July 21/07 12:08 pm - National Championships DH report & photos
Posted by Editoress on 07/21/07
National MTB Championships DH Mount Washington, BC
Coverage sponsored by Maxxis
The elite portion of the Canadian Mountain Bike National Championships opened on Friday at the Mount Washington Alpine Resort on Vancouver Island with the Downhill, and two first time champions were crowned. Luke Kitzanuk (Giant Canada) took the men's title with the only sub-4 minute run of the day, while Micayla Gatto (Rocky Mountain-Haywood) showed that she has successfully made the transition to the senior ranks with the women's title.
The rain which has blanketed the area since midweek made it a muddy and cold affair, with temperatures at the top of the course plummeting to four degrees Celcius, prompting fears of snow. The majority of riders had raced the Canada Cup Final earlier in the week on the same course, so the conditions were not a surprise.
The run is very steep, dropping nearly 400 vertical metres in 1.6 kilometres. After a fast start it headed into a rocky section before entering singletrack as it crisscrosses under the chairlift. From there they went into the trees and some muddy sections, followed by more twisty singletrack until the final 300 metres, when it spills out to a fast fireroad.
Gatto was the fastest in the small ten rider field by two seconds over Claire Buchar (SRAM). Both Gatto and Buchar were the only two women to go under five minutes for their runs, with Katrina Strand (SRAM) over 35 seconds behind Buchar for third.
Gatto has won Junior titles before, but "this is the first time ever that I have been awarded a national champion's jersey. I've been wanting this for a long time; I wasn't expecting it but I was really hoping. It is a dream that I wanted to come true."
"Champery and Mont Ste Anne World Cups were definitely on my mind (she missed her start in the first and flatted at the second), and I was thinking 'I don't want to mess this up'. All I wanted was a clean run and, except for a few minor bobbles, that is what I got. I was so relieved."
For the men, it was hard to know who was going well. Kitzanuk had won his third Canada Cup title earlier in the week on the course, but was seeded in the middle of the field, as were a number of top riders.
Former national champion Tyler Morland (Cove Bikes) set an early fast time of 4:12, but with 15 riders to go Geoff Pendrel (PinkBike) knocked six seconds off it, and one rider later Kitzanuk shattered that time with a ride of 3:55. Next best was locally based Steve Chan (Giant Canada), well back at 4:01.
"This is my first national title, so I'm pretty thrilled. I've won the Canada Cup series the last three years, but I've had bad luck at the Nationals with mechanicals (last two years) and injury (three years ago). It is one of the aspirations of any downhill racer to be the national champion."
"It was sloppy, wet and very slippery out there, but definitely a challenging Nationals calibre course. The best thing to do in the mud I found was to stay off the brakes and let the bike flow."
- Despite being National champions, the CCA does not fund DH spots for the worlds. However, both Kitzanuk and Gatto say they plan on attending.