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Canadian MTB Nationals 2014 XCO Report and Photos UPDATED

by pedalmag.com

National XCO 2014 winners  ©  Peter Kraiker
July 19, 2014 (Barrie, ON) – Eight champions were crowned following superb racing at the 2014 Canadian Mountain Bike Cross-Country Championships as Geoff Kabush (BC) Scott 3Rox Racing made history winning his eighth national XCO title taking the Elite Men’s race to become the most decorated mountain-biker of all time at the Canadian Championships.

In a thrilling faceoff in the Elite Women’s race Catharine Pendrel (NB) Luna Pro Team reclaimed the jersey against defending champ Emily Batty (ON) Trek Factory Racing. Frédérique Trudel (QC) Specialized Racing Canada and Léandre Bouchard (QC) Équipe du Québec/Cyclones d’Alma were crowned U23 champs while Soren Meeuwisse (ON) Team Ontario and Marc-Andre Fortier (QC) Independent topped the Junior women’s and men’s fields. Erica Leonard (ON) Team Ontario/Team Bikeland and Quinton Disera (ON) Team Ontario took home the U17 titles.

An eager group of Junior/U17 riders started the fireworks off as great conditions greeted riders on a 2-thumbs up new course as host site, Hardwood Ski and Bike, was officially named the venue for the TO2015 PanAm Games.

Erica Leonard is the U17 Women's champ  ©  Peter Kraiker

Erica Leonard (ON) Team Ontario/Team Bikeland was the first rider to claim a title in the U17 Cadet Women’s 12km (2 lap) race, almost losing it as she crashed near the end but was able to recover for the win over Samantha Fuller (ON) Cycle Solutions Angry Johnny`sCC p/b Norco LG in second with Juliette Tetrault (QC) Skinouk/VDM in third.

U17 Women's podium  ©  Peter Kraiker

Defending champ Quinton Disera (ON) Team Ontario/Cycle Solutions Angry Johnny’sCC p/b Norco LG was the clear winner in the 18km U17 Cadet Men’s 3-lap race with a near 2-min gap over Tyler Orschel (ON) Team Ontario/Trek Store C.C. in second and Sean Fincham (BC) Cycling BC in third. Fincham crossed the line second but officials ruled that he obstructed Orschel and he was relegated.

Quiton Disera was unstoppable in the U17 Men's race.  ©  Peter Kraiker

U17 M podium  ©  Peter Kraiker

Soren Meeuwisse (ON) Trek Canada Mountain Bike Team battled with Laurie Arseneault of Terrebonne, QC (Iris) in the Junior Expert Women’s 18km, 3-lap race but broke away near the end of their second lap for a decisive victory. Arseneault settled for second with Paige Foxcroft (ON) Team Ontario : Cycle Solutions Angry Johnny’s CC p/b Norco LG taking third.

Soren Meeuwisse takes home the Junior Women's title  ©  Peter Kraiker

“Winning the jersey was a major goal for me this year. I wanted to live up to the expectations from last year, so I’m happy to come away with a win this year. Now, I’m hoping to travel to Norway for the World Championships and get a good placing there as a first-year junior as it will be a very tough field,” said Meewisse, visibly very happy after the race.

Junior Women's podium  ©  Peter Kraiker

“I am very comfortable on these trails. I’ve been practicing on this course for about a month now. Countless laps. I felt smooth on all those technical sections on which other people were having trouble with. The long climb right after boneshaker was particularly difficult for me today. I’m better at short, spunky climbs,” she added.

Fortier takes the Junior Men's win...  ©  Peter Kraiker

Quebec’s Marc-André Fortier ruled the Junior Expert Men’s 4-lap, 24km competition, posting a time of 1:09:28, besting Rhys Verner of Garibaldi Highlands, BC (Cycling BC) by 23s and Felix Burke of Mont-Tremblant, QC (Opus-OGC) in third at 45s back. Fortier is currently leading the Canada MTB Cup series.

Junior Men's podium  ©  Peter Kraiker

“This is a good day. My legs were great today. After the first two minutes, I had a gap of 5-10 seconds, and I managed to widen the gap throughout the race. I was not sure if they would catch me near the end, but I gave it all to finish. I’m very happy,” commented Fortier, two-time Canadian champion in the cadet category.

“Since I won last week, I came here as one of the favourite to take this race. I handled it well. There were about five guys all with the same strength. We fed off each other and challenge ourselves. The winner is different at each race. The new course didn’t offer any chance to rest. It is very physical with a lot of elevation. There were many spectacular passes, and it was very fun,” he concluded.

U23 winner Trudel signalling her 4th championship in a row  ©  Peter Kraiker

U23 Men and Women
The U23 women’s 4-lap 24km race was a nailbiter as Trudel of Breakyville, QC was facing a 37-second deficit starting the final lap behind a clearly dominant Hayley Smith (ON) Norco Factory Team. Smith had taken over the lead from Maghalie Rochette (QC) Luna Pro Team on the second lap as Rochette, who looked strong initially, began to fade as Smith established herself as the strongest rider.

Haley Smith (Norco Factory Team) held the U23 lead until the final lap  ©  Peter Kraiker

Trudel worked her way up into second place with Catherine Fleury (QC) Equipe du Québec-Cyclones d’Alma in third but Smith looked unstoppable. Still, Trudel persevered, and on the final lap the gap started to drop as a nervous Smith crashed – she endoed going over the handlebars – and Trudel was suddenly only 8s back.

The writing was on the wall as an emotional Trudel toppled Smith to claim her 4th consecutive title crossing the line in tears.

Tears of joy for Trudel  ©  Peter Kraiker

“My approach for this race was very different. This year, my early season was a little more difficult. I was calm at the starting line. I knew what I had to do, and I was ready for the event. I gave everything I could give,” said Trudel.  “I raced this race for myself. I needed a good race this year. I needed that feeling that I felt at the finish line.”

U23 Women's podium  ©  Peter Kraiker

When asked how it felt to win four consecutive titles like Geoff Kabush, Alyson Sydor, Catharine Pendrel, Emily Batty, she was full of emotion. “I did not even know about it before I was informed of it this week. I do because I like racing mountain bikes. It is a great honour to have accomplished this and a great pride for me to join those athletes. It is a little girl’s dream to try and follow in their footsteps,” she added.

The U23 Men’s race was a see-saw battle between recently crowned Eliminator champ Bouchard and defending U23 champion Mitchell Bailey (ON) Trek Canada.

Bouchard added the XCO title to his Eliminator championship  ©  Peter Kraiker

Early on the two were together with Peter Disera (ON) Norco Factory Team, Marc-Antoine Nadon (ON) Scott -3 Rox Racing, Jeremy Martin (QC) Equipe du Quebec/Rocky Mountain Bicycles Factory Team and Evan McNeely (ON) Norco Factory Team. But the others were no match for Bouchard and Bailey as the duo duked it out.

Mitch Bailey leads Léandre Bouchard through Pugsley  ©  Peter Kraiker

Bouchard made his winning move at the end of the penultimate lap gapping Bailey by 5 seconds that quickly grew on the final lap as he sensed that Bailey could not respond. Behind Disera, racing at his first U23 Nationals, established himself alone in third with the other chasers further back.

It was a fait accomplit as Bouchard claimed his second National jersey at these championships with Bailey second and Disera third. Bouchard, who will be moving to the elite category next year, won three of the four titles throughout his career in the U23 category, taking home the jersey in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

High fives for Bouchard  ©  Peter Kraiker

“I’m really happy to take the title in cross-country. It’s really a pride for me. Canadian Championships is the race of the year in Canada. This results will remain close to my heart for all my life,” said Bouchard post-race.

U23 Men's podium  ©  Peter Kraiker

“It was a big goal for me this season, and I succeeded. We have a good group of riders in the espoir category in Canada. The course was very good this year, with a new school style which includes many artificial obstacles. It requires a lot of technical skills. These are very nice facilities left for the community here to enjoy,” he concluded.

Elite Women

The build up to the Elite Women’s race was well known as Pendrel missed last year’s event suffering a broken collarbone, allowing Batty to slip on the Maple Leaf jersey for the first time – now it was time to see who was the rightful owner in 2014.

Cindy Montambault (Equipe du Quebec) got the hole shot  ©  Peter Kraiker

The two got down to business early on the new Pan Am course and by the second lap had 20 seconds on Sandra Walter (BC) Liv/giant Canada in third with Mikaela Kofman (ON) Scott-3Rox Racing, Amanda Sin (ON) Scott-3Rox Racing and Cindy Montambault (QC) Equipe du Quebec/CVM 2 VALS not far behind.

Catharine Pendrel battles with Emily Batty  ©  Peter Kraiker

Soon the gap was over a minute and then Pendrel began to turn the screw as Walter established herself in third place behind the fiery duo ahead of her. During the 3rd lap Pendrel tested Batty who held her own, but on the penultimate lap there was no stopping the former MTB World Champ as Pendrel pulled away to reclaim the title with a vanquished Batty settling for second. Walter, the Canada MTB Cup Series leader, took home the final podium spot.

Liv/giant Canada’s Sandra Walter took 3rd step of the podium  ©  Peter Kraiker

“I felt good to be out there. I had a lot of respect for Emily entering the race, and I knew she would give a tough battle. This race was a good confirmation of where I am at,” said Pendrel after the race. “I wanted the jersey. I certainly missed it around the world this year, and it’s something I hold dear to my heart, to be the number one Canadian. It’s special.”

Batty has the home crowd advantage  ©  Peter Kraiker

“There was one two and a half minute climb in the third lap and I knew  that Catherine was going to hit it from bottom to top. On the descent I countered the attacked and got by her but she immediately countered my attack. It was a true amazing dog fight out there. I think it was harder than any World Cup I’ve encountered this year. I rode well and didn’t give up,” said Batty.

Pendrel was thrilled to regain the title  ©  Peter Kraiker

Pendrel pulled away with the victory on a course she had not raced since 2006 while her main rival had ridden the course many times in the past months preparing for the event. “Emily and I are competing at the World Cup level. To race at that level, you have to be good on any course, anywhere. So for Elite riders it’s never a real advantage to race on your own course.”

Elite Women's podium  ©  Peter Kraiker

Elite Men

The final event of the 2014 Canadian Mountain Bike Cross-Country Championships was vintage Kabush as the legendary three-time Olympian bided his time until the final lap where he put down the hammer and demonstrated why he’s the strong man of Canadian mountain biking.

Adam Morka (Trek Canada) took the hole shot and early lead  ©  Peter Kraiker

Kabush surpassed iconic Alyson Sydor, who has seven titles to her credit, by winning a historic 8th title to become the most decorated mountain biker at the Canadian National championships.

The 36km, 6-lap race started off with Adam Morka (ON) WFP Coaching / Trek Bikes taking the holeshot and putting the pressure on the field. Evan Guthrie (BC) Norco Factory Team, Raphael Gagne (QC) Equipe du Quebec : Rocky Mountain Bicycles Factory Team and Cameron Jette (ON) Scott -3 Rox Racing rose to the challenge as the favourites settled in behind them.

Guthrie, Jette and Gagne led for much of the race  ©  Peter Kraiker

By lap 3 Guthrie took over the lead as Morka faded while Jette and Gagne joined the leader. Kabush and his teammate, defending champ Derek Zandstra (ON), were together with another strong contender, Max Plaxton (BC) Cannondale Factory Racing.

Max Plaxton (Canondale Factory Racing) forced to chase  ©  Peter Kraiker

Jette’s day was not working out as a jammed chain set him back while Guthrie attacked leaving Gagne on his own as Kabush and Zandstra were able to drop Plaxton and bridge to Gagne on the penultimate lap. Guthrie was a marked man as the threesome caught him as Kabush knew it was soon time to go.

Geoff Kabush (Scott-3 Rox Racing) in Boneshaker  ©  Peter Kraiker

Zandstra attacked but Kabush countered as Gagne faltered. In the end Kabush overcame his teammate to claim the Elite Men’s jersey and make history as Canada’s most successful elite cross-country athlete. Zandstra finished second while Gagné took third.

Last year’s champion Derek Zandstra (Scott-3 Rox Racing)  ©  Peter Kraiker

“It feels really satisfying. It was really an enjoyable race, and especially great to see the level of riders. I’ll be really proud to represent the maple leaf at the World Cups. It was our goal to keep the jersey in the team, and it was really great to see the whole team ride strong,” said Kabush after winning his eighth title.

Kabush wins his record-breaking 8th national title  ©  Peter Kraiker

But when asked about the feat of becoming the most decorated rider in history, Kabush remained grounded and humbled: “Numbers are numbers. It’s most gratifying to wear the jersey again. A big thanks to all our sponsors. They have provided awesome support to the team. It’s another jersey for the tickle-trunk, but most importantly I’ll be really proud to wear the Maple Leaf once more around the world.”

Elite Men's podium  ©  Peter Kraiker

“It was an exciting finish, with so many guys together in the last lap. I saved a little bit of that mental energy for the last push. I just had to put my head down. I was in the chase group all day, and we weren’t letting up. It was also see great to see Cameron [Jette] out there riding well. Bummer for him, he had a mechanical as he was riding really well. He gave me and Derek the confidence to ride our own pace. The gap stretched out, but we were keeping it in check. When we saw Cameron on the side of the trail, Derek and I knew it was now our responsibility to get up there,” added the winner.

Full results here.

With files from Peter Hein and Cycling Canada.

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