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Team Canada CX Worlds 2017 Preview Interviews – U23 and Elite Men

by Ben Andrew

January 27, 2017 – The U23/Elite Men’s CX Worlds races on Sunday, Jan. 29, will close out the upcoming championship weekend in Bieles, Luxemburg. Trevor O’Donnell is Canada’s sole entrant in the U23 Men’s event, while three Canucks will line up in the Elite Men’s race inlcuding Michael van den Ham, Mark McConnell, and reigning cyclo-cross national champ, Jeremy Martin. Pedal caught up with the guys ahead of the big day…

Sprint victory for O'Donnell [P] Peter Kraiker
Trevor O’Donnell – U23 Men

What are your personal ambitions heading into the 2017 World Championships?
Trevor O’Donnell: Heading into my second Worlds I think the main thing is to put together a smooth ride and a good performance. My main goal isn’t so much on what place I finish, but to have the best ride I can put together and leave it all out on the course with nothing left in the tank.

Have you heard much about the course in Bieles heading into the Championships?
TO: I have heard a few things and have watched some sneak peek videos of the course. From what I’ve seen and what the weather has in store for the week leading up, I think the course will be filled with mud. Also looks like the profile will be a lot of up and down technical sections much like the course in Zolder last year.

Trevor O'Donnell [P] Cycling Canada CX
What type of course best suits your skills as a racer?
TO: The best course that suits my skills are a dry and fast course. Other than that, a course that allows me to keep a steady effort the whole time. Not a bunch of on/off stuff. So hopefully the course in Bieles has mostly sections that suit my skills.

What has been your best Cyclocross experience to date?
TO: I think the best cyclocross experience to date was this past weekend in Hoogerheide. The day went very well, I scored my second top-40 at a European World Cup. I also felt good on the bike and put together an awesome performance for myself.

Frites with Mayo or a Belgian Waffle?
TO: I’d have to say a Belgian Waffle. Can’t go wrong with some local treats post race.

Michael van den Ham (Garneau - Easton Cycling) looking for traction in the mud on his way to victory in the Open Men's field on Day 2 of racing in Fulton Park. [P] Andrew Davidson
Michael van den Ham – Elite Men

What are your personal ambitions heading into the 2017 World Championships?
Michael van den Ham: It’s always difficult to put number on a race like this and even more-so because I haven’t spent a lot of time in Europe this sure. Sure, it seems similar to a World Cup field, but there’s only half the amount of Belgian riders and probably another dozen riders that have raced out of their own country all season. With that in mind, I’m trying not to get caught up in saying Oh, I want a top-30 and focusing in on the process. Rather, my goal is to come to the start line feeling more prepared than I ever have before for event of this calibre, racing intelligently, and finish the race knowing that I did what I was capable of.

That said, I believe that on my best day and on a course that suits me, getting a top-30 or even a top-25 is within my abilities, but there are far too many variable to weigh the success or failure of my race on just those numbers.

Have you heard much about the course in Bieles heading into the Championships?
MVD: Not a whole lot more than anyone else. Of course, I’ve seen the pictures they’ve posted and Scott Kelly, the Cyclocross Project Manager, has been to the venue, but it’s really tough to say what the course will actually end up looking like. From what I can tell it will be mostly flat with some dips in and out of what looks to be some sort of gravel pit to add some elevation change. It’s impossible right now to know what the soil will do if there is a lot of moisture, so I can’t really comment on whether or not it will be a heavy course. The one nice thing about that is that we are all going in blind. Belgian, Dutch, or Canadian, no one has a really good idea of what to expect. I think that levels the playing field a little more. The Belgian and Dutch riders have ridden so many of the courses over here since they were juniors and that actually provides them with a pretty big advantage. Everything from knowing what tire pressure to run to what side of the grid to start on to how to pace yourself is easier if you raced on the same course a dozen times!

Michael Van den Ham [P] Chris McIntosh
What type of course best suits your skills as a racer?
MVD: I suppose there are two answers to that question. I prefer to race the courses where the scale of everything is massive – courses like Namur, Jingle Cross, Zolder – but realistically my best results have flatter fast courses where small groups of racers form. I’m also good in snow and wouldn’t be disappointed if Hoogerheide or Bieles was a little frozen for our races!

What has been your best Cyclocross experience to date?
MVD: That’s a pretty easy one. Racing to a 17th place at the Las Vegas World Cup was huge for me. After racing in Wisconsin the weekend prior, I knew that my fitness was there but the Vegas course has always been one that I’ve struggled on. To counteract that, my coach and I went in with a plan – basically to start conservatively and race my own pace. To see if pay off in such a big way on what was typically my worst course really set me up with a whole new level of confidence for the rest of the season.

Frites with Mayo or a Belgian Waffle?
MVD: The Belgian Waffle. But not the fluffy Brussels Waffle, I prefer the more dense and sweet Liege Waffle. If someone wants to bring me one of those at the finish line of worlds, I’d be the happiest person out there.

Mark McConnell [P] Cor Vos
Mark McConnell

What are your personal ambitions heading into the 2017 World Championships?
Mark McConnell : This will be my third Worlds experience: the first year in Tabor I broke my nose mid race and finished a respectable 42nd, the second year in Zolder I threw my back out and finished in anonymity. This year I’ve been setting outcome goals aside, and having greater success focusing on process goals and racing as presently as possible, not thinking about anything but the next corner in front of me. It’s okay to dream about a top 30 when the lights go out, but when I’m in the race on Sunday, I just want to ride with a clean set of wheels and cross the line exhausted. The rest will work itself out, it always does. And hopefully no more broken bones will come with this perspective either.

Have you heard much about the course in Bieles heading into the Championships?
MM: I understand it’s going to be slick and technical, bring it on. If growing up in Canada taught me any niche skills on a bike, riding in the snow is one of them.

Mark McConnell [P] Pasquale Stalteri
What type of course best suits your skills as a racer?
MM: I don’t give much credence towards one course being more advantageous or harder than another. I believe it’s the racers around us that make it more challenging, faster and more cut-throat – in Europe especially. If anything, racing abroad teaches you how to bark and bite back if forced to, especially at Worlds, where every spot counts like you’re fighting for the win yourself, regardless of placement.

What has been your best Cyclocross experience to date?
MM: It’s difficult to lift up one day over another. This whole season has honestly been the most incredible experience: it’s the first year after many struggling ones where I’ve been able to train and race full time like many of the pros I am competing against thanks to sponsors and Hot Sauce Cycling supporters around the world. It’s a dream not many get to experience, and even if it’s for only one year, I’m incredibly thankful because of it.

Frites with Mayo or a Belgian Waffle?
MM: I’ve been enjoying the odd frites & mayo in Belgium this season, usually after races, but so far no waffles! Waffles with nutella are in my near future, I’m sure – a mark to the end of a great season.

Jeremy Martin [P] Pasquale Stalteri
Jeremy Martin -Elite Men

What are your personal ambitions heading into the 2017 World Championships?
Jeremy Martin: Personally, I’m hoping to ride a clean race, where I will be able to showcase my fitness and preparation. Last year, in Zolder, at my first Worlds in the Elite field, I finish a decent 41st I believe. I’m hoping to improve and move in the top 30 this year, but more importantly to have a great race where I can show my best.

Have you heard much about the course in Bieles heading into the Championships?
JM: We’ve seen videos and pictures of the course the last couple of weeks. It looks like it’ll be 50-50 technical and physical. Lots of short punchy climbs, some gnarly off cambers (especially if muddy) and some good flat power section. If it gets muddy (I hope), the best guy will definitely win!

Jeremy Martin [P] Pasquale Stalteri
What type of course best suits your skills as a racer?
JM: Courses requiring a good mix of technical and physical abilities usually suit me best. Slow, deep mud kind of races are the ones that I enjoy the most, but I have learned to race and enjoy different kind of courses as well. Coming from MTB, I love courses with elevation like Jingle Cross or Cincy3.

What has been your best Cyclocross experience to date?
JM: I have two in mind. First of all, winning my first Elite men’s national champion title in Sherbrooke was a pretty insane experience. Being able to win this race in front of friends and family was something I will remember for a long time! The second one would be the World Championship in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium last year. The scale of the race was crazy and the atmosphere for Sven Nys’ retirement race was incredible. Just picture 80,000 fans lining a 3km track!

Frites with Mayo or a Belgian Waffle?
JM: Can I have both once I cross the finish line in Bieles, please?





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