Canada MTB Cup Report
It was a very early start to the 2017 Canadian off-road racing season at Bear Mountain Resort in Victoria, B.C. in March, but most of the country’s top riders, along with several strong Americans, toed the line despite the wintry conditions, which included a fresh dusting of snow for the morning races.
Many of Canada’s National team riders were in town for the squad’s two-week training camp, which made for a world-class field, headlined on the women’s side by Olympic bronze medalist Catharine Pendrel (BC, Clif Pro Team) and Emily Batty (ON, Trek Factory Racing), who finished fourth at the Rio Olympics. U.S. champion
Erin Huck (USA, Cannondale-3 Rox Racing) was also on hand with her Canadian Cannondale-3 Rox Racing crew, including Elite men’s Olympian Raphael Gagné (QC, Cannondale-3 Rox Racing) and Canadian champion Derek Zandstra (ON, Cannondale-3 Rox Racing). Rio Olympian Léandre Bouchard (QC, BH Suntour) competed as well, but was hampered by a hand injury sustained in a crash during training.
In the Elite women’s race, it wasn’t any of these heavy favourites who led the charge off the start, but instead Quebec speedster Cindy Montambault (QC, Trek GPL). Montambault surged out front in the first singletrack ahead of Huck, who is known more for her climbing prowess than her technical savvy. With this move, the Quebecker moved out of sight on the long section of narrow trail. Pendrel, who was second in line behind Huck, capitalized on a mistake by the American and also squeezed past, while the rest of the field remained in single file. Pendrel caught up to Montambault to assume the lead. Finally, Batty got around Huck and started her chase in earnest, but the damage had been done. Batty was never able to overcome the 40-second gap on Pendrel, but she did power to second place, while Huck hung onto third by the end of the four-lap contest. The top U23 rider on the day was Soren Meeuwisse (ON, Trek Canada), who finished 11th overall.
The five-lap Elite men’s race also saw one rider dominate, with Gagné leading the race from start to finish to take the victory by more than three minutes ahead of second-place Geoff Kabush (BC, Scott-Maxxis), followed by Zandstra in third and Keegan Swenson (USA, Cannondale-3 Rox Racing) in fourth. Marc-André Fortier (QC, Team Pivot Cycles-OTE) was the top U23 rider, finishing a stellar fifth. It was a bittersweet day for Evan Guthrie (BC), who showed promising form and was well on his way to second place before a mechanical problem took him out of the running and he eventually limped into sixth place.
The event attracted top juniors, as it counted as an early round of the prestigious UCI Junior series. The three-lap junior women’s race was won by American Gwendalyn Gibson (USA, USA National Team), who finished just ahead of Canadian speedster Sidney McGill (AB, Pedalhead Race Room) in second. Ontario’s Dana Gilligan (ON, Team Ontario/Progressive Sport) was third in what was some tight racing.
Canadian top gun Gunnar Holmgren (ON, Team Ontario) rocketed to victory only seven seconds ahead of Chilean Martin Vidaurre (CHI, Infinito), while Brody Sanderson (ON, Team Ontario) earned the third podium spot in the junior men’s race.
The Canada Cup series now takes a long break before XCO #2 and DH #1 in Mont-Tremblant, Que. on May 20-21.
Catherine Pendrel took the opening round at Bear Mountain.
Raphael Gagne delivered the win for his new team in the Elite men’s race.