Three cycling disciplines keep the junior rider pedalling
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