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Zandstra and Batty hope to repeat victories at Canadian national championships

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Derek Zandstra (Scott 3Rox Racing) chasing Todd Wells

Derek Zandstra (Scott 3Rox Racing) chasing Todd Wells (Image credit: Dave McElwaine)
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Emily Batty (Trek Factory) chases the race leader during the elite women's cross countryrace.

Emily Batty (Trek Factory) chases the race leader during the elite women's cross countryrace. (Image credit: Dejan Smaic / SportifImages)

The 2014 Canadian Cross Country Mountain Bike Championships will be held again this year near Barrie, Ontario, at the Hardwood Ski and Bike resort. Both Ontario athletes Derek Zandstra (Scott-3 Rox Racing) and Emily Batty (Trek Factory Team) will be defending their Canadian title as the reigning champions.

The Canadian Championships is the most important one-day race of the season for the top Canadian stars, with the highly-coveted Maple Leaf Jersey on the line. The "We had a spectacular championship in 2013, and are looking forward to racing at Hardwood Hills for the 2014 edition of the championships. The venue is ideal to setup a close battle to the end, in all races," said Nicholas Vipond, Competitions coordinator at Cycling Canada. "We have all the elements in place to create a memorable weekend of racing, and crown new champions that will carry the maple leaf jersey across the world."

"We are excited to welcome the best of the best mountain bikers to Hardwood Ski and Bike," said Glenn Meeuwisse, head of the Organizing Committee. "We hosted a successful event in 2013, and we have worked relentlessly to find ways and improve the event for 2014. Everyone who comes in a race this event will appreciate the challenge and the difficulties that the course offers to Canada's elite athletes and stars of the sport."

In 2013, Zandstra surprised both the defending Champion Max Plaxton (Cannondale Factory Racing team) and teammate Geoff Kabush (Scott-3 Rox Racing) to capture his first Canadian elite title, after years of hard work and determination. Zandstra came in hot form at the event, and took advantage of his knowledge of the course to claim the victory. Expect the race in 2014 to be another nail-biter between the three World Cup riders, along with other riders such as Raphael Gagné (Rocky Mountain Factory Racing), who is having a great season to date.

In the women's elite race, Canada's reigning Champion Emily Batty will have a fierce competition from rival Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team), who missed last year's Championships due to a broken clavicle. With both athletes healthy, the battle will be fierce, and certainly not to miss.

Both defending Champions, Batty and Zandstra, have shown they are in top form heading to the championships weekend, winning the Canada Cup race held in Sudbury this past weekend.

The Under 23 men's race is always a close one with a group of five young Canadian riders ready to showcase their talent and explode on the international scene. Mitchell Bailey (Trek Canada Mountain Bike Team), the current U23 Canadian Champion who grew up racing the Hardwood Hills course, will undoubtedly be challenged by some fierce competition coming from Evan McNeely (Norco Factory Team), Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory Team), Léandre Bouchard (Cycles Devinci), Antoine Caron (Specialized Factory Racing) to name just a few.

The traditional cross-country race will he held on the same challenging course as last year. The six-kilometre loop offers some arduous climbs, treacherous descents, and rock gardens notably - all features that are designed to crown the ultimate rider. The men will travel six lap for a total of 36 kilometers while the women will race five laps for 30 kilometers.

In addition to the endurance race that is cross country, these Canadian Championships will for the second consecutive year feature the eliminator race, an elbow-to-elbow sprint race held in a single elimination format. In 2013, Léandre Bouchard (Cycles Devinci) was the fastest sprinter of the group and raced to the Canadian Championships title of the men's race. Jean-Ann Berkenpas (Xprezo-Borsao Factory Team) had the race of her career in 2013 and captured her first Canadian Championships title in the women's race.