Shimano Canadian Cyclocross Championships Elevates Annual Cycling Fest
13 Oct, 2014
During the last weekend in October a small city on the Canadian prairie, Winnipeg, will host a national cyclocross championship that seeks to surpass all previous editions in scope and quality. Moreover, a downtown venue will maximize exposure to the event and sport by taking cyclocross to the people.
Canada’s national cyclocross competition, to be held this year from Oct. 24-25, has a 25-plus year history. The 2014 Shimano Canadian Cyclocross Championships is the first edition to run as a three-day full-blown festival similar to big American events like Providence. On October 24 the Kick Cancer Cyclocross Derby launches the weekend with new programming in the shape of community races and clinics. Serious competition ensues with the Canadian Cyclocross Championships on October 25 and Manitoba Grand Prix of Cyclocross international UCI C2 race the next day. Title sponsor Shimano will provide neutral support throughout the weekend.
The Forks in the heart of Winnipeg hosts the three-day festival. This popular gathering place showcases shopping, dining, and cultural attractions in a waterside park setting. Gravel paths, deep sand, grass, pavement, cobblestones, and riverfront furnish elements for a dynamic and fast course. One section winds through a marketplace selling strong coffee, warm pastries, and international fare from empanadas to spring rolls.
Riders will experience a circuit with an in-town feel similar to venues in the Belgian motherland of cyclocross while introducing the sport to thousands of individuals. Upwards of 30,000 people visit The Forks on its busiest days.
Racing where the public plays: The Forks first held a cyclocross competition in 2013 with Manitoba’s provincial championships. Current women’s elite Canadian cyclocross champion and new mountain bike world champion Catharine Pendrel is familiar with the venue and scheduled to compete in both days of elite racing.
“Races are always better when we can draw large crowds and share our sport,” Pendrel says. “I like it when people that have never watched a bike race can happen upon one and check it out and meet the people that devote their lives to it! I think the downtown venue will add energy to the riders, races and the crowds.”
Friday’s day one presents a morning through night slate of fun races, bike skills and heckling lessons, and special sessions for women that include a Fast and Female chat for junior riders. Activities benefit the Cancer Care Manitoba Foundation.
Canada’s elite and best amateur cyclists battle for red and white maple leaf jerseys on Saturday. Maghalie Rochette and former elite champion Mical Dyck will face Pendrel among others for the elite women’s title. On the men’s side, current elite champion Geoff Kabush and reigning junior and U23 champions Willem Boersma and Michael van den Ham are set to compete, as well as last year’s elite podium finishers Aaron Schooler and Cameron Jette.
Saturday’s non-championship races highlight athletes pursuing dominance in U13, U15, and U17 categories. Concentrated and smiling faces should light up the separate kids course.
Elite riders expected to challenge Canada’s best at Sunday’s Manitoba Grand Prix of Cyclocross include Americans Ellen Noble and Jeremy Durrin, as well as top British rider Gabby Durrin.
With Winnipeg located within a day’s drive north of Minneapolis, the UCI race is expected to draw a fair number of Americans. Cheers of national pride will echo within The Forks during Friday night’s Canada versus USA relay race and Wannabe Canadian Challenge on Saturday.
Fans can view online livestreams of the weekend’s elite races plus Saturday’s U23 and junior men’s competitions via Canadian Cycling Magazine. And in another first, the Canadian premiere of the film “Working Dogs,” featuring Kabush, plays on Thursday evening.
Canadian cyclocross centerpiece: This year’s championships take place earlier than the typical November calendar slot.
“Last year we ran them in the last week of November,” says Nicholas Vipond, competition coordinator for Cycling Canada. “But generally that weekend in Winnipeg is under two feet of snow and minus 20 Celsius.”
Canada’s numbing December cold and associated ice-encrusted eyelashes can deter even the most hardened cyclocross racers from training and racing outdoors. So the Canadian ‘cross season generally extends from September through November. Strong local series thrive around Vancouver and Ottawa, Vipond says. Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba operate solid provincial series.
A shorter season, significant distances between population centers, and accessibility for many Canadians to a robust number of American races leads most invested in the sport to the same conclusion: holding one or two big annual events is a better approach than building a national cyclocross series.
With only one other 2014 UCI race in Canada, the one-day C2 Cyclocross de Rimouski, the national championship becomes a singular opportunity for Cycling Canada to put on the country’s biggest cyclocross event.
“It's great to have big events at ‘home’ because they connect our community,” Pendrel says.
“For me it’s a chance to get to know some of the up and comers, the organizers and families behind the racers. For developing riders, they get exposed to what bigger, faster races look like and can challenge themselves at a higher level without the challenges of international travel.”
True to both grassroots Canadian cyclocross culture and European tradition, local brewer Half Pints will supply a Belgian IPA called “Dead Ringer” which it created uniquely for the Shimano Canadian Cyclocross Championships.
Winnipeg welcomes the event again next year with continued support from title sponsor Shimano. For more information see the event website at http://winnipegcx2014.ca.
About Winnipeg, Manitoba: Winnipeg is a cosmopolitan city with a population of 778,400. Capital of the province of Manitoba, it lies near the longitudinal center of North America and experiences four distinct seasons. Winnipeg has been a crossroads for culture and commerce throughout its 6,000 year history; it offers a thriving arts and entertainment scene, beautiful outdoor spaces, and diverse shopping and dining. The city has twice welcomed the Pan American Games. Winnipeg will co-host the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2015 and the Canada Summer Games in 2017. Reach the city’s official tourism resource at http://www.tourismwinnipeg.com.
About The Forks: A former rail yard and meeting place for early Aboriginal groups where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers intersect, The Forks is a cherished Winnipeg public space. It offers a culturally diverse marketplace containing varied restaurants and food vendors, distinct shops, bars and entertainment opportunities, and an on-site hotel. The area also features Canada’s largest urban skate park, a children’s museum, and the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Find more information at http://www.theforks.com.
About Shimano: Shimano is a multinational company based in Japan with North American operations that include the Shimano Canada division. Its business encompasses the production and distribution of bicycle components, fishing tackle and rowing equipment. Dedicated to supplying high-quality, high-performance products, Shimano creates components for bicycles from recreational to high performance models. Cyclists know Shimano as a brand committed to supplying technical and other support for professional and amateur races around the world. Learn more about Shimano at http://www.shimano.com.