Hardwood is one of, if not the oldest and most prestigious events of the Canada Cup series. This race venue has hosted 18 Canada Cups and 3 national championships in the last 21 years. The best cross-country racers that this country has ever produced have all laid tire tracks here, and they inspired many of the current generation of fast riders to emulate them. It is therefore, no coincidence that this region is a true hotbed of cross-country talent; in fact, 5 of the 27 athletes selected for Canada's 2016 World Championships squad live within riding distance of this course.
The course itself is typical of this part of the country; fast and flowy singletracks, with short, punchy climbs. In order to spice things up a bit and keep up with the current trend in course design, some man-made features have been added in recent years. With a perfect combination of rain and sun in the days leading up to the race, the dirt was tacky and the course was running as fast as ever. Walking through the pits, it was obvious that fast-rolling tires were the order of the day. However, the hardtail vs. full-suspension decision was a difficult one for many. In the end, the men's race was won on the former, whereas the women's race was won on the latter.
Emily Batty's mechanic performing a last-minute bleed.
We hear that there was a fierce argument at the Norco Factory Team dinner table about whether the hardtail or full-suspension was best for this course, which may or may not have turned into a wrestling match. It appears that there was no clear winner; two hardtails, two dualies...
Gershom Morris, one of the Scott-3rox mechanics, ensuring that Derek Zandstra's bike is running smooth.
Evan McNeely was hoping to keep his leader's jersey today, and he did. He will be starting the last race of the series with it, but the overall win is still far from certain for him.
Zandstra has a gel, while McNeely takes a deep breath and focuses on the race ahead.
Batty was in a league of her own today, taking the lead on the first lap and steadily increasing her advantage over the 5-lap race.
Meanwhile, the junior women's race was a tight one. Emily Handford hit the front early but could feel Dana Gilligan, Sidney McGill, and Sophiane Samson breathe down her neck for the majority of the race. She was able to hold them off and took her third Canada Cup win of the season.
Emily Handford making it look easy. Probably one of the best poker faces on the circuit.
Cindy Montambeault on her way to a 2nd place finish.
Andrew L'Esperance and Marc-Andre Fortier pushed hard the whole race to try and catch the group that was mere seconds ahead of them. Unfortunately, their hopes didn't materialise.
Felix Belhumeur suffered from a broken derailleur cable early on. A quick fix by his mechanic allowed him to play catch up for the remainder of the race.
Matching shoes for Emily Batty.
Raphael Auclair doing his best Nino Schurter impression.
Emily Batty through the lush greenery.
Emily Handford consolidated her lead in the series.
Guthrie powering up on of the many climbs.
Batty tackling the infamous Boneshaker section.
Cindy Montambeault going for the middle line down the Boneshaker.
Laurie Arsenault looking focused.
Emily Batty cut her racing teeth on this course. Fans, young and old, were happy to see her compete at home.
Soren Meuwisse, one of the local riders, at the top of the switchback climb. She ended the day in 6th.
Quinton Disera continued the fine form that saw him win three out of four Canada Cups so far this year in the junior category.
Evan Guthrie heading up the first climb on his last lap, with Zandstra only a handful of seconds behind him.
Andrew L'Esperance speeding through the forest.
Derek Zandstra always kept Evan Guthrie within eyesight, and many spectators thought that the hungry wolf would catch the young rabbit on the last lap.
In the end, though, Guthrie had the legs to take the win.
A successful day at the office for the Norco Factory Team.