Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) took the first elite cross country title of her career at the Canadian National Championships on Saturday, at the Hardwood Mountain Bike Centre, one hour north of Toronto.
After energy-sapping temperatures in the mid-30s (Celcius) and high humidity all week, thunderstorms blew through overnight Friday, knocking the temperature down to a more reasonable mid-20s and dampening down the dust which was choking riders during training. Organizers were out in the early hours removing downed branches and cleaning up the course before racing began. The six-kilometre course won praise from riders for offering a a mixture of technical singletrack and open passing sections, with short, punchy climbs to separate out the potential winners.
Given the absence of defending champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna), recovering from a broken clavicle, Batty was the prohibitive favourite on what is, essentially, her home course. A sizable contingent of family and friends came out to cheer on the 2012 Olympian, who did not disappoint. Batty's family even erected a huge (10 metre by six metre) Canadian flag, with the words "Go Emily Go" painted on, at the top of one of the climbs.
By the halfway point of the first lap, Batty already had a 20-second gap, and it continued to grow through the race. Sandra Walter (Liv/Giant) took up the chase in second and held on through the race, despite a late charge by Amanda Sin (Scott-3Rox) on lap four of the five-lap race, which brought her to within 15 seconds of Walter. However, that was as close as Sin could get, and she faded slightly in the last lap but held in for third.
First year elite rider Andréanne Pichette (Opus/OGC) was a strong fourth, followed by eliminator national champion Jean Ann Berkenpas (Xprezo-Borsao) in fifth. Unfortunately, Mikaela Kofman (Scott-3Rox) crashed on lap three while in fifth and dislocated her shoulder as well as suffering a mechanical.
"Going down the Coffee Run, I was going a bit too fast," said Kofman. "It was pretty loose and a bit wet there today. I just lost control and went over the handlebars and dislocated my shoulder. I popped it back in when I was out there. Felt good out there otherwise. Had a mechanical at the same time. Went to the tech zone and got my bike fixed and tried to ride but I was kind of crooked on my bike. I couldn’t ride; I had no control. There’s always going to be tough days."
For Batty, it was special to win in front of family and friends, but she also admitted it was disappointing not to race against Pendrel.
"I've been wanting this for a while," Batty said, "so I'm super happy and honoured to win. Everything went great, even though I woke up with a really sore throat this morning, which threw a little bit of a stick in the spokes. It was a great race. The girls kept the pressure on, so I could never let my guard down. But I found a really good rhythm right from the start and this being my local stomping grounds, and having all of my family out here, it was a really great day."
"Catharine [Pendrel] and I were really looking forward to racing one another, and I think it would have been an awesome battle. I think we were all heartbroken when we heard the news, and I can definitely relate [Batty broke her clavicle just before the Olympics last year]. But there's always next year, so we'll get to battle it out."
For Sandra Walter, second was satisfactory. "I knew it would take something incredible to win today. I felt really strong and gave it my all. I didn’t win but I still feel really satisfied; really pleased. It was a great battle. Amanda [Sin] was chasing me the whole time. She made me push past my limit. I took two tumbles. Normally I'm a calm, technical rider, but today I was above my limit, but that's what I want to do. Sometimes you take some risks, but I didn't injure myself or hurt my bike. I managed to get back up again and defend second place."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing)|
|2||Sandra Walter (Liv / giant)|
|3||Amanda Sin (Scott - 3 Rox Racing)|
|4||Andréanne Pichette (Opus / OGC)|
|5||Jean Ann Berkenpas (Xprezo-Borsa)|
|6||Sue Haviland (Norco Evolution)|
|7||Rebecca Beaumont (Cyclone d’Alma: Ekoï Devinci/Alma)|
|8||Mandy Dreyer (TUF RACK Racing)|
|9||Wendy Simms (Kona from Nanaimo)|
|10||Heather Gray (CSAJCC p/b Norco LG/Kanata)|
|11||Rhonda Stickle (Team Bikeland)|
|12||Cindy Montambault (CVM 2 VALS)|
|13||Annick Chrétien (ADF Ultime Vélo/Aston-Jonction)|
|14||Denise Hill (Cyclemeisters / Bow Cycle)|
|DNF||Mikaela Kofman (Scott - 3 Rox Racing)|
|DNF||Ashley Barson (CoachChris.ca/Ted Velikonja)|
|DNF||Julie Lafrenière (Ride with Rendall)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Frédérique Trudel (Specialized Racing Canada)|
|2||Andréane Lanthier Nadeau (Rocky Mountain Bicycles Factory Team)|
|3||Maghalie Rochette (PowerWatts - Nord)|
|4||Cayley Brooks (Trek Canada Mountain Bike Team)|
|5||Laurence Harvey (Rocky Mountain Bicycles)|
|6||Haley Smith (Norco Factory Team)|
|7||Catherine Fleury (Cyclone d’Alma)|
|8||Valérie Meunier (Devinci)|
|9||Katlyn Dundas (Trek Store C.C.)|
|10||Elyse Nieuwold (Team Spoke O`Motion)|
|11||Laura Bietola (RealDeal/Gears p/b Fieldgate)|
|12||Kristina Laforge (Cyclone d’Alma)|
|13||Frédérique Larose-Gingras (Opus / OGC)|
|14||Anna Schappert (Team Manitoba)|
|15||Rosalie Auger (CVM 2 VALS from Landrienne)|
|16||Samantha Wagler (Two Wheel Racing)|
|17||Veronica Huggard (Team Yukon)|
|DNF||Karlee Gendron (Trek Canada Mountain Bike Team)|