July 21, 2017 (Canmore, AB) – For the first time since 2011, the Canadian XCO Championships return to Canmore, Alberta, on July 22-23. The Canmore venue, site of the 1988 Olympic cross-country skiing events, remains as spectacular as ever, with a backdrop of the Kananaskis Country Mountains leading into the Banff National Park.
Emily Batty © Michal Cerveny
While the area has been spared the terrible forest fires ravaging the B.C. interior, riders can expect warm, dry conditions. The circuit has been revised substantially from when the Championships were held in 2010 and 2011, reflecting the change to shorter courses at the World Cup and world championship level. The previous course measured 6.8 kilometres, while current circuit is four kilometres in length, looping back into the main finish bowl area multiple times.
Catharine Pendrel © Michal Cerveny
Race Director Ron Sadesky says, “Canmore is excited to host the 2017 Mountain Bike National Championships. This year’s course is perhaps one of the best ever National’s courses, featuring a clover leaf design full of technical features and grueling climbs. It is a 4 kilometre course that utilizes the natural landscape and rugged beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.”
Sandra Walter © Scott Robarts
“A lot of thought and creativity went into the layout and design of the course and we are thrilled with the outcome. The buzz around the Canmore Mountain Bike community has been all very exciting and positive. The athletes we have talked to are also thrilled with the natural features and the complexity of the course design. The fact that the course offers incredible and numerous spectator options makes for an intense viewing spectacle.”
Catherine Fleury © Andrew Rogers
The Cross-country championships for men and women will take place on Saturday, July 22nd, for categories ranging from Cadet (Under-17) through Junior (Under-19), Under-23, Elite and Masters. On Sunday, July 23rd, the Team Relay event will conclude the Championships.
Haley Smith © Michal Cerveny
In the Elite women’s race, expect to see a battle between Olympians Emily Batty (Trek Factory) and Catharine Pendrel (Clif Pro Team). Pendrel won the title here in both 2010 and 2011 while Batty, a first year Elite in 2011, finished third that year. However, Batty is now the defending champion and has had a stronger season thus far on the World Cup circuit.
Cindy Montambault (Équipe du Québec) © Peter Kraiker
Other podium possibles are Sandra Walter (Liv Giant), Catherine Fleury (Specialized Canada), Haley Smith (Norco Factory) and Cindy Montambault (Equipe du Quebec).
Derek Zandstra © Michal Cerveny
The men’s race has a deep field of contenders, including defending champion Derek Zandstra (Cannondale-3Rox) and his team mate Raphael Gagne, top Canadian World Cup ranked Leandre Bouchard (BH SR Suntour KMC), Evan Guthrie (Team Solo Evan), and the Forward Racing duo of Andrew L’Esperance and Evan McNeely.
Raphael Gagne © Christopher Keiser
Leandre Bouchard © Michal Cerveny
The unknown factor is Geoff Kabush (Scott-Maxxis). Kabush retired from World Cup competition at the end of last season, but is still a strong contender, coming off a win last week at the B.C. Bike Race stage race. Kabush won here in 2010 and was second in 2011.
Geoff Kabush © Christopher Keiser
Evan Guthrie © Scott Robarts
L’Esperance celebrates © Peter Kraiker
“We are very excited to return to Canmore for the 2017 Canadian XCO Championships,” says Josh Peacock, Competitions Coordinator at Cycling Canada. “Organizers have been hard at work over the past 12-plus months, creating brand new trails and features that will take advantage of the rugged terrain that the Canmore Nordic Centre is known for. Riders should expect a race loop full of punchy climbs and technical descents mixed with plenty of double track for optimal passing opportunities.”
Evan McNeely © Christopher Keiser