Posted by Editoress on 06/16/12
The Canadian National Mountain Bike Championships saw two British Columbian riders retain their titles on Saturday in scorching heat that caused many competitors to drop out. Catharine Pendrel (Luna), the current world champion, secured her fourth consecutive national title, while Max Plaxton (Specialized) won his second.
Canada's three World Cup women - Pendrel, Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain) and Emily Batty (Subaru-Trek) - immediately broke away from the rest of the field on the opening lap of the five lap race, with Premont launching an initial attack that Pendrel countered, pulling away steadily in the last two laps to win. Premont took the silver medal 1:14 back, with Batty winning bronze, 2:37 behind Pendrel.
Pendrel won her first title in St-Felicien in 2009, so it was an enjoyable moment to repeat at the scene of her first major victory. "This is a great venue," she commented. "It wasn't an easy victory, because I knew that Marie-Helene [Premont] was anxious to win here on home ground. I had a little bobble in the middle of the race, but everything went really well for me and this is a great win as part of my build up for the Olympics."
For Premont it was a disappointment, since she had clearly hoped to win on home ground and carry the national title into Mont Ste Anne next week. However, she was philosophical. "I rode the best I could, and my fitness is good right now. I was very sick for two weeks after la Bresse, so it was important to have good feelings in my legs before Mont Ste Anne."
The men's race was a battle between seven-time champion Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox) and Plaxton, the rider who broke his consecutive win streak last year. Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain) opened the action on the first lap, but the other two dropped him on the second. Gagne held the bronze medal position until the last lap, when the heat and pace cracked him, allowing Derek Zandstra (Scott-3Rox) to slip by for the final medal.
The front duo rode together for the first four laps of the six lap race before Kabush launched an attack, gaining ten seconds on Plaxton. The defending champion clawed his way back and launched his own attack with a lap and a half to go, and Kabush had no response. Plaxton powered away impressively to win his second title, with Kabush coming in for silver, 42 seconds down.
"Last year was special, winning my first elite title," said Plaxton, "but this one shows that I'm really the top rider in Canada now, possibly in North America. It was a tough race, with the two of us watching each other, and then Geoff attacking. But I was able to get back to him, and then just opened a gap through some of the technical sections and built from there. This gives me a lot of confidence going into the next couple of World Cups, and I think a podium is possible."
"I was hoping to get that eighth title this year," admitted Kabush. "Now I'll have to wait another year, I guess. It was a tactical race; we were both trying to get the other guy to go to the front. I got a bit of a gap on one of the climbs, but Max was able to come back up to me, Then he got away from me in technical section and I couldn't respond."
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