After several years of trying, Michael van den Ham (Garneau-Easton p/b Transitions LifeCare) finally broke through last weekend and won his first Elite Canadian National Championship in Sherbrooke, QC. Last weekend he headed to Louisville for his first races wearing his new National Champion’s jersey.

Van den Ham had an off day on Saturday, but on Sunday he roared back in a big way. The Canadian placed himself in a break with Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz / Donkey Label Racing) early on and then after Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b rode off the front, Van den Ham and Ortenblad dueled for second down the stretch. His third-place finish at the Pan-American Championships was a nice bookend for a memorable two weeks.

Michael van den Ham took third in his new Canadian National Championship kit. 2017 Pan-American Championships. © D. Perker / Cyclocross Magazine

Michael van den Ham was exhausted but happy after his third-place finish on Sunday. 2017 Pan-American Championships. © D. Perker / Cyclocross Magazine

Van den Ham said his ride on Sunday may have been helped by his new jersey. “It’s amazing, I think it gives me an extra ten watts,” he said. “These are superpowers.”

Van den Ham’s podium finish was the second Canadian Elite podium of the day. Christel Ferrier-Bruneau also finished third in the Women’s Elite race. Van den Ham said the friendly neighbors to the North were riding for more than just themselves.

“This is kind of cliche, but it feels like I’m riding for more than just me,” he said. “I’m riding to prove Canada belongs, and maybe Christel [Ferrier-Bruneau] did that too. Canada, we’re kind of the forgotten child. People talk about Pan-Ams and it’s like ‘It’s the U.S. Oh, and Canada too. I wanted to prove we are here and we do do cyclocross and we belong at this level, at the international level.”

Van den Ham had much more to say in our post-race interview, including a bad joke and a look at how he planned on celebrating his podium finish.

Stay tuned for more coverage from the Pan-American Championships and Derby City Cup. All of our interviews from Louisville are available on our YouTube page