November 24, 2011 (Bolton, ON) – If John Bates’ hopes are realized, this weekend’s Albion Cross might serve as a test event for a future provincial or even national championship. The eighth and final race of the Southern Cup Cyclocross series will take place at the Albion Hills Conservation Area, just north of Bolton, ON. The man behind the Cycle Solutions/Angry Johnny’s Cycling Club considers Ontario to be the “hotbed for cyclocross” in Canada, and said Sunday’s race is “a dry run to figure out how viable (Albion Hills) would be for nationals”. In 2008 Bates co-hosted the provincial championships with ZM Cycle & Fitness, and is hopeful of an opportunity to bring another great event to Ontario in the future.
Course design responsibilities have been delegated to Matt Douglas of Chico Racing, who Bates anticipates will create a circuit similar to that used for the ’07 provincials, also known as the Albion Thrills X-Cross. Snow was the main feature of that event, but this Sunday’s forecast is much more benign, with mild temperatures and rain being predicted. What is certain is a “100% guarantee it will be a fun course,” along with prize money for the top five finishers in the Elite Male and Female categories, something Bates feels is important to show appreciation for the time and effort the top riders invest in the sport.
The Southern Cup overall standings will also be finalized on Sunday, with bragging rights going to winners in a dozen categories. Leigh Hobson (The Hub Race Team) began the defense of her 2010 Elite Women’s overall title with a win, but soon gave way to Julie Marceau (Lapdogs CC) whose lead is now untouchable given that Hobson will not take the start on Sunday due to a prior commitment. “If I had been able to participate, I think it would have been a tough go to overtake Julie,” commented Hobson. “She’s been racing very consistently and I can’t see her not getting the points she needs to maintain the title, a well-deserved title at that.”
The Elite Men’s category sees three riders capable of winning the overall. Nathan Chown (Team CF) has a one-point lead over Zach Hughes (Norco Factory Team) with Jared Stafford (Ride With Rendall) a further six points back. Hughes injured his left knee at the Barrie Baseball Cross and struggled at the national championships, where he managed to finish despite effectively having the use of only one leg. Barring a miraculous recovery, he is unlikely to start the Albion Cross. “It’s a real shame,” said Hughes, “because mentally and fitness-wise I was only getting stronger. I was really angry about how it turned out (at nationals) but it’s over with and I’m just focusing on trying to make sure this does not happen again for next cross season.”
Chown, winner of the recent Esteem Cross, is recovering from a case of bronchitis, but feels he’ll be ready for Sunday. In fact, he is hoping for a repeat of the bad conditions of 2007. “If Jared (Stafford) and Zach (Hughes) do race then my only real shot is if the weather is bad and there is some mud, well, a lot of mud, in the mix, “ explained the veteran ‘cross racer. “If it is dry and fast those guys have too much acceleration for me to deal with over an hour race. They are both solid riders who will only continue to improve. With some mud and bad weather in play I can race better with the top guys as the big accelerations are not really that important. It comes down to who can get the most power and torque into the rear wheel while making sure you don’t spin out.”
Stafford won the Southern Cup overall in 2010, and his current run of good form could see him take it all again this season. In addition to silver medals at both the national and Ontario championships, he has won every Southern Cup race he has finished, and must be considered a favourite to win at Albion.
Hughes offered his insiders view on what could transpire on Sunday: “I have huge respect for Nathan,” he stated. “I would say he has the points race pretty much locked up. For the win on the day though I will say my good friend Jared Stafford will take the win. Jared is really moving this year.”
Another battle that will go down to the wire is in the Master Female division. Michelle Cordy (HB Cycling Club) started the series strongly but Lori Kofman (Chain Reaction/Molson 67) has won the last three races and finds herself atop the standings with an eight-point lead.
It’s even closer in the Junior Men’s category, with Morgan McPhee (Soigneur Race Services) and Connor Rapus (Independent) separated by a mere three points. With 25 points for first and 20 for second, a race win on Sunday could secure an overall victory for either of these competitors.