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MTB – XCO Nationals Recap

This year’s MTB National Championships were in St. Felicien, QC. The event kicked off on Thursday evening with athletes lined up for the XCE (XC Eliminator) event. The event kicks off with riders participating in the qualification round which is an ITT (Individual Time Trial), which is then used to seed athletes. It’s only two categories, Men and Women, which put some of the best U17 and Junior racers up against Canada’s best Elite riders. The top 32 men and 16 women from the ITT move on to the heats. Riders then race in heats of four with the top two from each heat moving onto the next. We had Rhys Verner, from Squamish BC making it into the finals and taking the bronze medal.

Nationals this year was a great experience. I raced as hard as I could against a tight field. I finished the day in 6th place; not the result I wanted but it was good hard racing. Looking forward to racing at the U23 level next year against some of Canada’s best!

– Luke Di Marzo

The track was short, but packed a punch. It featured some great single track that showcased how rough and tough the eastern Canadian terrain can be. It was a big change from the Ontario Canada Cups with some of the descent sections looking very west coast–steep and plenty of rocks. The athletes had a week to settle into the St. Felicien life and adjust to the track, nailing down lines in both the wet and the dry, which really played to their favor, come race day.

Coming to Nationals with the Cycling BC Team was a great experience. Traveling to Eastern Canada was interesting in itself, but also seeing how fast I was against the country’s best riders made the trip very worthwhile. I learned a few new strategies for race preparation and execution as well. Overall I had a really great time and am very grateful for the opportunity – thank you to all the sponsors and supporters for making this opportunity possible.

– Seth Van Varseveld

Saturday was race day and plenty of rain had fallen throughout the evening, and continued to fall on and off throughout the day. The junior men (4 laps), cadet men (3 laps) and junior women (3 laps) kicked the day off. The junior men’s race had Rhys Verner, Sean Fincham and Luke Dimarzo working together behind the solo Quebec and Ontario riders to try and save some legs to launch an unshakeable attack into the last lap. Some serious moves were made into the last lap, including some unfortunate body and bike contact. Rhys captured a silver medal, Sean Fincham in 4th place, Luke Di Marzo in 6th, Max McCulloch 15th and Seth Van Varseveld in 25th.

The junior women’s race was incredibly exciting.   Emily Handford had a tough go at the start, adjusting to the slick conditions, but managed to get up seven spots in one lap! She went into the second lap a half bike length off of second and into the 3rd lap in the lead, impressive to say the least. She had an incredible race and captured her first national champs silver medal. The cadet men’s race had a very fast start splintering the pack very quickly with Holden taking a 5th place, Nick Kleban and Hunter Verner taking 11th and 12th and Shane Patterson in 18th.

 Coming to Nationals for the first time was a great experience for me. I had a race that I am really happy with and proud of. Being able to race against Canada’s top riders was amazing, and a big learning experience. I can’t wait to use what I learned this year and go even faster next year!

– Max McCulloch

Sunday was the National relay.  This year we entered only one team and just missed out on a medal with a shredded hangar having our anchor, Rhys, running the last 2 km of the track.

All in all, we had a very successful National Championships, capturing 3 medals.  A big thank you to all of Cycling BC’s supporters and funders that help make experiences like this possible for our development athletes.

Sean and Emily getting ready for their leg of the relay
Rhys running across the finish line
Rhys, Emily, Luke and Sean
Rhys Verner taking the silver
Emily Handford taking the silver