Posted by Editoress on 11/6/05
Two former national champions took back their titles at the national cyclo-cross championships on Saturday at the Hardwood Hills Mountain Bike Centre, 90 minutes north of Toronto. Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau) won the women's title after an absence of two years, and Peter Wedge (Kona-Les Gets) took his seventh men's title after his winning streak was snapped last year.
Bessette is unbeaten in North America this season, with the Nationals pushing her streak to nine consecutive wins, and making her a strong contender for the world championships in Holland in January. In the first lap of the women's race, she and defending champion Wendy Simms (Kona-Les Gets) rode away from the rest of the field, with Bessette then dropping Simms late in the second lap of the five lap race. Stacey Spencer (Cycle Smart), who returned to racing this year after a four year absence, finished third.
"Wendy (Simms) was going hard at the beginning, but I have raced her a lot this season and know how she going. It was good to be together for the start, and we could get a gap. She got ahead of me on a flat section before the first big climb, but then I went by on the climb and got a gap."
Bessette led into the first long run-up climb, but hopped off her bike to run while Simms stayed on her bike and took the lead. The duo dropped Spencer and Tara Ross (Victory Brewing), who would battle it out for third. Early in the second lap Simms again took the lead, but this time could not stay with Bessette on the run-up.
"I figured she'd try and go out strong" explained Simms. "I just tried to stay with her as long as possible."
After dropping Simms, Bessette took approximately 20 seconds a lap, despite the onset of rain half way through the race.
Peter Wedge, the perennial favourite in the men's race, had one strong contender to be aware of with the absence of last year's winner Geoff Kabush (Maxxis), and that was Greg Reain (Steven's Racing), who has spent the early part of the cyclo-cross season racing professionally in Europe. "I didn't know what to expect from Greg (Reain), I know he's been racing a lot." admitted Wedge.
Reain struggled in early European racing with what was thought to be allergies (but turned out to be overtraining and stress-related ailments), but still came into the Nationals as a favourite. Wedge and Reain rode the first lap neck and neck, with Reain taking the lead after the first lap. While Wedge was running the first climb, Reain was riding, taking the lead. Unfortunately for Reain, he crashed after carrying too much speed on a sandy downhill, and Wedge opened up a gap which he maintained to the finish line.
"I crashed my brains out at the bottom of the sandy descent." Reain ruefully admitted. "I was going too fast, and I got off line and caught my bars in one of the stakes marking the course. That's where Peter got a gap. But he was going good today, so who knows..."
Wedge may have looked in control, but he was having his own problems, which became apparent in the last two laps when Reain slowly began to catch up in pouring rain.
"My left hand was frozen for the last two laps - I couldn't hold onto the bars, squeeze the brakes, anything. My hand kept slipping off the bars - I couldn't even feel it.
"I had to ride conservatively, and hope that my fitness would get me through. I had heard that Greg was going strong, but all I could do was trust in my fitness."
- Christian Meier (Symmetrics) repeated as Espoir champion, taking third overall. Coupled with Wedge's win, this put two New Brunswickers on the men's podium, leading Wedge to comment: "New Brunswick is the new powerhouse of 'cross..."
- Wedge has just moved into a new house and his new neighbours may not be too thrilled - he has put a recording studio in the basement for his band, White Trash Sniper (he is the drummer). the band does Blood Dungeon covers...
- Tim Johnson did an excellent job of playing "race husband" to Lyne Bessette (as an American he wasn't eligible to race). Bessette had to peel off a gauze pad on her right shoulder after the race, a souvenir of the terrible crash she took at the 2001 Redlands Classic. She is forced to wear the pad to protect her shoulder when carrying her bike.
- While all three of the top women (Bessette, Simms and Spencer) hope to attend the Worlds in January, it looks like only Reain will represent the men. Peter Wedge is doing a "gig" we hear...
- Congratulations to Wendy Simms and partner Normon Thibault (Frontrunners). They will be getting married in December and honeymooning in Hawaii. Wendy assures us that she will be training on her honeymoon for the Worlds. "I plan to show up in Holland with a tan." Thibault won the Master A national title.
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