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July 20, Men cross country:

Kabush becomes most decorated mountain biker in Canadian history

By:
Emil van Dijk and Rob Jones
Published:
July 20, 2014, 6:40 BST,
Updated:
July 21, 2014, 20:53 BST

Bouchard wins third U23 title in four years

A thrilling finale in the elite men's event capped off a great day of racing at the 2014 Canadian Mountain Bike Cross Country Championships, at Hardwood Ski & Bike near Barrie, an hour north of Toronto. Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox Racing) came from behind to win his record-setting eighth national cross country title, finally beating Alison Sydor's record of seven elite titles.

Leading up to race day there was plenty of talk about Kabush's hoped-for eighth title, but Adam Morka (WFP Coaching/Trek Bikes) had other ideas, shooting into the lead and holding it through the opening section of singletrack. Hard on his wheel were Cameron Jette (Scott-3Rox), Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory Team), Raphaël Gagné (Équipe du Québec/Rocky Mountain Factory), Kabush, Zandstra and Max Plaxton (Cannondale Factory Racing).

Heading into lap two of six, Guthrie had moved into the lead, holding a 10-second gap over the aforementioned riders, with the Norco Factory Team duo of Andrew L'Esperance and Andrew Watson slightly further back.

By the third lap, with racers settling into a rhythm, Guthrie had Jette and Gagné for company, with a second trio of Plaxton, Kabush and Zandstra at 20 seconds, and Morka alone in seventh.

The gap between the dueling trios grew to 30 seconds by the fifth and penultimate lap, when everything suddenly changed. A chain problem saw Jette off his bike and running to the Tech Zone, and then Guthrie attacked Gagné to take the solo lead. Zandstra and Kabush began to pour on the coals, with Plaxton scrambling to hold on.

By midway through lap five, Gagné had reeled in Guthrie, only to have the first-year elite rider roll away again at the beginning of the final lap. Kabush and Zandstra by then had dropped Plaxton and caught Gagné, and the veterans set off in pursuit of Guthrie, who was quickly brought back.

Zandstra attacked but soon had Kabush for company, and the pair worked to distance Gagné. Kabush had a bit more left in the tank to attack on the final climb and become Canada's most successful elite cross-country racer.

"It came down to the last five minutes," said Kabush. "I had the mental energy to really focus and squeeze it out on the last climb and get a gap. On a course like this it's all about being efficient right to the end. The goal for the team was to get the jersey again, and it was a successful day for Derek and me being one-two. I'm looking forward to the next couple World Cups representing the jersey."

"Early in the season I had the national title as a target," said Gagné. "I didn't finish too far from the win. I think I was in the game the whole race. I played it smart, I avoided traffic and strategy because I didn't have the numbers like 3Rox."

"Cameron was trying to split it up, sometimes going to the front but not pushing it as hard as I thought he could. That's something I tried to avoid, so when they started looking at each other I went to the front. I just wanted to avoid any attacks from Cameron and Evan, so I micro-paced it to be strong the whole race, and that played in my favour because when the 3Rox guys caught up I was there, I just wasn't able to go around them at the end of the race."

Race Notes

- Leandre Bouchard (Équipe du Québec/Cyclones d'Alma) took the U23 title after a race-long battle with defending champion Mitchell Bailey (Trek Canada).

- Serving as a Pan Am test event, the national championships took advantage of plenty of trail and infrastructure work at the venue. The new course, which will be the Pan Am Games course for next year, received strong praise from riders, who cited its difficulty and "fun" factor. The venue is still undergoing renovations for the Games, with the finish and timing system to be moved to the new start area. More than $200,000 has been invested to date, with more work to come, including a new cell tower for improved phone and internet coverage.

- Plaxton and Gagne will leave for Glasgow, Scotland, mid-week to represent Canada at the Commonwealth Games. Canada won gold and silver in the men's cross country at the 2002 Games, and bronze in the 2006 Games.

Brief Results

Elite men
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Geoff Kabush 1:39:31  
2 Derek Zandstra 0:00:11  
3 Raphael Gagne 0:00:19  
4 Max Plaxton 0:00:29  
5 Evan Guthrie 0:00:38  
6 Adam Morka 0:02:41  
7 Cameron Jette 0:04:46  
8 Andrew Watson 0:04:57  
9 Matthew Martindill 0:05:56  
10 Peter Glassford 0:06:08  
U23 men
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Leandre Bouchard 1:23:19  
2 Mitchell Bailey 0:00:32  
3 Peter Disera 0:01:49  
4 Marc-Antoine Nadon 0:02:45  
5 Jeremy Martin 0:02:56  
Junior men
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Marc Andre Fortier 1:09:28  
2 Rhys Verner 0:00:24  
3 Felix Burke 0:00:46