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.”