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MTB Nationals 2005 – Preview

June 8, 2005 (Mont Ste-Anne, Que.) – This Sunday is the most important Canadian event of the year for cross-country racers — Nationals 2005. Riders are slowly rolling into the village surrounding the Mont Ste-Anne ski area and getting their legs in gear on the course, which has several revisions from 2004.

The course, which is around five kilometres in length, starts on the same steep gravel climb as in the past, but heads into the woods earlier, and cuts off the top 100 metres. The route is typical Mont Ste-Anne style: twisty, tight, rooty and rocky with no sustained climbing. Instead, racers face several quad-killing kicker climbs. It will be extrememly important to stay focused on this course, as there are so many slippery rocks and roots that, when hit the wrong way, will buck riders off the line.

“I have to practice my technical,” commented Kiara Bisaro (BC, Gears Racing), who is on form after an eighth-place finish at last weekend’s World Cup in Willingen, Germany. The Courtenay, B.C. native, known for her gutsy descending skills, mentioned she has been focusing much more on climbing lately.

Alison Sydor (BC, Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) is also in town and prepared to have a strong ride on Sunday after placing 10th in Willingen. It wasn’t a good race, she said of last week’s World Cup, so she’ll be wanting to get things back on track this weekend.

Catharine Pendrel (BC, The Bike Barn) could be seen pre-riding the course with a big grin on her face, which may still be left over from last weekend’s Canada Cup victory.

The loop is currently fully rideable, but last year’s National Championships in Mont Ste-Anne is still fresh in the minds of riders. In 2004, constant rainshowers in the days leading up to the race and thundershowers on race day turned the course to a mucky, unrideable mess. There have been several – often torrential – showers over the past four days. The weather forecast is constantly changing. This morning it called for showers every day this week, but this evening, things have gotten much brighter outside and on the Environment Canada web site. Now the prediction for Saturday is a 60% chance of precipitation.

Weather-permitting, the Pro/Elite Men will be completing laps in around 20 minutes, in their a six-lap race. Ricky Federau (BC, Gears Racing) will try to defend his National Champion title in the men’s race, which starts at 2 p.m. Sunday. Roland Green (BC, Kona), Geoff Kabush (BC, Maxxis) and Peter Wedge (NB, Kona) will be among those challenging Federau.

In the Espoir Men’s category, Marty Lazarski (ON, Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) will go for the National Champion jersey for a second year in a row. Max Plaxton (BC, Maxxis-MSC), Andrew Watson (ON, Gears Racing) and Derek Zandstra (ON, 3 Rox Racing) will be among the U23’s with their eyes on Lazarski’s title.

The Pro/Elite and Espoir Women start at 11:00 a.m. Sunday. In the Pro/Elite Women’s category, Marie-Hélène Prémont (QC, Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) will be hard to dethrone as she comes off of a steller early season that includes a World Cup win. Her teammate, Sydor, however, should never be overlooked and neither should Bisaro.

Julie Sanders (QC, Équipe Xprezo) and Mical Dyck (AB, Terrascape Racing), who placed first and third in last year’s Espoir Women’s National Championships, have both moved up to the Senior age category, which leaves room for some of the younger riders to make their marks.

The Junior Men’s and Women’s races start at 9 a.m. Sunday. Raphael Gagne (QC, La Vie Sportive) will go for the red and white maple leaf jersey for his last year as a junior, but not if Georges Edouard Duquette (QC, Sportif Bromont), Ian MacAvity (NB, Darling’s Island), Alexandre Fortier (QC, Independent) and the rest of the field can do something about it.

Emily Batty (ON, Gears Racing) will try to continue her domination of the Junior Women’s category. She missed the National Champion title last year because of bad luck during a muddy, mechanical-filled race, so she will do anything she can to get that jersey. Last year’s winner, Olivia Gagne (QC, La Vie Sportive) has moved up to the Senior ranks and Batty’s main challenger this season has been Marie-Claude Suprenant (QC, Sportif Bromont).

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