The Canadian Cyclocross National Championships takes place this Saturday, October 24 at the The Forks in Downtown Winnipeg.
Rain in the forecast could potentially lead to slick conditions and a hard-fought battle for both the Elite Men’s and Women’s titles.
On the Elite Men’s side, reigning champ Mike Garrigan (Van Dessel/Shimano/Velocolour) looks to repeat. A strong field featuring Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox), recently-profiled Raphaël Gagné (Garneau p/b Easton Cyclocross Team) and hometown hero Micheal van den Ham (Garneau p/b Easton Cyclocross Team).
Catherine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team), fresh off of a strong performance at the CrossVegas World Cup, and winner of last year’s Elite Women’s race, will not be racing. Pendrel has began her push for mountain bike glory at 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Her absence opens the door for a new champion to be crowned, and all eyes are on her Luna teammate, Maghalie Rochette.
Be sure to tune into the live stream at http://winnipegcx2015.ca/live-stream.
The Elite Women & U23 start at Saturday, Oct. 24 at 3:15 PM CDT
Elite Men’s coverage begins Saturday, Oct. 24 at 4:30 PM CDT
Use the slider below to read more about the who stands a shot in both the Elite Men’s and Women’s races to take the coveted Maple Leaf jersey. Be sure let us know in the comments who your pick is!
Elite Men: Mike Garrigan Looks to Repeat, Faces World-Class Field
The quality of the men’s elite field starting the Shimano Canadian Cyclocross Championships p/b Volvo this Saturday promises a ferocious fight for the national title.
Defending champion Mike Garrigan (Van Dessel/Shimano/Velocolour) continues to fire off the fast start that launched last year’s victory. Former champion Geoff Kabush, intent on his SCOTT-3 Rox team carrying off a maple leaf jersey, arrives in Winnipeg with teammates also able to contend for the podium. Michael van den Ham is pumped by his new Red Truck – Garneau p/b Easton Cyclocross Team and in good form. Raphaël Gagné (Red Truck – Garneau p/b Easton Cyclocross Team) lines up after a career best mountain biking season. Last year Kabush and van den Ham placed second and third, respectively.
A number of other riders could land a podium spot, especially if the forecasted rain batters the 3.2 kilometre course or scenes from 2014 replay. Last year early in lap one a rider slid out ahead of Kabush on the now infamous off-camber corner lurking early in the circuit. The delay forced Kabush to expend energy chasing. He and van den Ham hunted solo leader Garrigan, but lost the battle by two nail-biting seconds.
Two long, fast segments may advantage the SCOTT-3 Rox outfit or Red Truck – Garneau p/b Easton Cyclocross Team, both of which bring three men.
The Reigning Champ
Mike Garrigan, the man from Ontario Province who now lives in New York has raced nearly every weekend on the U.S. cyclocross circuit in the past few seasons and his resume lists UCI podium results. His speedy start in Winnipeg last year kept him out of trouble during the first pass around that tricky grass corner. He’ll celebrate his 34th birthday on race day.
In recent racing at Gran Prix of Gloucester and KMC Cyclo-cross Festival in Providence, Garrigan got the holeshot and proceeded to finish mid-field. He has said his fitness is lagging somewhat, but seems optimistic nonetheless.
“I’m certainly motivated,” he told Canadian Cycling Magazine. “If I don’t think about fitness or training, and just think about my motivation levels, they’re very high, as well as my excitement and confidence for nationals.”
Geoff Kabush: wiley veteran
In 2014 Kabush relinquished the national ‘cross title then found redemption the following day at the Manitoba Grand Prix of Cyclocross, which he won by outfoxing van den Ham in the finale. At age 38 he’s as motivated as ever for the win.
“This MTB season was frustrating and challenging so I definitely still have some motivation heading into the cyclocross season,” Kabush wrote by email. “A good result at nationals would certainly be nice and something I am ready to fight for.”
Michael van den Ham: hometown favorite
Van den Ham set his personal performance bar high last year with a stunning debut in the elite category while a full-time university student. Now graduated, the 23 year-old has more energy for ‘cross and more UCI racing under his belt. He rates his current condition as on par or better compared to the 2014 early season.
Since coming in fifth at The Night Weasels Cometh in Massachusetts on the wheel of past American champion Ryan Trebon, he crossed the line in ninth place at Providence, which he ranks among his best results.
Raphaël Gagné: trail blazer
The subject of a recent Cyclocross Magazine profile, Gagné loaded up on personal firsts during the 2015 mountain bike season and if he wins in Winnipeg he’ll add another to the list. Going back as far as 1997, no man from Québec Province has won at ‘cross nationals. Gagné could pull it off, even though he skipped the 2014 ‘cross season. He took four UCI wins in 2013 and this year in Gloucester he plowed through a large field to finish in the top ten after a back row start.
Gagné will look to flex his technical skills this weekend; while light in ‘cross mud experience, he suspects the muck suits him. The only time he entered cyclocross nationals was in 2010 when, without a spare bike, he ended up 17th after flatting. This weekend he can count on a second bike.