HALEY SMITH WINS BRONZE IN WOMEN’S MOUNTAIN BIKE

Gold Coast, Australia, April 12, 2018 – Canadian cyclists took their third medal of the Commonwealth Games on Thursday, with Haley Smith winning the bronze medal in the women’s Mountain Bike competition at Nerang Mountain Bike Trails, just west of Gold Coast. Emily Batty was fourth and Leandre Bouchard sixth in the men’s race.

The 4.6 kilometre course took riders on two long loops out and back from the start-finish at an outdoor velodrome. Not as technical as World Cup circuits, the course was fast and flowy.

The women’s race saw Smith challenge at the front in the first half lap, with English riders Annie Last and Evie Richards, followed closely by Canada’s Emily Batty. However, Smith made a mistake on one the steep climbs, losing multiple spots, and had to work her way back from seventh.

Batty was sitting in third by Lap 2, 45 seconds behind the two English riders. Smith steadily moved up to join Batty by Lap 4 and dropped her team mate on the next lap, but the two front spots were out of reach. Annie Last took the gold medal ahead of Richards.

“I didn’t have a lot of expectations for a specific performance when I came here,” said Smith. “I struggled this week with believing that I deserved to be here, so my Games experience was about feeling the atmosphere and being confident in myself and my preparation. When I got to the start line, all I wanted to do was race and it worked out. The first climb has three technical up sections and I think everybody had problems at least once during the race, but unfortunately mine was on the first lap. Annie and Evie got a gap there and I fell back to about seventh. From that point on, I was just chasing. I kept my head down and kept at it, and it played out.”

“This is a very different event [from world championships]; this is a major Games, but it is a smaller field. There are some top international performers here, and I didn’t really know what to expect of myself, and I don’t know I can compare it to a world championships. But I’m really happy, and this is something I will have for the rest of my life. I feel very proud and humbled, and fulfilled.”

Dan Proulx, National Mountain Bike Coach, said “It was a strong race for our women; the start was pretty challenging with lots of traffic and a tight climb. If you missed it, it was a game changer. I’m proud of the girls for fighting back and they rode the last quarter of the race strongly. It is early, early season for us, and we have a lot of work to do as the World Cups start.”

In the men’s race, the New Zealand duo of Anton Cooper and Sam Gaze quickly opened a gap on the field with Alan Hatherly of South Africa joining them. Bouchard got caught up in traffic, missing the front group but managing to bridge up to the chasers. He tried to attack a few times but could not open a gap on English rider Frazer Clacherty, finishing sixth in a sprint just behind Clacherty.

“My start was so-so,” said Bouchard, “I was stuck behind some other riders on the first climb, so I lost contact with the front group. I kept charging and was able to make contact with the chase group. I tried to attack on the third lap, but there wasn’t enough space to pass and I crashed. I kept pushing to try and get in medal contention, but the gap was too big. I attacked on the last lap, but it wasn’t enough to get rid of the English guy and he won the sprint for fifth. It was a great experience to be here with the national team and represent Canada.”

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PENDREL & L’ESPERANCE TAKE BEAR MOUNTAIN CANADA CUP WINS

Victoria, BC, April 1st, 2018 – The 2018 Canada Cup Mountain Bike Series opened on Saturday with wins in the Elite women and men by Catharine Pendrel (Clif Pro) and Andrew L’Esperance (Forward Racing – Norco).

Held at Bear Mountain Resort, just outside Victoria, BC, the course is situated in the foothills of Mount Finlayson with breathtaking views of Victoria’s seaside harbour.  Bear Mountain Resort is the national training centre for Canada’s mountain bike squad.

Pendrel, the 2016 Rio Olympic bronze medalist and defending champion at Bear Mountain, rode away from the rest of the women’s field to win by nearly one minute over Haley Smith (Norco Factory). Smith will head to Gold Coast, Australia, from Bear Mountain, to represent Canada at the Commonwealth Games.  American Haley Batten (Clif Pro) took third, with Canadian national champion Emily Batty (Trek Factory) in fourth. Batty will also represent Canada at Gold Coast.

“Bear Mountain treated us to some dry conditions,” said Pendrel. “I had a strong start, following Haley Smith, who led the race out. There was a pretty big group of us still at the descent, but coming to the climb I went to the front and was able to open a gap, which I held to the finish.”

In the men’s race, L’Esperance held off Commonwealth Games athlete Leandre Bouchard (KMC-Ekoi-SR Suntour) by a slim two second margin to take the victory. National champion Peter Disera (Norco Factory) finished third, despite flatting twice and having to fight his way back into the top-3.

“It was a really fast race from the beginning,” said L’Esperance, “there were no laps where we took it easy. I led out on the first lap, which was my plan; to put pressure on, on the first descent. By the second lap it was down to four of us – me, Leandre, Peter and Sean [Fincham, L’Esperance’s team mate]. Pete got off the front, but flatted, so it was just ‘Dre and I until the last lap when Pete got back up. In the last 300 metres I managed to get to the front and hold on for the win.”

In the Junior Expert categories, Mireille Larose-Gingras (Equipe du Quebec/Sigma) won the women’s race over Marianne Theberge (Equipe du Quebec/Mathieu), while Holden Jones (Cycling BC) won the men’s, a bare one second in front of Carter Woods (Dodge City Cycles/RMB/CBC).

“The race started fast, like I planned,” said Jones. “Three of us got into the singletrack together at the front. I attacked on the final climb and just managed to hold on for the finish.”