July 23, 2017 (Canmore, Alta.) – Fans were treated to superb racing on Saturday at the 2017 Canadian MTB XCO Championships p/b Lexus Canada at the Canmore Nordic Centre as the Elite races featured nail-biting sprint finishes highlighting the 13 titles awarded.
Emily Batty © Chris Redden
Emily Batty (ON) Trek Factory XC defended her women’s title against perennial rival Catharine Pendrel (BC) Clif Pro Team in a neck-and-neck race to the finish. Then U23 rider, Peter Disera (ON) Norco Factory, claimed his first Elite men’s title in riveting race against former champ, Raphaël Gagné (QC) Cannondale 3 Rox, who crashed near the end.
Peter Disera © Chris Redden
Site of the 1988 Olympic cross-country skiing events, the spectacular Canmore venue features the stunning Kananaskis Country Mountains as a backdrop leading into Banff National Park. The nationals were last held here in 2010 and 2011 and fortunately the region has been spared from the terrible forest fires ravaging the B.C. the interior. The upgraded circuit has been shortened from 6.8km to 4km.
The 6-lap Elite women’s race saw Pendrel drilling it from the start with Batty on her wheel as Haley Smith (Norco Factory) led three chasers including Maghalie Rochette (QC) Clif Pro Team and Sandra Walter (BC) Liv Cycling Canada.
Pendrel and Batty © Drew Goldsack
The two veteran World Cup racers were in a league of their own quickly gaining 30 seconds on the chasers as they kept the pace high until the end with Pendrel at the front. Behind Smith dropped her rivals to ride most of the race alone.
Fans were stoked to see another Pendrel-Batty showdown but this time Batty would not get dropped near the end. Instead she attacked the former world champ with half a lap remaining to solidly defend her title as Pendrel could not respond.
Elite Women’s podium © Drew Goldsack
Elite Women’s podium © Drew Goldsack
“It was not an easy race by any means,” agreed Batty. “I rode my hardtail, and I was questioning a little bit whether that was the right choice because it is such a technical and bumpy course, but it was rocking up the climbs. Catharine didn’t make it easy; the two of us set a really high pace right from the start. I found through the course of the race that I was feeling really good. I knew I was going to put an effort in on one of the climbs at some point, and I chose a spot where I felt strong and punched it.”
The Elite men’s start line was stacked with plenty of contenders including former champs and upstarts like Disera who was granted permission to race in the Elite category instead the U23 Men. Defending champ Derek Zandstra (ON) Cannondale-3Rox was an unlikely repeat as he and his wife had recently celebrated the birth of their first child.
Disera leads Gagne © Drew Goldsack
Disera, who earned his first U23 World Cup podium this season, attacked on the opening climb with only Bouchard able to respond. Gagne and Evan McNeely (ON) Forward Racing-Norco soon bridged with veteran Geoff Kabush (BC) Scott-Maxxis, Evan Guthrie (BC) Raceface/Pivot-OTE/Kal Tire and Andrew L’Esperance (NS) Forward Racing – Norco taking up the chase.
Disera and Gagne established a pace the others could not match as the two battled until the end when Gagne faltered on one of the final descents and suffered a hard crash. Disera powered ahead to solo in and claim his first Elite men’s national title.
Raphael Gagne © Chris Redden
“My decision to race up stemmed from UCI points,” explained Disera. “A top-5 [in Elite] would earn more points then winning Under-23. We decided as a team that I could mix it up with the Elites. I was a bit of a wild card, because none of the Elites had really raced me, so I just took the bull by the horns and gave ‘er from the go.”
Elite Men’s podium © Drew Goldsack
“I felt really good and Dre [Bouchard] went with me. Coming into the second lap, Raph came out of nowhere, so there were three of us. Going into the last three laps I started throwing down attacks and Dre just fell off the back. I felt good and wanted to dictate the pace so I stayed at the front. I knew Raph was going to attack and I was able to follow and then get to the front before the descent. Unfortunately he had a little mishap, but I was ready for a sprint.”
Jenn Jackson (AWI Racing) of Oro Medonte, Ontario, won the Women’s Under-23 title, while Sean Fincham (Forward Racing-Norco) of Squamish, BC, was the Under-23 Men’s champion.
U23 Women’s podium © Drew Goldsack
Roxanne Vermette (Equipe du Quebec) of St-Ferrol-les-Neiges, Quebec, won the Junior Women’s title, with Charles-Antoine St-Onge (Equipe du Quebec) of St-Denis-de-Brompton, Quebec, becoming the Junior Men’s champion.
U23 Men’s podium © Drew Goldsack
Amy Woodward-Kennedy (AB) Cyclemeisters/Bow Cycle took home the Master 30-39 Women’s title while Shawna Donaldson (AB) Synergy Racing won the Master 40+ Women’s jersey. In the Master 30-39 Men’s race it was Dylan Bailey (BC) claiming the title as Ryan Pannell (BC) Freshair Concept/Red Devils won the Master 40-49 Men’s competition and Don Larsen (BC) Spoke Bike and Ski took the Master 50+ Men’s title.
(l-r) Amy Woodward-Kennedy, Shawna Donaldson, Dylan Bailey, Ryan Pannell, Don Larsen © Drew Goldsack
Master results here.
Cadet/Junior results here
Elite/U23 results here.