Posted by Editoress on 05/17/03
The 2003 Canada Cup opened in Bromont under the most perfect conditions imaginable, and the racers responded with fast and exciting competition. With almost all of Canada's top stars in California for the Norba series opener at Big Bear, it was chance for some lesser lights to shine. Jesse Jakomait (Team Ontario) had a breakthrough performance in the Elite Men's race, while Marie-Helene Premont (Oryx) easily bested the women's field, as did Max Plaxton (GearsRacing.com) in the Men's Junior Expert competition.
Premont summed up the general concensus among the riders about the 6.5 kilometre circuit: "fast, hard, fun". The riders began with a narrow, twisty paved climb, which turned to gravel. They then traversed the ski hill, crossing over the downhill course and climbing again for nearly a kilometre on gravle road and some hardpack singletrack. After a fast, twisty, technical singletrack section they headed into the final wooded rock garden descent ("the Flintstones") before dropping out into the open for the start/finish. The Elite Men did 6 laps, the Junior Expert Men 5, and the Elite Women had their race shortened to 4 laps at the start line.
In the Elite Men's race, pre-race favourites Roddi Lega (United Cycle) and Greg Reain (GearsRacing.com) went to front immediately, opening a 15 second gap on Jakomait, Mark Webster, Mike Garrigan (Team Ontario) and Jeremy Trudel (Le Yeti). A lap later, it was still Lega and Reain at the front, but Jakomait was getting closer, and he joined the front duo on the third lap.
It was on this third lap that Reain began to suffer mechanical problems - chain suck on the middle ring. "I could hear his gears grinding, and then he wasn't with us any more." said Lega.
"It took me a few minutes to sort it out", explained Reain, "but by the time I did they were gone and all I could do was maintain the gap."
At the front, Lega knew that he was in trouble. "I didn't have it today. I was struggling to stay with Jesse on the fourth lap, and just hoping he would crack. He didn't."
In fact, Jakomait went harder. "My plan was that I didn't want to go too hard on the first lap, be conservative and then start moving up. With Roddi I knew I was holding my own on the technical sections and that I had a bit of an edge on the climbs. Roddi was on my wheel all the time, he was my shadow, so on the climb on the fifth lap I went extra hard." At the start of the last lap the gap was 15 seconds, by the end it was 1:08. Reain held on for third, 3:33 behind Jakomait, with Webster fourth (4:12) and Garrigan fifth (5:49).
The reaction after the race by both first and second place was disbelief. Jakomait: "I've never even won a provincial cup, and now I've won a Canada Cup! This is by far my biggest result. I've been racing 12 years, and this has been a long time coming."
Lega, the national cyclo-cross champion, was certainly stunned afterwards. "My whole focus this year is the Canada Cup. I came here to win and I didn't."
In the women's race, Premont was at Bromont to test her legs, in preparation for the start of the World Cup circuit next weekend (St Wendel, Germany). The Oryx rider has been receiving treatment for tendonitis in her right arm, and hasn't been on a mountain bike since last year - yesterday was her first day on a mountain bike this year.
"I have been riding my road bike, and training, but I needed a test for the World Cup." she explained. "I felt pretty good, and I was recovering well on the climbs, so I feel ready for the World Cup."
In the Junior Men's race, Plaxton was in class of his own, opening up a 30 second gap on the first climb, and then steadily pulling away from the field. After that, his goal was to reel in as much of the elite field as possible, despite starting two minutes down. "I had no problems out there at all, it was a fun course. I could have raced senior, but since it is the first Canada Cup I wanted to race junior. My motivation this race was to catch as many seniors as possible, and get some good training in." By the finish of his race he was up to 8th in the elite field... Jamie Lamb was second, a respectable 4:28 behind.
- the total number of riders at today's races was 625.
- Jakomait recently moved down from Sault Ste Marie to live and train at Hardwood Hills, where his coach Steve Neal is based.
- Max Plaxton hopes to make it onto a team for the Tour de l'Abitibi junior stage race. It is part of his training for his main focus of the year: a top-3 finish at the Worlds in Lugano. The Victoria rider was well on his way to accomplishing this last year, when he flatted in Kaprun, Austria. He was also a member of the World Champion Team Relay squad.
- national DH coach Chris Colbeck says that the DH course is good. "A bit of everything - technical sections, some pedalling, high speed stuff. It should be a good test."
- Also tomorrow is the 12 Hour Relay. 39 teams have signed up, including 15 solo competitors. It starts at noon, ending at midnight.
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