by Brandon Grant

Since winning his first Canadian National Championship jersey in October, Michael van den Ham (Garneau-Easton p/b Transitions LifeCare) has been chasing an elusive win. He has been close, finishing third at the Pan-American Championships and third on Day 1 of the Major Taylor Cross Cup.

On Day 2, however, it all came together for Van den Ham when he closed a 20-second gap on Day 1 winner Gage Hecht (Alpha Bicycle Company/Groove Subaru) to take his first win as Canadian National Champion.

Following Hecht’s 41-second win on Saturday, Van Den Ham went into the race resigned to racing for second after another fast start by the young star. “My goal was just to hold him as long as possible,” he said. “Already by lap two he was starting to push a gap on me and there was nothing I could do.”

Van Den Ham never gave up, and ultimately caught Hecht in the last lap to take his first win wearing the Canadian National Jersey. “With one to go, my team manager, who must have gotten pulled the lap before, was ripping around the course, being like, ‘Dude, [Hecht] is cracking, you’re gaining on him.’ And he was right. Every section I was closing down five seconds on him. I started to think I could actually catch him.”

“I credit my race today to just not giving up.” Van Den Ham told Cyclocross Magazine.

“If you can get into the rider’s head, that you’re still going strong and if you can pass them going fast, sometimes that’s enough just to crack them mentally. Cycling is as much about beating someone at the head as it is the legs.”

Canada did well at Major Taylor, with Van Den Ham’s 3rd place podium on Saturday, and U19 Canadian Champion Tyler Clark also taking third on Saturday and first on Sunday.

Van Den Ham had a lot to say about his victory and Canada’s rising role in the cyclocross landscape in our post-race interview.