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Why this really was the most important ‘cross worlds for Canadians ever

Why this really was the most important ‘cross worlds for Canadians ever

It’s been almost 40 years since Canadians have begun racing in ‘cross in Europe, and 2023 marks one of the biggest world championships ever for Canada. In the late ‘80s, Ottawa’s Mark Orzel would travel to Europe, setting up shop in Switzerland and trying to break into the pro ‘cross scene. He’d race the worlds, along with riders like Jim Sciberas. In the ‘90s, Kris Westwood (future Cycling Canada High Performance Director), Peter Wedge, Brian Pederson and Bill Hurley would follow in their footsteps, racing in Europe and ‘cross worlds. As time went on, more and more racers would take the plunge and head across the pond. Mike Garrigan, Maghalie Rochette, Michael van den Ham and many more would mix it up in the big leagues.

Unless you spent the weekend on Jupiter, you probably know that Isabella Holmgren is the new junior world champion. Her sister Ava came in second in an emotional and incredible race. Madeleine Pollock would finish 38th and Geza Rodgers in 41st.

Gold and silver: the Holmgren twins make Canadian cross history

Maghalie Rochette, who had a great race herself finishing 9th after a mechanical on the first lap, said Holmgren’s race summed up Canada’s progression in the sport.

“Coming to Belgium and doing ‘cross, it took years to earn the respect and to learn the ropes. There are all sorts of little things that are part of the sport, all that is pretty hard. It took years to figure it out,” She said, after finishing 9th in the elite women’s race. “Now we are in a spot where we as a country are well respected here and people in the community can help us.” Sidney McGill who had several breakout races on the World Cup circuit, finished 25th.

Another stand-out performance was that of Ian Ackert, who finished in 11th. “I had a good clean race. I’m really happy it ended this way,” the Stimulus-Orbea rider said. “It’s a dream, we’ve all trained together for five years to see Bella and Ava get 1-2 was the highlight of the weekend.” Canada’s Mika Comaniuk was 43rd in the junior men’s race, with Filipe Duarte coming in 62nd and Cam McCallum in 70th.

Photo: Connor Gregory

In the u-23 women’s race, Christiane Bilodeau finished 31st. In the men’s u-23, Evan Russell was top Canadian in 32nd, followed by Cody Scott in 36th.

Although he didn’t get the top-30 that he had aimed for, Michael van den Ham’s race had some early drama. He crashed on the first lap, which cost him time. But he also…

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