This weekend offered a full slate of UCI races, but no major international events like a World Cup. So the elite mountain bike field divided and conquered among a handful of nationally important races offering UCI points on at least two continents. Most riders were out to test their legs one last time before the World Cup coming up this weekend in Offenburg on May 26.
Team Rocky Mountain-Haywood's Max Plaxton and Marie-Helene Premont enjoyed a week off the international cross country circuit to race on Canadian home turf in a national-series event in Bromont, Quebec.
Both riders rode away from their respective fields to win. Premont now leads the Canada Cup standings for women with a perfect win record, while another Rocky Mountain-Haywood rider - Raphael Gagné - took over the pro men's lead for the series after two races.
The Bromont circuit has been around for awhile - it was the world championship circuit in 1992. The men did six laps and the women five, with both categories on the course at the same time.
Gagne bolted to the front on the first climb for the men, followed by Plaxton. Plaxton bided his time and took the lead by the top of the second climb as the race turned into singletrack. He gradually extended his lead to eventually win by 3:33 over Mat Toulouse (Maxxis).
"Last year, I started to push right away from the gun." explained Plaxton. "It's not exactly boring to be out there alone, but it is nice to back it off a bit and see how others are riding." Plaxton didn't pull out all the stops as he was clearly saving a little something for the World Cup race this weekend in Offenburg.
"I was taking it a little easy on the downhill because I crashed there yesterday (Friday) and it numbed my hand a bit ... there's some pretty important races coming up."
In the women's race, Prémont was already 30 seconds ahead by the end of the first climb, with the chase group led by Trek-Terrascape team mates Mical Dyck and Lea Davison. However, in the final lap and half, Prémont's strength began to show, as she pulled away to win by three and a half minutes. Premont won despite having to negotiate her way around the men she was catching - about half of the men's field, who started only two minutes ahead of the women. Premont holds the overall series lead.
On the downhill side, Micayala Gatto (Rocky Mountain-Haywood) and Steve Smith (Cove Factory) won the women's and men's title on a rain-soaked, muddy 2.5km course. Riders came through the finish line caked in thick brown mud after going down in one of the many corners.
For full coverage of the Canadian Cup, click here.