Surprising nobody, Marie-Helene Premont of Chateau Richer, Quebec, took the womens Senior Elite category at the Tim Hortons Mountain Bike National Cross Country Championships at Mont Ste Anne.
Currently ranked second on the World Cup circuit, Premont has taken her riding to another level after winning a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics. Still, Alison Sydor of North Vancouver wasnt willing to let the national title go that easily and dogged Premont from the start to keep things close.
When it was over, Premont crossed the finish line of the long course in one hour, 54 minutes and 41.37 seconds. Sydor was 1:25 back, and over three minutes faster than Kiara Bisaro of Courtenay, B.C.
Jean-Ann McKirdy, the winner of the 2004 Cheakamus Challenge, finished first among the womens Espoir (Under 23) riders and ninth overall in 18:24 back of Premont.
The mens race was all B.C., with Geoff Kabush of Victoria finishing in 1:55:54. Roland Green of Victoria was almost exactly one minute back in 1:56:54, while Ricky Federau of Abbotsford was third overall and the top Espoir in 1:58:49.
Only a handful of local riders participated in the age categories, but they came away with strong results.
Whistlers Mike Boehm, competing in the Master Expert Mens 30 to 39 race finished third overall, just over two minutes back of the leader after 21.3 km.
Tony Routley was eighth in the Master Expert Mens 40-Plus race, less than four minutes back of the podium.
Neal Kindree of Squamish finished second in the Expert Mens 17-18 race, just 25.6 seconds out of first place. Last year Neal won Cycling B.C.s mountain bike Athlete of the Year award for his results in B.C. Cup, Canada Cup, the B.C. High School Championships, and events like the Test of Metal.
"Im really pleased with my second place finish, but it was hard watching (Raphael Gagne) win. My intention when I went to Quebec was to win, and I knew that (Gagne) was the man to beat."
His older sister Meaghan, a student of Human Kinetics at UBC, placed third in the womens Under 23 Espoir category.
"I was lining up next to Alison Sydor, a rider (that) I have admired since I started racing, and Marie-Helene Premont, the Olympic silver medalist last year," said Kindree.
"Really, all in all, it felt like I was lining up for a World Cup or something."
Both Neal and Meaghan ride for Team Squamish, a new development club in Squamish. James Crowe of Whistler is also on the team, which provides some coaching and support for athletes.
The national downhill championships will take place this weekend at Bromont.