Gun­nar Holm­gren

Three cy­cling dis­ci­plines keep the ju­nior rider pedalling

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - Q & A - By Dean Camp­bell

The past two years have seen 17-year-old Gun­nar Holm­gren trav­el­ling Canada and the world, rac­ing in three cy­cling dis­ci­plines. This past July, he was third in the na­tional ju­nior men’s cross coun­try cham­pi­onship race. In Novem­ber, he be­came the ju­nior men’s na­tional cy­clocross cham­pion. In De­cem­ber, he went to Europe – his sec­ond trip to the con­ti­nent – to race in some of the world’s top cy­clocross events, in which he had one top-10 fin­ish and mul­ti­ple top-20s. Com­ing from an ath­letic fam­ily steeped in cy­cling (his fa­ther, mother, younger brother and two younger sis­ters all race), Holm­gren has strong sup­port as he chases his am­bi­tions.

How do you feel about your ju­nior cy­clocross world cham­pi­onship per­for­mance? I had a good start. I was called up for the sec­ond row which was help­ful. Right off the bat, there was a big crash off the front, and about six or seven rid­ers got through and got a gap im­me­di­ately. I got through right af­ter. I don’t know how I didn’t go down; it was very icy. I fell back a bit in the race and just fo­cused on try­ing to be smooth. It was hard to put the power down in a lot of places, so I tried to con­cen­trate on that, but I fin­ished up 22nd. Con­sid­er­ing the con­di­tions, I think that was pretty good.

How did the ex­pe­ri­ence you have rid­ing in sand and mud help you on the icy sur­face? It’s like rid­ing on mud, but 10 times more slip­pery. You can’t be pedalling much in the cor­ners, and have to be con­scious of where you are brak­ing. You can’t make any mis­takes on the ice. As soon as you make a mis­take, you’re go­ing down.

What have you learned from each of your cy­cling dis­ci­plines? I race both road and moun­tain as well as cy­clocross right now. Road rac­ing is great for build­ing your en­gine, rid­ing in a pack, and a bit of bike han­dling and cor­ner­ing skills. I raced a few road races and crits this past sum­mer, which were great. Moun­tain bik­ing is my main goal this year. It’s great for short power and ob­vi­ously tech­ni­cal skills. The two kind of come to­gether in ’cross. You need to be able to ride in a group, sim­i­lar to road rac­ing, but you also need the power and tech­ni­cal skills from moun­tain bik­ing.

“You can’t make any mis­takes on the ice.”

The past year and a half, you’ve trav­elled a lot for com­pe­ti­tions. How dif­fer­ent is your life now that you are trav­el­ling the world for races, espe­cially for ’cross? The past year and a half has been pretty eye-open­ing, rac­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally and trav­el­ling. Cy­clocross Canada has given us a ton of sup­port this past sea­son – me­chan­ics, a soigneur – ev­ery­thing was in place. I know most of the ath­letes on the project, which helps make it feel more like home.

Is there any­one in par­tic­u­lar who you like to work with at a race? I like to work with the elites dur­ing the pre-ride. They help by telling us what they think of the course. They can show us lines and talk about tire pres­sures and what else you need to know. Mike van den Ham has helped me out a lot this year.

What are your plans for 2017? I will be do­ing the whole Canada Cup se­ries and, of course, na­tion­als in Can­more, and then I hope worlds in Cairns, Aus­tralia. Those are my big goals.


Holm­gren races the 2016 Trek Store Canada Cup in On­tario

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