In all honesty, what just happened?
Leading into this year’s National Championships I was bringing some great successes to the table already with top 10 finishes at each World Cup so far this season including a 3rd place finish at the World Cup in Germany. However, with success comes rising standards and I’m always hungry for more, whether that be driven primarily by results or by personal improvement. Along those lines, I decided to race Elite at Nationals instead of in the U23 category in order to hopefully acquire more UCI points while having a stab at the ‘real’ jersey competing with the big boys.
The best part of the decision to race up was alleviating the pressure of racing as defending U23 national champion. Instead, I had a clean slate and all I had to do was give it my all and hope for the best. The plan was to give everyone a run for their money right off the gun. I really altered my approach to this race as I had nothing to lose. I raced it one lap at a time with no regard or concern about blowing up or potentially losing. My race consisted entirely of offensive tactics, very rarely was I ever put on defense. It was wonderful. I haven’t felt as in control in a race since I was a junior. Attack after attack, I would alter the pace, going as hard as I could to try and shed the other riders and prevent legends from bridging. The mindset was one lap at a time, one bottle at a time – my focus was pretty short term.
Eventually Leandre and McNeely slipped out of the group leaving Raph and I to battle it out in the last few laps. I had led almost the whole race until when on the last lap, on the last climb, on really the last good spot to attack, Raph gave it everything. I stuck it. I couldn’t believe it, as I somehow managed after leading most of the race, attacking constantly and riding outside of my bounds, to match the attack and not let Raph get away. I was in deep, yet I still got around him before the final descent. Cross-eyed, with tunnel vision and a body overcome by Rigor Mortis after that effort, I tip-toed down the final chutes being careful not to crash. I was now preparing for the sprint, thinking about how I was going to manage to hold off Raph for 250m even with a tailwind. And then it happened… I heard a crash behind me. Raph went down. Oh no, was my first thought, it can’t be… I’ve won…
I cleanly rode the final feature and rolled into the finish suddenly overcome by the realization it was over. I’m still a bit shocked, unsure if it was a dream or not, but that was surely something. It all came together. All of it. So stoked.
Elite National Champion.
This was one hell of a weekend to say the least. Huge congrats to the amazing efforts by all the other athletes. Big thanks as always to everyone for the cheers and support. Super cool to see the breakthrough races in other categories and neat that Norcos landed on top of 5/8 National podiums.
Bike setup: (if you’re interested)
My Norco Revolver FS was the bike of choice but I dialed things in a little differently. I ran my RockShox SID with 1 token at 97psi, rebound 4 clicks from slowest, and my charger damper 6 clicks on. In the rear I was running 138psi with my rebound 1 click from slowest. This was to prevent the back end of the bike from getting too excited on the steep sections. As for tires, I ran my favourite Kenda combo with a Kozmik 2.2 SCT up front and a Saber Pro 2.2 SCT in the rear. SCT is the protection model with thicker sidewalls, and normally I run the lite tire in the front, but there were a few sharp rocks on course that made me nervous. As for tire pressures: 18.7psi front, 20.7psi rear – yep, they were a little soft.
If you’re still reading, I applaud you because even when editing, I normally don’t make it this far.
We won the relay! The Norco Factory Team wasn’t done standing on podium steps until the relay was finished on Sunday. Absolutely amazing riding from the team made my job as anchor easy (-ish). Big thanks to Quinton Disera, Gunner Holmgren and Haley Smith.
So that’s it, a successful weekend for the team with great rides and perseverance all around. What’s next you ask? Well I’m home now in preparation for the World Cup in Mont Ste Anne. I’m a little nervous already, but the course there is amazing and I can’t wait.
Thank you to Kevin Haviland for all you do for our team and the rest of your athletes. Thank you to all the organizers and volunteers for a damn good race. Thank you beautiful Canmore and Parks Canada for keeping grizzly bear 148 at bay. Thank you to Snow Valley in Barrie for supporting my brother and I. Thanks Keith Wilson for having me dialed for this one – can’t wait until Worlds.
Photos by thee gorgeous Nicola Wenn, young gun Aidan Brown and Jonathan Duncan.