Canadian Cyclocross Champions Crowned
NEW CHAMPIONS CROWNED
unny conditions greeted athletes for the 2017 Canadian Cyclocross Championships in Sherbrooke, Que., where 11 titles were awarded, headlined by Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (QC, SAS Macogep Acquisio) and Michael van den Ham (AB, Garneau-Easton p/b Transitions LifeCare), who each won their first Elite women’s and Elite men’s National titles.
In the Elite women’s five-lap race, Ferrier-Bruneau, from France and now a Canadian citizen, battled with defending champion Maghalie Rochette (QC, Clif Pro Team), as the two favourites quickly established a gap on the chasing field following the first lap.
It was Rochette who attacked first, gaining 10 seconds on her rival, but Ferrier-Bruneau never gave up, eventually closing on Rochette in the latter stages of the race. She took the lead with two laps to go and eventually claimed her first Canadian Championship jersey after having been French road-race champion twice in her career.
“I was losing a bit to Rochette on every technical section right from the start. But I was feeling good after three laps and was confident I could catch her,” Ferrier-Bruneau said. “After catching her, I attacked hard and spent the last two laps in front. It was a very nice race.” Ex-National cyclocross champion Mical Dyck (BC, Naked Factory Racing) completed the podium after spending most of the race in third.
For Van den Ham, his victory in the Elite men’s seven-lap competition was a long-awaited journey. The veteran cyclocross’er fought hard at both the 2015 and 2016 Cyclocross Nationals, but now was finally his time.
He quickly recovered after a challenging, fast start initiated by Mark McConnell (AB, Hot Sauce Cycling) and made his way to the front, where he started to apply pressure in the lead group of five that included Geoff Kabush (BC, Scott Sports-Maxxis), Léandre Bouchard (QC, BH SR Suntour KMC) and Raphael Gagné (QC, Cannondale-3Rox Racing).
Bouchard suffered a puncture, and then Van den Ham and McConnell charged to the front, forcing Kabush and Gagné to chase, as the duo soon made it a two-horse race. But Van den Ham was on a mission, and dropped McConnell on the fourth lap and would not be caught.
“McConnell was pushing the pace and created a gap with Gagné and Kabush,” explained Van den Ham. “I sort of had a secret weapon, which was riding the run-up. I saw that McConnell was starting to hurt a little bit and making some mistakes, so I figured that was the best time to apply pressure.
“On lap three, I rode the run-up and opened a five-second gap and then tried to ride as smooth and fast as possible. I knew I could never count Kabush out, and he was coming up strong in the end. But on the last lap, I was pretty confident I could win it.”
Kabush eventually caught McConnell and dropped him to take over second, as both riders finished silver and bronze respectively in the exciting race, with Gagné fourth.
Ontario’s Ruby West has been on fire and headed into the fourlap U23 women’s race as one of the top favourites. With defending champion Sidney McGill (Focus CX Canada) ill, the door was open, and West proved she was up to the challenge, eventually dominating the event.
She overcame a rough start to catch local Sherbrooke star Magdeleine Vallières after the first lap and then never looked back. “Some girls started pretty fast, and it took me some time to catch up,” said West. “When I finally caught Vallières, I was able to open up a bit of a gap. It worked and I kept pushing until the end.”
In the U23 men’s six-lap race, Raphael Auclair (QC, Pivot CyclesOTE) powered through with a strong start and an early lead from the get-go. The only one who survived Auclair’s blistering pace was Brody Sanderson (ON, Centurion Nextwave), who eventually caught the Pivot Cycles-OTE rider on the second lap.
“I knew Sanderson would come back, since he’s been riding pretty strong,” explained Auclair. “On the second lap, I was trying to dial in my lines and keep calm. Sanderson got back on my wheel, so I started to play a tactical game.
“I watched how he took his lines and figured out where the best place was to attack him. On the last lap, I knew that if it came to a sprint he would be hard to beat. So I started putting pressure on. I was fast on the run-up on the stairs so I just went as fast as I could, got a small gap and it held on until the finish.”
In the Junior men’s five-lap, Tyler Clark (ON, KMS Cycling-Killington Mountain) was unstoppable, taking an early lead and forcing everyone to chase. In the end, Colton Woods (ON, Trek
Store CC) followed Clark in second, with William Côté (QC, Dalbix Sherbrooke) landing third on the final podium.
In the Masters races that kicked off the Championships, Caitlin Callaghan (AB, Hardcore Bikes) took the Women’s 30-39 title, while Alana Heise (AB, Terrascape Racing) was the Women’s 40+ winner. Terry Tomlin (NS, Oakley Atlantic Racing) took the Men’s 50-59 victory, with Michel Hamel (QC, Club Cycliste de Sherbrooke) earning the Men’s 60+ jersey. Aroussen Laflamme (QC, TrekGPL) won a close race in the Men’s 40-49 category over Frédéric Francoeur (QC, Dalbix Sherbrooke) in second and Frederic Auger (QC, Laflammerouge) in third. In the Men’s 30-39 race, Thierry Laliberte (QC, YPC Bolle) bested Aaron Schooler (AB, Focus CX Canada) by three seconds.
Elite men’s fast start (l-r) Raphael Gagne, Mark McConnell
(holeshot) and Geoff Kabush
New Elite women’s champ Christel Ferrier-Bruneau
Michael van den Ham’s victory in the Elite men’s race was a
Ruby West claimed the
U23 women’s title.
Raphael Auclair took home the U23 men’s title.