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MTB Championships 2007

Elite Women's XC podium (l-r): Catherine Pendrel (BC) Norco Factory Team 2nd, Marie-Hélène Prémont (QC) Rocky Mountain/Haywood 1st, Kiara Bisaro (BC) Opus Bikes 3rd.

Tim Hortons MTB Championships 2007 – Elite/U23 and Junior XC Report
by Sandra Walter from Pedal Magazin

July 23, 2007 (Mt. Washington, B.C.) – Marie-Hélène Prémont (QC) Rocky Mountain-Haywood and Geoff Kabush (BC) Maxxis proved yet again that they are the best in Canada, no matter what the conditions. Last year, Prémont and Kabush won the Elite Women’s and Men’s National titles in hot, dry conditions, and yesterday they defended their titles in completely opposite circumstances.

In the days leading up to the race, the weather became cooler and wetter, turning the dry and rideable 6.4km loop into a wet, slick, soupy mess. The morning of the race, officials made the decision to implement the wet weather route, cutting out an extremely boggy section near the end of the lap. Mid-July at 1,200m on Vancouver Island’s Mount Washington felt more like a foggy, rainy mid-November day – a perfect day for a mountain bike race.

Elite/U23 Women

Prémont led the charge up the first climb of the four-lap women’s race (shortened from the original five laps), but she was off her bike and running at only the halfway point of the initial pitch. It was almost impossible to ride because of the slick mud, she said afterwards. It was much faster to run. In fact, according to spectators, it was in the running sections that Prémont gained the most time on her chasers.

She continued to sprint on foot – chased by the rest of the field – through a short section of singletrack in the woods, followed by the final steep ascent to the highest point of the course. It was only there that racers remounted and rode a few hundred metres before a particularly soggy portion of trail forced them to dismount again.

Riders were then treated to a good bout of classic B.C. singletrack, complete with slick roots, wooden bridges, steep drops and thick, loamy mud. By the feed zone at the halfway point of the first lap, Prémont already had a lead of 1:15 over a small chase group consisting of Catharine Pendrel (BC) Norco Factory Team, Kiara Bisaro (BC) Opus and Melanie McQuaid (BC) BMC- Nature’s Path.

Pendrel attacked in the feed zone and distanced herself from Bisaro and McQuaid, riding the rest of the race consistently in second place. It would be her first ever National Championship medal. “I feel like I’m on a wave right now where everything’s going well and I’m riding on top and I just hope it keeps going like that because I like it up there,” Pendrel reflected after her silver medal performance.

By midway through the second lap, Bisaro had established herself in the bronze medal position that she maintained to the finish.

In the Espoir Women’s race, which began 30 seconds after the Elite Women’s start, it was Emily Batty (ON) Team R.A.C.E.com who kept up her winning streak, not missing a beat in her first year out of the Junior category, to win her fourth National Championship title. Megan Kindree (BC) Team Squamish finished second, followed by Catherine Vipond (ON) Team Trekstore in third.

Elite/U23 Men

By the end of the women’s race, a cold breeze was sweeping the ski village at Mount Washington and a heavy, sideways rain had begun to fall – just in time for the start of the five-lap (cut down from six laps) Elite Men’s race. Surprisingly, however, the rain actually made the track easier to ride, clearing the greasy mud somewhat and allowing for more traction on the climbs. By the end of the first lap, Kabush, Max Plaxton (BC) Rocky Mountain-Haywood and Seamus McGrath (BC) Rocky Mountain-Haywood were riding together, having distanced themselves from the rest of the field to form a leading group.

Eventually, Kabush made the decisive move, getting rid of his rivals to continue his charge at the front and take home the gold medal. Plaxton, who opted out of competing in the Espoir Men’s race, rode strongly to finish second, a mere 15 seconds off of Kabush. A storming Derek Zandstra (ON) 3 Rox Racing-Scott put everything on the line in an impressive performance, moving up from fourth place to pass McGrath and snatch the bronze medal. McGrath finished fourth.

Mathieu Toulouse (QC) Maxxis, one of the favourites for a podium position, withdrew from the race, citing “I just felt awful out there.”

Neal Kindree (BC) Kona-Les Gets won the Espoir Men’s race, which started two minutes after the Elite Men’s event. By the end, Kindree had made up those two minutes on most of the Elite Men’s field, crossing the line in the top 10 overall and first Espoir. Quebec’s Raphael Gagne (QC) Rocky Mountain-Haywood finished second, nearly three minutes behind Kindree, followed by Daniel Sessford (YK) Team Yukon in third.

Junior Men/Women

The Junior categories started earlier in the morning before the weather got really ugly. The course had already been torn up by the rain and training earlier in the week, making things epic for the young riders. Local Vancouver Island rider, Jeff Clarkson (BC) Team BC took home gold in the four-lap Junior Men’s race. Canada MTB Cup overall winner Francis Morin (QC) Equipe du Quebec rolled into second place followed by Jonathan Boucher (QC) Equipe du Quebec in third.

Quebec’s Andréanne Pichette (QC) Equipe du Quebec grabbed the national title in the Junior Women’s category, churning through a goopy three-lap race. Fellow Quebecoise Stéphanie Lacoursière (QC) took second place, while B.C.’s Bianca Adolf (BC) Team BC claimed third position.

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