Teng, Routley in top-10
A long, steep climb right off the start line proved to be the deciding factor in the Tim Hortons Mountain Bike National Championships cross-country event on Saturday and Sunday.
The course itself was long and challenging. As more than one athlete described it, there was no chance to rest or relax at all from start to finish you were either climbing or riding on technical singletrack.
"It was a good course, either technical or hard physically," said Victorias Roland Green, the reigning world champion.
Green rode with Ryder Hesjedal of Victoria and Seamus McGrath of Ontario for the two laps, then started to pull away towards the end of the second lap and the beginning of the third with his strong climbing. By the fourth lap, Green had more than minute on the rest of the field.
"I made a break on the second lap because I wanted to have a little space if I had a flat or a mechanical," said Green, who has had technical problems that cost him in his last two World Cup appearances. "I knew Ryder and McGrath were chasing pretty hard, so I couldnt get too comfortable."
Green and Hesjedal went for dual suspension bikes on the course, giving up some climbing power for a little extra comfort and control on the singletrack.
"Ryder and I were having a good ride out there on the dualies and poor Seamus on the hard tail, I felt sorry for him. The first time we were on the climb, I could see how easy it was for Seamus on the lighter bike, but I knew with all the hard stuff and singletrack that it would be hard to hold onto that gap," said Green.
McGrath lost his podium spot on the last lap when his right cleat dislodged from his shoe and got stuck in his pedal. He had to stop and take a screw out of his other shoe to continue with the race.
In the minutes he lost, Geoff Kabush of Victoria pulled into the third position.
For the crowd of thousands that cheered on the riders at different locations along the course, the race was as exciting as they come, with a different field at every lap.
For Green, the nationals are always one of his favourite races. He and the other top riders pulled out of last years nationals after the first lap in order to rest up for the Commonwealth Games two days later. They thought it was important to show up and support the nationals, even if they had no intention of racing to the end.