Posted by Editoress on 07/20/03
MTB Nationals Whistler BC
This report made possible through the sponsorship of Rocky Mountain Bicycles and Hamilton 2003
Canadian National XC Championships - Premont Wins
By Mike Badyk
The rain held off and by this afternoon the sun came out to shine on our new 2003 National XC Champion, Marie-Helene Premont (QC - Oryx). She ran away from a strong field displaying the form that has made her the top Canadian woman on the World Cup circuit of late.
The women's race, like the men's, has enough strong riders to contend for any World Cup. It is truly impressive to see riders such as multi-time World and National Champion Alison Sydor (BC - Trek-Volkswagen Racing Team), World Cup winner and National Champion Chrissy Redden (BC - Subaru-Gary Fisher), to name but a few, on the start line. Premont was the one to watch though. Her strong finishes at the Mt. Ste. Anne World Cup (5th) and at Grouse Mtn (4th - despite mechanical problems) have indicated that her form is excellent.
Premont amply displayed that form at the start, rocketing past the other riders on the cruel climb above the start/finish. She was the first out of the single track, and a small low speed tumble in the dust coming out of a tricky chute did nothing to slow her down. By end of the first lap she had a one minute gap over Redden and Sydor, who were locked in a close fight. In 4th was Trish Sinclair (BC - Gearsracing.com) and Melanie McQuad (BC - Ford Outfitters), with Karen Dewolfe (NS - California Dried Plums) a bit further back. Although riding well, Kiara Bisaro (BC - Gearsracing.com) had a mechanical (flat tire) and lost over 10 minutes.
Through lap 2 and 3, Premont gained a minute each time, building a solid 3:10 lead going into the bell lap. Behind her, Redden and Sydor were engaged in a tough struggle. Redden would attack on the hills and Sydor would reel her back in on the descents. Each time up the large hill through the feed zone, Redden would launch a viscious sprint. On the last lap Redden got an opportunity that she didn't count on - a minor mechanical with Sydor's bike. Redden heard Sydor's gears slipping a touch and took off once again. Hindered by the shifting problem, Sydor was unable to respond. Redden had a 17 second advantage over Sydor at the finish. Sinclair continued to ride well holding in 4th and DeWolfe moved into 5th, well back of Sinclair, but 1:45 in front of McQuaid who had slid to 6th.
Premont was exceptionally happy with her first National Championship. "My bike was going so well today that I had no excuse! (Premont had 3 flats at Grouse) My legs were feeling so good and on the hills I was able to push very hard. I was careful on the downhills so I wouldn't get a flat tire. People on the course were giving me times and I knew that I was gaining but I didn't want to go slower. It feels very good."
Redden was impressed by Premont's effort. "Holy cow! Marie-Helene just took off at the start and that was it. I was trying to climb really well, really smooth. I was also descending well. I had a really good race, but Marie-Hele e just keeps peaking and getting better." Redden also commented on her battle with Sydor. "On the last lap near the top of the climb she was having a little bit of trouble with her gears, so I attacked. I tried it earlier, but I was making some mistakes and she would catch up. I took advantage when she had the bike troubles."
Sydor was generally pleased with her result. "My motivation was that the top 3 riders get the top 3 (UCI) points (for Olympic ranking). I didn't have any good rides all week after expending so much energy at Grouse. Of course I would like to win here, but I wouldn't trade last week's second for first or second here."
Sydor also spoke about Marie-Helene's ride and her own technical problems during the race. "On the first lap Marie-Helene just took off like crazy. Marie-Helene, she had a world class ride today and I think she is our next world champion from Canada. I only found out at the line that we were doing 4 laps rather than the original 3.5 and then the 1/2 lap gate was open when I went by. It was the natural line to take. I went about 100m down and then had to turn around. It needs to be better organized than that for the Nationals. I went and caught back up to Chrissy, but I had some gear problems on the 3rd lap and had to adjust my gears and then on the 4th lap Chrissy gapped me when I had the same problems."
Trish Sinclair, clearly pleased with her 4th place, expressed lots of satisfaction with her ride. "I just wanted a bit more climbing. It was good. I was happy with my climbing and descending. I caught up to Alison when I heard she was having problems with her gears. I got into the single track and the downhill was great, but there is one last granny gear climb and I messed up and had to run it and that made the gap. I can't wait until next week (Norba in Idaho)."
The 2003 National Championship was also the first year that the women's race had an Espoir category. Anne-Marie Jobin (QC - S.O.S. Velo Ski) was the winner. She is a former cadet National Champion and was 3rd as a Junior in 2001
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