If you were fast enough in Saturday’s Canada Cup cross-country race you just might feel a breeze, but otherwise riders slogged it out through 37-degree heat on a course as technically challenging and physically demanding as they come.
As women’s winner Marie-Helene Premont put it, "if you weren’t on your pedals the whole time, you were getting passed."
The day before the race organizers made a few changes, including shortening the elite category courses by a full lap. As a result the men raced five laps of the 8.5 km course while the women raced four laps. Athletes in the age categories raced anywhere from one to three laps.
For the elite men, Geoff Kabush ran away with the race on the third lap after challenger Ricky Fedeau died in the heat. Kabush said he had recovered from a concussion sustained a week earlier in the nationals, which he won, but still had some pain in his ribs from the crash.
"The first lap I concentrated on riding smoothly, not irritating my ribs, and I wasn’t quite at my limits. I basically continued that to the third lap, made a move, then tried to settle in to the finish," he said.
"I really enjoyed the course. I’m not the smallest guy, so I like power climbs and the rough stuff. I was also at a big advantage with the dual suspension bike, about four inches in the back, so it was easier on me and I was able to go a lot faster while the other riders on hard tails were getting tired out.
"The ribs really hurt me at times, but the course was great. It was a real mountain bike course, lots of singletrack, some good, fast climbs. I just really enjoyed the day."
Kabush finished the ride, 42.5 km in total, in just two hours, nine minutes and 19 seconds.
Squamish rider Neal Kindree also had a solid day, starting conservatively and working his way up to the front. On the third lap he was still fifth, but by the last lap he was chasing Kabush to the finish line. He finished just 49 seconds back.
Ontario’s Andrew Watson was third, another half second back of Kindree.
Local riders in the race were Andreas Hestler, who was 27th, and Matt Bodkin, 32 nd out of 42 finishers. Twenty-three riders were unable to finish.
For the women, Premont led from the start and didn’t look back. Her only complaint was that the women’s field started so close to the men.
"I thought if I went hard from the start I would have the front all to myself, but after about five minutes I started to catch some of the men," she said. "It was more dusty, for sure, and it was wheel to wheel on the singletrack so you didn’t feel you were racing your own race.