CAIRNS, AUS – The opening round of the Cross-country World Cup in Cairns, Australia, saw two Canadians on the podium, with Catherine Fleury (Canadian National) finishing second in the Under-23 Women, and Catharine Pendrel (Luna) taking fourth in the Elite women. Two Canadian men finished in the top-20 in the Elite Men’s race. In Mountain Bike, the podium is determined by the five top finishers.
Pendrel overcame a slow start to move into the top five after two laps, then fourth a lap later, and then to third with two laps to go. However, a mistake on a descent allowed Australian Rebecca Henderson to get away on the final lap to take third. Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) also had a strong race, finishing seventh. Sandra Walter (Canadian National) was 24th and Cindy Montambault 36th. Haley Smith (Canadian National) did not finish after crashing. Danish rider Annika Langvad was the winner.
“Fourth isn’t what I ideally wanted to start with,” admitted Pendrel, “but I had thumb surgery two weeks ago, so I’ll take it today. I was riding pretty sketchy out there, so I’m happy that I kept it together for fourth.”
Raphael Gagne (Canadian National) had a top-20 start in the Elite men’s race and managed to improve on that in the first few laps, moving as high as 13th. He faltered in the middle portion of the race before recovering to finish 12th; a career high in a non-North American World Cup. World champion Nino Schurter of Switzerland was the race winner.
“I’m absolutely satisfied with my ride,” said Gagne. “I started around 18th or 20th and picked my way up. So I rode a consistent race and paced myself. I felt strong physically and technically and felt that I finished well for the high heat conditions. Last year I cracked the top-20 in World Cups, so this year I wanted top-10 to top-15. Last year, outside of North America my best result was 14th, so I improved on it today.”
Leandre Bouchard (Canadian National) is only a second-year rider in the elite ranks. However, he moved from his 47th start position to the mid-20s in the first two laps and then held that position until the finish, when he outsprinted others in his group to take 19th.
Other Canadian results include Derek Zandstra (Scott-3Rox) in 29th, Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox) in 56th, Evan Guthrie (Norco) in 57th and Andrew L’Esperance (Norco) in 58th. Evan McNeely (Norco) did not finish after crashing.
In the Under-23 Women’s race, Catherine Fleury moved into second on the first lap, behind American Kate Courtney. Fleury rode a consistent race to maintain her position unchallenged through the entire race.
“This is my best result ever,” said Fleury. “I think I rode really strongly, and I was catching Elite riders [who started two minutes ahead] every lap, so I’m pretty happy with what I have done.”
In the Under-23 Men’s race, Marc-André Fortier (Equipe du Quebec) was the top finisher, in 25th place, after Canadian national champion Alexandre Vialle flatted on the final lap while a few spots in front of him. Vialle recovered to finish 29th. Other Canadian results include Felix Belhumeur in 32nd and Raphael Auclair in 35th.
Post courtesy Cycling Canada