2017 MTB XCO Nationals
13 Champions Crowned
Fans were treated to superb racing on July 22-23 at the 2017 Canadian MTB XCO Championships p/b Lexus Canada at Alberta’s Canmore Nordic Centre. The Elite races featured nail-biting sprint finishes that highlighted the 13 titles awarded.
Emily Batty (ON, Trek Factory XC) defended her women’s title against perennial rival Catharine Pendrel (BC, Clif Pro Team) in a neck-and-neck race to the finish. Then U23 rider Peter Disera
(ON, Norco Factory) claimed his first Elite men’s title in a riveting race against former champion Raphael Gagné (QC, Cannondale-3 RUo2x3),anwdhEol it ce rM aesnh’ se ad nd nW ea or mt eh ne’ se ch nadm.p ions
events, the spectacular Canmore venue features the stunning Kananaskis Country mountains as a backdrop leading into Banff National Park. The upgraded circuit was shortened from 6.8km to 4km, reflecting the change to shorter courses at the World Cup and World Championship level.
The six-lap Elite women’s race saw Pendrel drilling it from the start with Batty on her wheel, while Haley Smith (Norco Factory) led as one of three chasers that included Maghalie Rochette (QC, Clif Pro Team) and Sandra Walter (BC, Liv Cycling Canada).
The two veteran World Cup racers were in a league of their own, quickly gaining 30 seconds on the chasers, keeping the pace high until the end with Pendrel at the front. Behind them, Smith escaped from her rivals to ride most of the race alone.
Fans were stoked to see another Pendrel-Batty showdown, but this time Batty would not get dropped near the end. Instead, she attacked the former world champion with half a lap remaining to solidly defend her title, as Pendrel could not respond.
“It was not an easy race by any means,” agreed Batty. “I rode my hardtail and I was questioning a little bit whether that was the right choice because it is such a technical, bumpy course, but it was rocketing up the climbs. Catharine didn’t make it easy; the two of us set a really high pace right from the start. I found through the course of the race that I was feeling really good. I knew I was going to put an effort in on one of the climbs at some point, and I chose a spot where I felt strong and punched it.”
The Elite men’s start line was stacked with plenty of contenders, including former champions and upstarts such as Disera, who was granted permission to race in the Elite category instead of the U23 men. Defending champion Derek Zandstra (ON, Cannondale-3 Rox) was an unlikely repeat as he and his wife had recently celebrated the birth of their first child.
Disera, who earned his first U23 World Cup podium this season, attacked on the opening climb, with only Léandre Bouchard able to respond. Raphael Gagné and Evan McNeely (ON, Forward Racing-Norco) soon bridged with veteran Geoff Kabush (BC, Scott-Maxxis), Evan Guthrie (BC, Race Face/Pivot-OTE/Kal
Tire) and Andrew L’Esperance (NS, Forward Racing-Norco) taking up the chase.
Disera and Gagné established a pace the others could not match as the two battled until the end before Gagné faltered on one of the final descents and suffered a hard crash. Disera powered ahead to solo in and claim his first Elite men’s National title.
“My decision to race up stemmed from UCI points,” explained Disera. “A top-five [in Elite] would earn more points then winning the Under-23 title. We decided as a team that I could mix it up with the Elites. I was a bit of a wild card because none of them had really raced me, so I just took the bull by the horns and gave ‘er from the go.
“I felt really good, and Dre [Bouchard] went with me. Coming into the second lap, Raph [Gagné] came out of nowhere, so there were three of us. Going into the last three laps, I started throwing down attacks, and Dre just fell off the back. I felt good and wanted to dictate the pace so I stayed at the front. I knew Raph was going to attack and I was able to follow and then get to the front before the descent. Unfortunately, he had a little mishap, but I was ready for a sprint.”
Jennifer Jackson (AWI Racing) of Oro-Medonte, Ont. won the women’s Under-23 jersey, while Sean Fincham (Forward RacingNorco) of Squamish, B.C. claimed the Under-23 men’s crown again. Jackson is a notable cross-country skier and landed her first title with stellar riding, while Fincham defended his jersey as the strongest U23 rider in the men’s field.
Roxanne Vermette (Équipe du Québec) of St-Ferrol-les-Neiges, Que. won the junior women’s title, with Charles-Antoine St-Onge (Équipe du Québec) of St-Denis-de-Brompton, Que. taking home the junior men’s Maple Leaf jersey.
In the Team Relay on Day Two, Norco Factory Team won the title decisively, finishing almost two minutes ahead of Team Quebec, with Pivot Cycle-OTE finishing third. Norco had a team stacked with Championship-medal winners and was the favourite. Under-23 bronze medalist Quinton Disera went first, followed by junior silver medalist Gunnar Holmgren, then Elite women’s bronze medalist Smith, and finally Elite men’s champion Peter Disera. The team took the lead in the opening lap and was never challenged.
Amy Woodward-Kennedy (AB, Cyclemeisters/Bow Cycle) won the Masters 30-39 women’s title, while Shawna Donaldson (AB, Synergy Racing) won the Masters 40+ women’s jersey. In the Masters 30-39 men’s race, it was Dylan Bailey (BC) claiming the title, with Ryan Pannell (BC, Fresh Air Concept/Red Devils) winning the Masters 40-49 men’s competition and Don Larsen (BC, Spoke Bike and Ski) taking the Masters 50+ men’s title.
men’s and women’s champions (l-r): Sean Fincham, Emily Batty, Disera and Jennifer Jackson
(l-r): Brody Sanderson, Roxane Vermette, Julianne Sarrazin and Charles-Antoine St-Onge