Rider Perspective: North American World Cups - XCO

Aug 13, 2014
by Evan Guthrie  
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Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup
Mont-Sainte-Anne(MSA) is one of the longest running cross-country races in the world. 1991 - my first year on earth - MSA had its first World Cup. Every year since, the venue has had a World Cup. Including two World Championships in those year: 1998 & 2010. It’s located about forty minutes north east of Quebec City up the St Lawrence river.

This is my favourite race course and venue in the world, hands down. There is something about the crowds, real mountain biking and its atmosphere. It is renown to be, arguably, the hardest World Cup venue due to the technical nature, steep hills and amount of full-body work it takes to lug oneself around the course.

MSA has always had a special place in my heart. In 2008 I won my first national championship as a first year junior. In 2009 I took part in my first National Team World Cup project with Canada and won the junior World Cup race at MSA. In 2012, as a third year Under-23, I had my best-ever U23 World Cup finish in 13th.

It was only fitting that I make my Elite World Cup debut at this race. I was excited to tow the start line, but also in the dark as to what the race would hold, especially after being called up in 84th. I’ve watched these World Cups in person, on RedBull TV, listened to riders stories and advice they've given. Some things were helpful, but no race is ever the same and tactics can go out the door when some other rider cuts you off, rides straight into you, gets off mid-trail to run or a crash happens in front, beside or up a head. Unpredictable would be the word.

North American World Cups - XCO

I kept my race plan open with many question marks so that I could just “go with the flow” and make the best of every situation. From the start things went quite well. Only managed to pick off 7 spots through the start loop. Immediately after the first single track section the field bottle-necked; a zoo of spandex-wearing cyclists doing everything possible to gain a spot. Riders were crashing into each other, off their bikes running and full-on in panic mode. It was actually quite funny to see how some riders dealt out there. Turns out guys with shaved legs are actually quite aggressive..who knew?

North American World Cups - XCO

I don't think that many people imagine in a bike race you end up off your bike, running and fighting other riders while on foot. That is how it goes at the back of 100+ person field. After lap 2 the field was spreading out and it was time to start given’r until 7 laps were completed.

The course was hard, and by hard I mean three big climbs each lap of about ~3 min each, which made roughly 200 meters of climbing per lap. Laps were anywhere from 12:30 to, well, a lot more.

North American World Cups - XCO
Marmot climbs feature many steep and tight switchbacks

It was a race of passing and I just kept focused on picking guys off. With my fitness right now I knew that a good day was possible, even if I didn’t feel my finest. Riding smart and focused on the pain train allowed me to go from 84th to a 36th place finish. VERY happy with the performance and outcome. I wouldn’t say I felt great, just normal and that allowed me to ride steady, make meaningful attacks on the climbs and use the downhill to increase/close gaps to other riders.

North American World Cups - XCO
The famous Beatrice descent

The support out there always amazes me. I can’t begin to explain how much all the cheering makes in our races. Thank you to everyone on course.

The race ended up being long for myself at around ~1:45, but I was still able to punch it on the last lap for a few final passes and make for one of my faster lap times. Something that usually eludes me on a final lap. But, with my old age now it might start to appear more often.


Fellow teammates rode very well with Haley Smith going top-10 and Cayley Brooks 30th in the U23 women, Evan Mcneely 7th in the U23 men and both Andrew Watson and Andrew L’esperance went 49th and 75th in elite men. Young gun Peter Disera was a DNS after a crash in the days leading up.

North American World Cups - XCO

Windham World Cup
After MSA my sights were set high for Windham. I didn't want my first elite World Cup to be a lucky finish and I was out to show that in Windham. Here is a quick run through of the week:

Monday I awoke after a tough night sleeping due to the large amount of salty pizza consumption from a motel pizza joint in Beaupre. Combine that with our late 3:30 start and the hot/humid conditions and it was a recipe for a restless sleep. The crew was locked and loaded with the truck, trailer and the Evan Mcneely 'E-Van' for America.

We arrived shortly before dinner time in East Burke, Vermont - home to the Kingdom trails, which is said to have 100 miles of single track. After a quick spin it was time for an American sized dinner. My salad was hard to find under all the beef, but I eventually found it. The burger was quite tasty, although what satisfied me most was the pie. There was a pretty serious game of Monopoly that evening. Not one really knows who won because we started creating our own rules...Manager, Havy, decided he won for being the last man who waited out the fake game. No one questioned the ruling.

Tuesday morning we set out for our big group ride. Our team is fortunate to work with ONE Industries and Ergon, so baggies and riding packs were donned, which does make our “training rides” seem more relaxed and fun. Maybe it was the constant stops for sweets, the jokes or the search for fast descents. Whatever it was, the day was great. We had some riders from the Trek-Canada Team, Liv-Giant and Colnago. It’s great when you can round the troops and enjoy being friends off the track.

Wednesday the Norco Factory Team arrived in Windham with the sole emphasis to get haircuts on Thursday. Our cuts were $10 a piece, but not before the hair dressers husband offered us up some PBR tallboys.

All of sudden Sunday rolled around and we raced again. There was a little surprise to everyone about an hour before the race when the UCI added an extra lap. That was after Catharine Pendrel went so fast in the women’s race, which she won. It was a another 100+ rider field. This race was totally different than MSA, as it consisted of one big long, long uphill before a descent all the way back down. The downhill never feels long enough to offset the uphill! But I will say it was a fun and fast descent that was helpful in my case.

North American World Cups - XCO

This week I moved up thirteen spots on the start line to 71st. Much better, but in reality it’s only one row if you’re lucky. Avoided all crashes and climbed with everything I had. Knowing it was going to be a long and hot race I may have held back my effort though. One of my big strengths in descending, so the opportunity to close and open gaps was significant with this longer descent. Slowly crept through the field, but not at a pace I hoped for.

North American World Cups - XCO

I raced with what I had and used the descents to my advantage. While a top-30 is what I wanted, a 44th is satisfying, continues the consistency and shows that even when I don’t have a great day on the bike, it can still be pretty darn good one.

Again, the fans were phenomenal here, especially the heckle section. There were horns, constumes, chainsaws and just a ton of excitement that was given to us racers.


My Norco Factory Team was top-notch for all support on and off the track. Keeping the mood light within our team leads to a great environment and people I love to travel with.

In Chicago right now as I head back to B.C. tonight and then make the drive to Whistler tomorrow for Crankworx. The final Canada Cup takes place on Friday in Whistler and Saturday is the Canadian National marathon championships in Squamish. At the moment I'm sitting in second overall in the Canada Cup series and hoping for a good race this week! I just won a trip to the Tour of the Dragon in the Kingdom of Bhutan on September 6. It sounds like the trip of a lifetime and I can wait to tackle what they say is the World's hardest one-day mountain bike race, which covers 260km and crests four passes of over 3,000 meters in elevation!

Over and out.

Evan Guthrie

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  • 5 0
 Really liked this, very interesting prespective. Evan sounds like a really great person. Good luck in whistler!
  • 3 0
 Sick write up!! This guy is awesome and its great to get an inside perspective on XC racing!!
  • 2 0
 Great racing Evan!! Always enjoy your write ups... Race fast and see you in September.
  • 2 0
 Very cool to have these write-ups. Keep them coming Evan and PB.

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