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Catharine Pendrel and Raphael Gagne make US Cup a Canadian sweep

June 27, 2015
2015 Pro XCT Series winners, Catharine Pendrel and Raphael Gagne

2015 US Cup series winners, Catharine Pendrel and Raphael Gagne

updated with full report, June 28, 2015

Canadians Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team) and Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain Bicycles) both won the final US Cup event in the 2015 USA Cycling Pro XCT mountain bike calendar as well as the overall series titles in Colorado Springs on Saturday. Off the front from the gun in their respective fields, they stayed away for 90 minutes under a brilliant sun at an altitude of approximately 1,800 metres.

In the women’s race Pendrel led with teammate Katerina Nash who finished second. Erin Huck (Scott – 3Rox) took third.

“It was pretty much perfect for me out there today,” Pendrel said after the race, “because Katerina and myself got away early and so I knew I’d be with my teammate and no matter who came out on top it was going to be a good day for the team in terms of the overall and the individual day.”

Series leader Gagne raced in a group of three with Russell Finsterwald (SRAM) and American champion Todd Wells (Specialized). Geoff Kabush (Scott – 3Rox) snuck up on them at the finish after chasing the entire race and finished fourth behind Wells. Local racer Finsterwald placed second.

After winning the first race in the series at Bonelli Park, the Colorado win presented a neat wrap-up for Gagne’s US Cup efforts.

“This year I got my first US Cup win at the beginning of the season and here it’s a [UCI] HC race so it’s even bigger,” Gagne said. “So I am very happy with this.” The series title, he said, was another first for him.

As for whether 2015 marks the initial occasion of a Canadian sweep of the American series, Pendrel thought not. During the early days of the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA), which launched in 1983, Canadians were “pretty dominant on the men’s and the women’s sides,” she said. Pendrel won the Pro XCT overall in 2009.

Raphael Gagne with Rocky Mountain team rep Joe after the win

Raphael Gagne with Rocky Mountain team mechanic Joe Anderson after the win

Women’s race

Current world champion Prendrel and Nash built a lead of nearly 20 seconds after the completing the opening partial lap. Chloe Woodruff (Stan’s NoTubes) and Luna’s Georgia Gould each chased singly, followed by a group including Kate Courtney (Specialized), Huck, Larissa Conners (Ridebiker Alliance), and Rose Grant (Stan’s NoTubes). The remainder of the field consisted of lone riders and occasional groups. Soon the early chasers solidified into the group of Huck, Conners, and Woodruff.

Chloe Woodruff tries to pass Erin Huck near the top of the long climb

Chloe Woodruff tries to pass Erin Huck near the top of the long climb

As Nash and Pendrel stretched out their lead lap after lap, a fight for position and UCI HC points developed between the chasers and the two women who stalked them, Gould and Grant. Small gaps opened between Huck, Woodruff, and Conners, which appeared to be driven by Huck’s pace. Gould steadily worked her way forward as Conners lost some ground.

With about one lap to go Pendrel attacked and out-distanced Nash, winning over her teammate by 13 seconds.

Pendrel said the slick, gravely soil conditions played a role in selecting the winner. “We were pretty evenly matched and it just came down to who stayed upright pretty much on that last lap.”

Huck clinched third with a fist pump 30 seconds after Nash. The remainder of the top ten came in one by one. Woodruff placed fourth and Gould held off Conners for fifth.

Two factors played into Pendrel’s satisfaction with her results in Colorado Springs.

“It was definitely a slow burning start to the season and coming into here where it’s at altitude, it’s a little bit different for me. And so I’m really happy with how good I felt today because I just came off of a big training block too,” the world champion said.

“It also gives me confidence going into next weekend in Switzerland which is at the same elevation because my plan was to start hard today and just push my body and see what I could handle at altitude. And I’m happy with what I got.” The Swiss event is part of the World Cup calendar.

Men’s race

Wells left no doubt about his desire to repeat last year’s victory at the same venue. He attacked partway through the first lap, taking a handful of rivals with him.

Eventually the Wells group thinned to three with series leader Gagne and Finsterwald. Fernando Riveros (Raleigh Clement) flatted and lost contact with the leaders whom he continued to pursue despite another flat and a dropped chain. That left Kabush and his teammate Derek Zandstra with the Sho-Air/Cannondale riders, Stephen Ettinger and Keegan Swenson, in a four-man chase group.

“I know the two guys I was racing with are guys that live at altitude, which was definitely a factor for me,” Gagne later said. “So I felt like I had to go kind of steady and play it smart and that’s why I stayed in the group the whole race.”

Todd Wells takes charge

Todd Wells takes charge

The leaders built a gap of at least 45 seconds mid-way through the contest. From there the gap began to drop. With about half a lap remaining the leaders’ advantage had tumbled to just five seconds. The chasers, which now excluded Swenson, could glimpse the threesome. Kabush made a last push and caught the leaders before the finish line.

Gagne said he felt strong in the last lap and that helped him to best Finsterwald in the finale. Wells nipped Kabush at the line, getting third. Zandstra placed fifth.

The first time series winner will remain in the U.S. for altitude training. He’ll prepare for his next race, the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada on July 9.

For full results visit the Sho-Air Cycling Group website.

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