The 2010 Canadian cross country National Championships will take place at the beautiful Canmore Nordic Ski and Mountain Bike Centre, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains at the entrance to the world-famous Banff National Park area. Canmore is located one hour west of Calgary, Alberta. The Centre has played host to World Cups and Canada Cup events in the past.
The seven kilometre circuit is drawing mixed reviews from riders. It will be physically difficult, with a long series of climbs almost from the start that are a mix of gravel road, doubletrack and some wooded twisty singletrack.
The downhills, which are drawing most of the criticism, are not technical, consisting of doubletrack gravel and fire road. There are very few of the usual technical sections. To do well will require power and endurance, but not much in technical skills.
The elite and under 23 Men will do five laps, the elite and under 23 women four laps, the junior men four laps and the junior women three laps.
"It's not a very fun course," said defending men's champion Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain). "It will be a hard race, but not too interesting."
Derek Zandstra (3 Rox Racing), one of the podium contenders for the men was more blunt, "When does it [the course] get hard?"
However, women's defending champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna) said, "I think it will be a good race course, and lead to some hard racing."
For the men's race, Kabush is the clear favourite but, in addition to Zandstra, he will face competition from Max Plaxton (Specialized-Sho Air), who has been very strong on the US pro circuit this season. Andrew Watson (Norco) could also put in a strong ride to upset one of the three favoured riders.
On the women's side, Pendrel will be missing her greatest rival - Marie-Hélène Premont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), who has opted to pass up on the National Championships due to bronchitis. Premont does plan to attend the two World Cup races the following weekends, but decided it would better to skip the travel out west before heading to Europe. Pendrel's greatest rivals are therefore likely to be Amanda Sin (3 Rox Racing) and Mical Dyck (Toronto Trek Store).
Kabush held a session for junior and cadet riders in the afternoon, to discuss the new national Race Clean - Own Your Podium program on which he is working with the Canadian Cycling Association. A large crowd of riders turned out to hear Kabush talk about his own experiences as a junior and that it is possible to race without cheating and succeed.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete post-race coverage plus a live-streamed broadcast of all the elite cross country action, from Adrenalin Garage, starting at 1:45 pm EDT / 11:45 am MDT.