Posted by Editoress on 10/12/08
2008 Cyclo-cross Nationals Report
The Canadian national championship season concluded on Saturday in Edmonton with the National Cyclo-cross Championships. Olympic mountain biker Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) and Wendy Simms (Kona) took the Elite Men's and Women's titles after each broke clear of the field in their respective races. Mike Bidniak (Alberta) won the Under-23 men's title, while Evan Guthrie (Bc) took the Junior men's title. For Kabush it is his second cyclo-cross title, while Simms won her fourth title. As national champions, both are eligible to represent Canada at the world championships in Holland, next February.
The day began sunny and very cold, below zero and with heavy frost on the ground for the morning Masters category events. A consistent wind blew through the day, keeping the temperature in single digits.
The wind was also the most significant obstacle in the race, making riders leery of attacking solo in the headwind on the long straightaway.
For the U23 race, it was an impressive display of teamwork by Bidniak and David Larson, who rode away from the field by the halfway mark, dropping the remnants of the lead group - Andrew Thomas (Saskatchewan), Kyle Fry (Ontario) and just behind them Cody Canning (Alberta). At the finish, Bidniak and Larson rolled across the line together, with Fry just nipping Thomas in the final few hundred metres.
In the Junior men, a group of five formed by the second lap lap - Kevin Thorpe (BC), Sebastian Sleep (BC), Stuart Wight (New Brunswick) and Kris Dahl (Alberta) and Evan Guthrie (BC). Guthrie was clearly the strongest, taking long pulls at the front and leading on the run ups. Sleep was dropped on the third lap, and Wight a lap later, with Guthrie pulling away from Dahl and Thorpe to solo in for the title.
Given the absence of top women such as Lyne Bessette and Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain), it looked like defending champion Simms would have an easy ride for her fourth title in five years. However, Alberta's Pepper Harlton (Juventus/Alberta) kept it close, pushing Simms all the way to the line.
Simms jumped away early in the race, etsablishing a 25 second gap on Harlton, with Sarah Stewart (Total Restoration), Kelly Jones (Sugoi), Loni Klettl (Alberta) and Mical Dyck (Terrascape) riding at 45 seconds to just over a minute back. While Stewart, Jones, Klettl and Dyck battled for the final podium spot (with Stewart victorious), Harlton was not making it easy for Simms, only fading in the final lap.
"Some of the top competitors from previous years were missing,' agreed Simms "but there are some strong younger riders coming up, so it certainly kept the pressure on me through the race to keep a gap. If they had worked together, there is a good chance that they could have brought me back. This is just the start of my cyclo-cross season, and it's a good way to begin. It means that I will be able to race in Europe through the season as the Canadian champion."
We have posted a video interview with Wendy Simms.
The men's race was expected to be between Kabush and defending champion Mike Garrigan (Jetpower/Epicride), and that is exactly what happened. The two went to the front early in the lap, and managed to avoid some entanglements which slowed down chasers. However, it is likely that the race would have come down to these to regardless of how the first lap went.
Initially a chase group formed on the second lap, holding the two leaders to 16 seconds, but once the main 'engine' - Derrick St. John (Stevens) - attacked, the rest of the group disintegrated into ones and twos all battling for individual placings. St. John was riding a strong third, keeping the two leaders in sight, until Kabush decided it was time to test Gar rigan, and attacked early in the fifth lap.
Garrigan could not respond, and Kabush quickly opened a gap of 30 seconds. St. John was fading slightly, and Shawn Bunnin (Alberta), Kevin Noiles (Trek Red Truck) and Tyler Trace (Trek Red Truck) came close to catching him before St. John was able to re-establish a gap and hold on for third behind Kabush and Garrigan.
"It is the end of what is probably my strongest season ever, and I have been trying to maintain my form through the last month since the Mountain Bike World Cup finished," explained Kabush. "Mike Garrigan pushed me pretty hard, so I wanted to try an attack to see what he had. Even if I didn't drop him, at least it would have softened him up. It is a very good way to finish the season."
We have posted a video interview with Geoff Kabush.
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