June 11/05 8:10 am - MTB Nationals Preview
Posted by Editoress on 06/11/05
National Mountain Bike Championships Preview
by CC Editor, Rob Jones
The premier categories of the 2005 National Mountain Bike Cross-country Championships take place tomorrow at Mont Ste Anne, Quebec. This year, the cross-country and downhill events have been split up, with the gravity events taking place next weekend.
The weather conditions so far are near perfect: 26-27 C, with low humidity and a slight breeze. Hopefully, it will remain this way for tomorrow. The circuit is shorter than last year (and the World Cup course), although many of the same sections are incorporated into the 4.3 kilometre loop. The elite and espoir men will do 7 laps (plus start loop), the elite and espoir women 6 (plus start loop), the Junior Expert Men 5 (plus start loop) and the Junior Expert and Cadet Women 4 laps (plus start loop). The Junior categories race at 9:00, the senior women at 11:00 and the senior men at 2:00 pm.
So far, feedback from all riders and teams that we have spoken with is that the course is well liked. It offers a good mixture of climbing, technical sections and descending. Average time for the men is expected to be 16 minute laps, although we are told Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) did a "hot lap" in 15 minutes today during training.
These could be some of the most hotly contested Nationals in a long time. In the past, top riders sometimes skipped the Nationals, or rode it at less than 100%, because it did not fit completely into their training schedule. This year, Nationals are critical for selection to the National squad for Worlds, and the National champion is pre-selected for the Commonwealth Games.
On the men's side, since none of the top riders have been racing the World Cup this spring, they do not have the usual high UCI rankings to fall back on for selection. In particular, Roland Green (Kona) is likely very motivated, since he has fallen well back in the rankings after illness ruined his 2004 season. I think we can expect to see a very, very exciting race between Green, Kabush, Kabush's team mate Mat Toulouse, and the Haro boys - Seamus McGrath and Chris Sheppard.
For the Espoir men, Max Plaxton (Maxxis) is the usual favourite, but he has struggled this spring, with mechanical and sickness, so some other riders, who have been racing well (such as Andrew Watson (Gearsracing.com), Marty Lazarski (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) and Derek Zandstra (3 Rox Racing) ) could give him a run for his money.
Defending champion Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) is the heavy favourite, on what is essentially her home course, but Kiara Bisaro (Gearsracing.com) is coming on very nicely, as seen by her 8th place last weekend at the Willingen World Cup. Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) should never be left out of any reckoning, as she has shown time and again. Finally, Lyne Bessette (Sports Expert-Garneau) will be looking to show that her switch to mountain biking has made her a legitimate contender.
- There is still discussion going on regarding the Commonwealth Games criteria which were published a few weeks ago. The HPC (High Performance Committee) set the criteria, which allowed for only two men and two women for mountain bike, even though Canada is allowed 3 spots each, and even though mountain biking is arguably the discipline in which Canada has the opportunity to win the greatest number of medals.