Canadian Marathon Championships

The Canadian Marathon Champs took place in the boondocks of Quebec this year as racers travelled from around the country to battle it out for the coveted Maple Leaf jersey.  The host village of East Hereford tucked away in the rolling hills of South Eastern Quebec morphed from a sleepy farming community into a buzzing atmosphere as 400 + racers settled in for a weekend of camping and bike racing.  The course was a proper 82 km marathon distance and covered nearly 50 km of twisty, rocky trails with fire roads and quad paths mixed in to make it a complete race.

It was a proper battle this year with a field of Canada’s best riders including 13 time National Champ (8 XC, 5 CX) Geoff Kabush, Top XCO riders Alexander Vialle and Jeremy Martin, Singletrack 6 winner Mathieu Belanger-Barrette,  Test of Metal and BC Bike Race stage winner Quinn Moberg, endurance specialist Jamie Lamb and a big field of top Quebec riders.  It’s great to see the Marathon side of the sport continue to grow as riders discover how cool it is to race your bike for longer then just 1.5 hours around in xco circles.

After feeling near invincible during the BC Bike Race a couple weeks back, the body came back to reality a bit as the first half of the race was a struggle.    Somedays you have to make it work with whatever you got as I kept my fingers crossed the body would eventually come to life.   The boys kept attacking the small short climbs,  I’d drop back then diesel back on whenever the pace slowed.  After 3 or 4 episodes of this we hit the last climb of the race to the top of East Hereford Hill, a vertical gain of 300 meters.  From there it was a 20 km enduro style descent down to the finish line on a network of twisty trails. This seemed to play into Geoff Kabush’s hands perfectly as he’s been preparing for the Enduro World Series and has long been one of the top XC trail riders on the World Cup circuit.13909132_10153600335011193_7101129945045601789_o copy

The race heated up as Jeremy Martin used his power to breakaway from the lead group 4 km from the summit.  It took a pile of mental energy but thankfully my body finally came to life via forcing it out of its dormancy. Figuring I’d need a gap on Kabush heading into the last 20 km I sent everything to stay with Jeremy as we brokeaway from Kabush, Quinn and Vialle.  Jeremy would pull away a bit and 1 km from the top had a 10 second gap, with Kabush another 10 seconds back from my wheel.    Here it was a tactical gamble diving deep into the redzone sprinting past Jeremy to hit the single track 1st in hopes he might hold Kabush up a bit.  The descent was a fine balance of hauling ass but also not getting to crazy and risking everything with slashing a tire on the sharp rocks.  The speed I was going should’ve been sufficient to hold off anyone but Kabush is a bit of a monster and steadily closed the small 15 second gap and soon we were wheel to wheel.

We road together for a while and eventually with 10 km to go there were two options in my head.  Option A, stick with Kabush and then sprint it out in the end but the odds were heavily stacked in his favour as he was running a double chainring with a 38 T up front vs the 34 T single which I’d be spinning out on the finishing straight.  Therefor it was Option B which meant trying to drop him on the one and only little fireroad climb between trail sections.  Kabush attacked first, I found some energy stores to counter attack and could see he was nearing the end of his string. I likely was too but gambled the body could recover from one more attack and went for it again.  Kabush somehow managed to cover and came around to the hit the single track first.

Counter attacking he used his enduro skills to rail the descending trails a bit faster as I was buggered trying to regain composure from the efforts bouncing around off rocks and trees for a while.  With Kabush out of sight I stherefordarted sending voodoo energy his way in hopes he’d flat on the sharp rocks still to come but unfortunately this was to no avail.  With Kabush and I blowing each other up pretty good, Jeremy Martin came back into contention nearly catching my wheel for 2nd but one last burst would hold him off as I’d scrape in for the Silver medal, 56 seconds down from Kabush and 24  seconds ahead of Jeremy.

At the finish people were asking if I was disappointed with the result of not reclaiming the National Champs Jersey which was the goal.  When you leave it all out there and still finish 2nd in the country how can you be disappointed I thought?  Bike racing is a tough sport as there is only 1 winner and usually 100 + non-winners, nothing like a hockey game in which the odds are 50% as you either win or lose.

In this race I took some gambles, learned some lessons and will come back stronger and better prepared next time around.  Kabush is one of the top, if not the top clean  mountain bike racer this 13723990_10153595867586193_7692980911040517405_o copy
country has ever scene and deserved this one.  I’ll be back to try and make sure the Maple Leaf Jersey isn’t his for long.

Big thanks to my buddy Simon Tremblay for the support and helping bring home the Silver.   Looking forward to a couple more days out here taking in the French culture before heading back to the Rockies for the Alberta XC and Marathon Champs this weekend in Bragg Creek!

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Photo Credit, David Gagnon

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