The Canadian cross country national championships return to St-Felicien, Quebec this weekend. Despite being five hours northeast of Montreal, in the Saguenay region north of Quebec City, St-Felicien has a distinguished history in mountain biking, having hosted both a World Cup and national championships before.
The course is similar to that used in the past, with the previous 6.6-kilometre circuit shortened to five kilometres. However, the main features are still in place, including the long double/singletrack climb at the start of the lap, the technical Velo-Parc section and the second singletrack climb. The course is currently very dry and fast. Expect seven laps for the men and six for the women, plus a start loop.
Both the elite men's and women's races will feature highly competitive fields in this Olympic year. While the Olympic qualifying period for the Canadian team has finished (with the team to be announced next week), the riders who have been battling for the spots have all been racing at the highest level all spring, so we should see some extremely close races.
In the women's field, world champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna) will be looking to defend her title against both Emily Batty (Subaru-Trek) and Marie-Hélène Premont (Rocky Mountain). Batty has beaten Pendrel once in World Cup competition this season (round one in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), and has stated that it is one of her goals to take her first Elite title. Premont, after a World Cup season that has been somewhat disappointing, will certainly have been building for her home World Cup race next weekend at Mont Ste Anne, and will have good form.
Max Plaxton (Specialized) finally beat Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox) for the first time last year at the elite championship, and will be hoping to repeat. However, Kabush is still chasing that elusive eighth title, and would like to go into Mont Ste Anne as the new national champion. Expect this one to be a battle to the line. Others to watch for on the podium include Derek Zandstra and Cameron Jette from Scott-3Rox, and Neal Kindree (Serrono-Specialized).