Posted by Editoress on 11/5/00
Cyclocross Nationals, Okotoks Alberta - Junior Men and Women and Masters Women
After years in the East, the Cyclo-cross Nationals have gone western. The 2000 nationals began today in the foothills of the Rockies, 30 minutes south of Calgary, Alberta. Today it was the Juniors, tomorrow the Elite and Espoir racers. Ontario was the big winner today, with riders taking both the Junior men's (Ryan Roth) and women's (Cydney Galbraith) titles.
Despite weather forecasts that suggested snow, or at least rain, the riders raced under most un-'cross like conditions - sun, blue skies and temperatures in the mid-teens. We could see clouds rolling in from the west, but they held off until after the Junior men's race before unleashing rain and flurries.
The circuit is 2.5 kilometres, around the grounds of a rural public school (Strathcona-Tweedsmuir). From an asphalt start the riders funnel into a gravel chute and then along double-track before a short grunt up to the school playing fields. This section across grassy fields is very fast, only broken by a sandtrap and a double set of barricades. The riders are moving too fast to attempt to jump them. "It is much faster to run", says three-time champion Peter Wedge (Kona).
From there the riders have a fast descent into a ravine and then climb back up to the top again - mountain bikes have the advantage here, since it is faster to ride than run. The riders follow the lip of the ravine around before the major descent of the circuit. This descent saw multiple crashes on the slippery clay surface. Through the bottom of the ravine, across a wood bridge and then a long slog up the main climb of the circuit. The riders then head through the woods back to the asphalt for a final section of about 200 metres. "A tough, fast circuit" proclaimed many a rider.
The small women's field - 3 Juniors and 2 Masters meant that, unfortunately, a national title would not be awarded (5 starters from 3 provinces is required). However, the racing was still intense. Cydney Galbraith (Kona-Bicycleworks), a resident of the same small community that mountain bike pro (and multiple national 'cross champion) Chrissy Redden comes from (Campbellville), led the 30 minute race from start to finish, but not without stiff competition from Master racer Sarah Robbins (Team Saskatchewan).
"I was worried about the big climb, but once I got going it wasn't too bad. I was hoping to get away early, but it wasn't until the second lap (of 3) that I started to really push it and get a gap." Galbraith is certainly going to be a rider to watch for in the future - a first year junior, she this won the Ontario Trillium Cup road series, finished second in the Ontario Cup mountain bike series, 8th at the Road Nationals and 4th at the Mountain Bike Nationals. She has also been finishing among the top 3 in Ontario 'cross events (against the senior women).
Master's winner Robbins is a triathlete who entered the nationals "for fun. We have an active 'cross series at home, it's the end of the season, so I thought I would try it." The 35 year old Robbins, from Saskatoon, has impressive credentials: a member of both the national Triathlon and Duathlon teams for last year's Worlds, and 7th in the pro category at the national Duathlon championships. Hopefully we will see her in more cycling races in the future.
Next up was the Junior men, a 40 minute race that would crown a national champion, given the 16 riders from 3 provinces who took part. Among the favourites were Alberta provincial 'cross champion Gergely Hegedus (Team Alberta), Saskatchewan provincial 'cross champion Shawn Bunnin (Saskatoon Cycledelia/Trek) and Ontarians Buck Miller (St Catherines CC) and Ryan Roth (Woodstock CC). They did not disappoint, as all four were at the front in the early going.
First year junior Roth attacked early, but was repeatedly brought back by Hegedus and Bunnin. "I took off hard, but they came back. I tested them twice, but each time I couldn't get away." Roth was one of many who crashed on the slippery descent, going down twice in 5 laps. Hegedus, in his first year of racing, was also aggressive, leading as the riders rode around the rim of the ravine.
Eventually it would come down to these two riders, as they shed the others, Bunnin finally being dropped as they started the last lap. The pair came out of the woods onto the final asphalt section, setting up for a sprint finish. But then Hegedus faltered, catching his pedal on the corner and jamming up his gears. A huge groan came from the partisan Alberta crowd as Roth was able to easily coast across the line to victory.
"I hit the ground in the corner and my foot came out of the pedal, and then my gears jammed. I was feeling pretty strong, so it could have been a good finish." Unfortunately, we won't know what could have been. However, I expect that this will not be the last time we see these riders go head to head.
Tomorrow the action continues with the Masters men at 10:30 am (Mountain Time), the Elite women at Noon and the Espoir and Elite men at 2:00 pm.
Junior women's winner Cydney Galbraith
Junior women's second place Rachel Morris
Master women's winner Sarah Robbins
Junior women's winner Cydney Galbraith
Junior men's start - Buck Miller leads Ryan Roth
James Kriek leads Gergely Hegedus and Shawn Bunnin
Hegedus leads Roth and Bunnin in the barricades
Junior men's winner Ryan Roth
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