- Although he started two minutes behind, Marc-Antoine Nadon (Scott - 3Rox Racing), caught all but the top four elite men. "I tried to mimic a World Cup start," said the Junior Expert racer from Timmins. "Just go out really hard for the first 20 minutes and see how I felt. I had no intention to catch the entire elite field, but it was a good race." Second-place finisher Peter Disera (Cycle Solutions/Angry Johnny's CC) also had a strong ride. "It was a lot of fun for the first big race of the season. I came into it not really knowing what to expect but it was a good outcome and I'm pretty happy with that. Marc and I ride together often when he's down in southern Ontario and I know he's fast. I figured he would take it anyway so it was good to hang with him for a bit and just see him off in the distance."
- Spectators may have been surprised to see Mike Garrigan participating in the Expert 30-30 category. "I'm still competitive in the elite but as a provincial coach I feel like it's a bit of a conflict for me to race with the u23s so I'm just racing my age category because I don't want to step on the toes of the young riders that I'm tryIng to help develop. It's really important to me that we get a good, fair team out to the Canada Cups in Quebec in a few weeks." Garrigan still plans to contest cyclocross races in the elite category.
Report by Emil van Dijk
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