November 3/02 6:20 am - National Cyclo-cross Championships: Story
Posted by Editor on 11/3/02
National Cyclo-cross ChampionshipsSt-Augustin, Quebec
There were lots of new faces on the podium for the 2002 Canadian National Cyclo-cross Championships, in St-Augustin, Quebec. Lyne Bessette (Cyclocross World) and Roddi Lega (Alberta) won the Canadian titles, in the face of constant winds that pushed the windchill factor to a numbing -15C.
The 2002 Nationals were held on the grounds of Campus Notre-Dame-de-Foy. St-Augustin is on the outskirts of Quebec City, home to Louis Garneau Inc., the cycle clothing manufacturer who was the title sponsor of this year's national championships. While the terrain is mostly flat, the organizers were able to put together a twisty, technical circuit that incorporated some of the bumps and tabletops of the BMX track on site. Despite there being no major over the shoulder run-up, most riders had praise for the course, including American cyclo-cross pro Tim Johnson, who was up to support his fiance - Bessette.
"I rode a few laps with Lyne, and it's a fun course that will require some power."
The women's race was expected to be a showdown between Bessette (attending her first Canadian 'cross nationals, although a regular winner on the US northeastern 'cross circuit) and Marie-Helene Premont (Oryx), the mountain bike pro. Not to be discounted was former champion Shauna Gilles-Smith (Gearworks-SRP), who competes against Bessette in the New England races.
However, it turned out to be Bessette all the way, as she went from the gun in the 40 minute race. For the first couple of laps Gilles-Smith was able to hold the gap to a manageable 20-30 seconds, but Bessette put the hammer down after that and rolled away to a 1:04 victory, without appearing to be out of breath at the end. Gilles-Smith hung on for second, and Premont took third, another minute back, after shaking a persistent Samantha Nicholson (Alberta) in the final few laps.
"Since the (Road) Worlds I've been training and racing 'cross. Now I'll take 2 weeks vacation and then I start to prepare for the 'Cross Worlds. This was a fun course, especially with the BMX section - not too technical, but lots of variations. Not having a run-up probably helped me. It was cold, but the ground was very good - I didn't have to change my bike once."
Bessette was riding an ultra-light Ridley, brought in from Belgium by her sponsor.
Premont, in her first cyclo-cross race (and second time on a 'cross bike - the first time being the day before in training...) looked relaxed and out to have fun. She and Nicholson battled for the first two-thirds of the race, before the mountain biker was able to drop her rival.
"It was interesting, but not technical enough for me. I made an error early in the race, getting off the bike, and twisted my ankle, so I had to chase back. I knew I was faster (then Nicholson), but when I tried to get away, she would keep coming back."
The men's race was a real crap shoot, with perennial champion Peter Wedge (Kona) off in Chile, representing Canada at the Pan Am Mountain Bike Championships. It has been so long since anyone else has one, that no one knew quite what to expect. Mountain biker Lega took advantage of the uncertainty by breaking away early.
"My plan, if I had it in me, was to get a gap from the start and try and treat it like a mountain bike race, and avoid the strategy and tactics of a road race. In the past, when it has been a pack, it seems to not be in my favour. If I can suffer out in front from the start then it works better for me."
While Lega was out in front, suffering to his heart's content, a chase formed behind, with Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain), Robin Baillie (Cycledelia), Guillaume Desy (Durand Sport), Greg Reain (Gears Racing) and Todd Bowden (CVC-Pig Iron). Reain and Bowden were dropped, but Hestler, Baillie and Desy did their best to reel in the leader.
"He gapped it right at the beginning" said Baillie. "A little group of us thought we might get him, but he was just too good in the corners - he was just amazing in the corners. It was a hard course to get a rhythm going, because you were always setting up for the next corner. I tried going harder after him once, and crashed."
Hestler concurred: "I got off to a slow start - both for the 'cross season and this race. I injured myself two weeks ago, riding in the woods, so I missed our provincials, and I didn't have as much practice as I wanted. But Roddi was going well, making time on us in every corner - maybe 2-3 seconds at a time. When I got going in the last couple of laps I think that I pulled back a bit, but it was too little, too late."
Hestler did drop his two companions with a couple of laps to go in the 60 minute race, but then started to fade in the final lap, managing to hold on for second by 4 seconds over Baillie, with Desy a further 10 seconds in arrears.
Dustin MacBurnie, out of Truro, Nova Scotia, was the top Espoir, followed by Shawn Bunnin (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan).
- Hestler was riding a trick 700c Marzocchi suspension fork, with a disc brake.
- Martin Lazarski (Gears Racing) won the Junior title, ahead of Christian Meier (New Brunswick). Meier is a relative newcomer, having switched to road this season after trying downhill as a Cadet. He was the early leader in the combined Junior/Master race, until a couple of crashes and concentrated chasing by Lazarski, David Dermot (True North - Master B) and Sean Barr (Velocity - Master A) brought the three chasers up to him. In the final sprint, Lazarski held off Barr and Dermot, with the less experienced Meier gapped a few seconds back.
- There was a persistent rumour that Peter Wedge was (somehow) going to make it back from Chile in time to race. The Atlantic Cycling Centre had even booked a room in his name.