September 07, 2017 (Cairns, Australia) – Holden Jones of Squamish, BC, brought home a brilliant bronze in the Junior Men’s XCO competition for Canada’s first medal of the 2017 Mountain Bike Championships on Thursday in Cairns, Australia. Roxane Vermette of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Quebec, was the top Canadian in the Junior women’s race, finishing 16th.
Junior Men’s XCO podium (l-r) Roth 2nd, Wright 1st, Jones 3rd © Michal Cerveny
The 23.1km men’s five-lap race saw Australia’s Cameron Wright ride away from the rest of the field on the start loop to give the host nation their first title. Behind, the chase quickly came down to two riders – Holden Jones and Joel Roth of Switzerland, a member of the Team Relay world champion squad.
Junior Men’s XCO start © Michal Cerveny
The pair had dropped the rest of the chasers by the end of the first lap and rode together locked in a battle for silver. Jones attacked Roth on the third lap but couldn’t shake his Swiss rival who regained the lead as the lap unfolded.
Joel Roth (l) and Holden Jones © Michal Cerveny
The two remained together until the final half lap, when Roth attacked to open a nine-second gap and win the silver medal with Jones claiming the bronze.
Holden Jones en route to bronze © Michal Cerveny
Cameron Wright wins © Michal Cerveny
“I think after riding the Relay yesterday and looking at the lap times, that I was there with the faster Juniors,” said Jones. “That really gave me some confidence. That removed from stress from under me and I just did what I knew I could do, and it all worked out. It caught everyone off guard when [Wright] went so quick.
Holden Jones © Michal Cerveny
“The rest of the race was us just trying to hunt him down, but he was on fire today. It’s pretty unbelievable, this is my best race of the year, maybe of my life. I couldn’t be more proud to show the world that Canada is on the map.”
Gunnar Holmgren © Michal Cerveny
In other Canadian results, Tyler Clark of King City, Ontario, was 27th and Gunnar Holmgren of Orillia, Ontario, 29th. National champion Brody Sanderson (Oro Medonte, Ontario) pulled out after a crash.
Brody Sanderson © Michal Cerveny
In the 18.8km Junior women’s race, Canadian champion Vermette rode consistently in the mid-teens throughout the 4-lap race, finishing at 5:32 behind winner Laura Stigger of Austria who was one of the favourites, having won the Austrian and European titles along with other UCI-level Junior races.
Roxanne Vermette © Michal Cerveny
Stigger battled with Loana Lecomte of France until the third lap when she gapped her rival and held her lead to the finish line with Lecomte settling for the silver while Nadia Grod of Switzerland took the bronze medal at 1:41 back.
Laura Stigger © Michal Cerveny
Laura Stigger wins © Michal Cerveny
“It’s my first year as a Junior and my first world championships, so I’m very proud of what I did today,” said Vermette. “I had no idea what I could do, so my plan was to just go hard on the hill and smooth on the technical section. But I didn’t have a lot of energy in the last lap, so I just did my best. My season has been awesome, so when I came to Australia it has been a dream already and I just tried to do my best.”
Dana Gilligan © Michal Cerveny
In other Canadian results, Dana Gilligan of Oro Medonte, Ontario, was 20th and Leya Masson of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Quebec, was 23rd. Sidney McGill of Edmonton, Alberta, was unable to start after injuring her wrist in training.
“Holden’s ride was exceptional. He was in the top 3 from the very beginning and was able to fight until the end. He’s only a first year junior, so it will be exciting to see how he develops,” commented Dan Proulx, Mountain Bike Head Coach at Cycling Canada.
“The junior women and men really gave everything in their races. They fought for position and did their absolute best. We can’t ask for more effort. Tough riders,” he added.
Junior Men’s XCO results here.
Junior Women’s XCO results here.
With files from Cycling Canada.