Over 260 athletes came out to contest the 2016 National Cyclo-cross championships in Sherbrooke, Quebec, on Saturday, November 5th, braving cold temperatures, mud, rain and snow. Titles were awarded in 11 categories for women and men, in Junior, Under-23, Elite and Masters age groups.
Held in the Jacques-Cartier Park, located on the shores of the Lac-des-Nations, steps from the downtown core of Sherbrooke, organizers put together a course that riders praised, despite having to run some climbs because of the slippery mud.
Both Elite titles were taken by first time champions, with Maghalie Rochette (Luna Pro Team) winning the women’s title and Jeremy Martin (Focus CX Canada) the men’s.
Rochette went to the front early in the women’s 40 minute race, dropping Sandra Walter (Liv Canada) on the second lap to solo in for victory, with Walter taking silver. Defending champion Mical Dyck (Naked Factory Racing) led out at the start but was dropped by the other two on the first lap, holding on for bronze.
“I’ve been chasing this for a long time,” said Rochette. “The first time I did ‘Cross Nationals was in 2012 and I had a horrible race, and then a horrible race again in 2013. In 2014 I had a good race but didn’t get the title, last year was bad, but today I finally got the title. I’m super happy and super thankful for the support I get, and it’s just a good day. I hadn’t raced with Mical [Dyck, defending champion] or Sandra [Walter] for a while, so I didn’t know how they were going, but I knew they were going to be strong because they are always strong. It was so muddy that it wasn’t just about having good form, you had to be controlled and keep focus. It feels so good, and I’m just so happy.”
The men’s field had tremendous depth, with at least ten potential podium riders. Mark McConnell (Hot Sauce Racing / Garneau) opened a gap on the first lap, stretching it to over 40 seconds before the chase began in earnest, at the halfway mark of the 60 minute race. Five-time champion Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox), Martin and Aaron Schooler (Focus CX Canada) led the chase, narrowing the gap and then catching McConnell after he crashed. Martin then got a gap when Kabush slid in a corner and held on to win by 22 seconds over team mate Schooler. Kabush took the bronze medal.
“It’s hard to believe,” admitted Martin. “I’ve been training for this for the last year and a half. I had a decent start and then rode my own race. Everyone made mistakes; I’m just the one who made less mistakes, so I’m super stoked. When Mark [McConnell] went early I just kept riding my own race. Eventually Geoff [Kabush] came up and he brought the gap down quite a bit, and then Mark had a bobble ahead of us. From that point it was Geoff, myself and Aaron, and I got a gap in a running section when he [Kabush] had a little crash. After that, it was just about keeping it rubber side down.”
In the Under-23 races, Peter Disera (Norco Factory Racing) repeated as the men’s champion, while Sidney McGill (Focus CX Canada) won the women’s title. Gunnar Holmgren (Garneau-Easton) won the Junior men’s title.