Winter blast a part of cyclocross challenge
Sport combines road and off-road bike racing, and weather is part of the appeal
It was cold, windy, muddy and slippery – exactly how cyclocross riders like it.
More than 400 of the country’s best riders descended on Nicholls Oval for the 2018 Shimano Canadian Cyclocross Nationals on Saturday. And while organizers of most sports events would be discouraged when snow and frigid temperatures fall on their outdoor course not so for cyclocross, a hybrid of mountain bike and road racing.
“Everything has met and exceeded expectations,” said race director John Hauser, as medals were handed out Saturday evening. “The weather this weekend, although cold and miserable by some standards, has been fantastic for cyclocross. It really has been top notch. This is Canadian cyclocross weather – snow, ice, mud and super entertaining.”
Hauser said spectators also braved the cold to check it out.
“I saw spectators who weren’t just racers watching along the course today. They were standing out there taking the 35- and 40kilometre-an-hour winds and minus 11 degrees temperature with windchill.”
Abbotsford, B.C.’s Michael van den Ham won his second consecutive national title in the elite men’s division with a time of
59:56 beating Geoff Kabush by 4.02 seconds.
He enjoyed the course which featured a 3.5-kilometre loop through Nicholls Oval, the Rotary Trail and Rotary Park.
“It was changing all day going from icy to muddy, when the sun came out, to icy but very challenging overall. It was a great track,” van den Ham said.
The 26-year-old won his first national title last year in Sherbrooke, Que. “In a lot of ways it’s harder to win the second one than the first one because all the expectation and pressure of repeating is there,” said van den Ham. “The first one was amazing but I think the second one is a little bit of validation.”
He plans to be back in 2019 when Peterborough hosts the event again. “They did a great job. It takes a lot of work to pull this off and we have great attendance here. The fans were awesome,” he said.
The top Peterborough Cycling Club rider in the elite men’s division was Alex Lefebvre who placed 26th.
“It was super exciting,” said Lefebvre, 27. “All I heard all day on the course was people yelling my name. It was just wild. It was like going through a tunnel of sound. I could hear people cheering for me and it was awesome. I helped design the course and run the event. It felt great to actually be a part of it.”
While it was a bit more snow and cold than usual for this time of year, Lefebvre said in Europe, where the sport is most popular, they are normal race conditions.
“it can be quite miserable,” he said. “We didn’t think it was out of the equation to have weather like this but it was a little surprising. It made for some interesting conditions. It was really tricky. You had to be so focused on some sections.”
Maghalie Rochette won the elite women’s division in a time of 45:48, a 1:34 advantage on Jenn Jackson. Rochette reclaimed her title after finishing second last year.
Peterborough native Lisa Holmgren, who now calls Orillia home, and her family of racers all had a successful day. She won the masters women’s 45-54 age group, her eldest son Gunnar won the U23 men’s division, daughter
Ava, 13, was second in the U17 girls’ division, husband Rob was second in the men’s masters 45-54 age group and daughter Isabella was fourth in U17 girls.
“It was awesome to have lots of family and friends out cheering,” said Lisa Holmgren, whose mother, Donna McGilvray, was there to snap her picture with the gold medal. “The best thing was to see my kids, especially my son, take the jersey.
“For my race it was muddy but there was still a lot of grip,” said Lisa Holmgren. “A lot of the sections were rideable but as the day went on you could see a lot of the riders having some trouble with the muddy sections but it was really good. I really enjoyed it. It was fast. It’s a little colder than what we’re used to but once you’re warmed up and racing you didn’t really notice it too much.”
The course was also home to an International Cycling Union (UCI) points race on Sunday.
Full results can be found at www.racetiming.ca.
Cyclist Mark Lancia runs uphill in men's elite race during 2018 Shimano Canadian Cyclocross Championships on Saturday at Nicholls Oval.