While Canadians here at home relax and enjoy an especially mild holiday season, our country’s fastest cyclocross racers are wading knee-deep through the mud and intense competition of this year’s Christmas Cross period.
What is Christmas period racing? When the major European series – Exact Cross, X20 Trofee, Superprestige and World Cup – pile on a staggering eight races in 11 days between Dec. 22nd and January 1. Belgian and Dutch fans, all on holiday, show up in droves for a wild stretch of racing. There’s no shortage of events on either side of this stretch, either, if riders are looking to get more value out of their plane tickets across the Atlantic.
The Canadians are having a fantastic time so far, with performances from elite and junior women’s national champions, Ava Holmgren and Rafelle Carrier, standing out so far. On the men’s side, Ian Ackert is working is way up the standings every race, seeming to get stronger as the miles add up.
World Cup Hulst (Dec. 30)
Ava Holmgren added another big result, finishing 14th in the elite women’s race. Isabella Holmgren, also a first-year under-23 racer, was 25th in elite women. Quebec junior Rafaelle Carrier continued her impressive run in Europe with a 34th, all on the lead lap. Nico Knoll in 46th, Lily Rose Marois 52nd, Siobhan Kelly 56th, Christiane Bilodeau 58th, Aislin Hallahan 63rd and Madeline Pollock 64th round out the results.
On the elite men’s side, u23 Pan Am champ Ian Ackert finished 45th, 5:40 back of race winner Mathieu van der Poel. Cody Scott foloowed 64th.
Jayden McMullen had a big race in 11th in the junior men’s race. Graham Francis followed in 35th and Lucas Goertz 50th
Exact Cross Loenhout – Azencross (Dec. 29)
Exact cross, like many European races, only held an elite women’s category. 16-year-old Maude Ruelland finished 35th, on the same lap as winner Sanne Cant. Marie Fay St.-Onge finished a few spots back in 40th, also on the lead lap, with Mia de Martin in 58th.
In the elite men’s race, Fabian Merino led in 60th, Cameron Jette in 63rd and u23 racer Cody Scott in 64th.
Superprestige – Diegem (Dec. 28)
Ava Holmgren led the Canadian effort with an 11th in the combined elite women’s category, behind women’s winner Puck Pieterse. Junior racer Raphaelle Carrier finished an impressive 21st and on the lead lap. It was a good day for the junior women all around, with Lily Rose Marois (35th), Nico Knoll (37th) and Aislin Hallahan (46th) the next three…