Heading into this year's National Championship I was feeling strong and confident that, after some satisfactory races in Europe, I could be a podium contender. After a slower start of the season and struggling with little or no UCI points, I was very excited to start a race near the front. I had a few days at home to prep for Nationals and get some relaxation in. The week leading into the race went very smoothly thanks to an awesome course and teammates. A few days before the race I was told that Peter Disera would be racing in the Elite category because he was too strong for U-23 (he went on to win Elite Nationals). This got me excited that I could possibly leave Canmore with a jersey.
The day of the race I started second row and hit it fast from the gun, trying to string out the field throughout the start loop. I knew that I wanted to race aggressively so that I could slim down the field. I broke away with Quinton Disera and Raph Auclair. The three of us rode together for a lap then Raph fell off the back. Now it was just Quinton and I, just like last year in Junior. I tried to pick up the pace in a few spots to try and open a gap but I couldn’t separate from Quinton. Near the middle of the race Quinton made a mistake which resulted in a fall for him. I attacked and opened a pretty big gap. I was now in the lead with a big gap and big dreams. I was riding strong extending my lead when disaster struck: my rear rotor came loose causing me to have no rear brake. Those who rode some of the chutes on the course can understand how scary that was. The pressure was on and I was losing time. I was on my last lap and, after somehow rolling down the chutes, I pulled into the pits for a wheel change. Luckily the time in the pit was quick (about 45 seconds) but still, I was stressed. I could see Raph closing in on me as my time gap disappeared. I got back on and pinned it with absolutely everything I had. I extended my 20 to 30 second gap to around 40 seconds and rode in for the title. The relief I had after finishing such a stressful race was incredible. I’m very happy to take the title in my first year and can't thank my supporters enough. Thanks to Norco Bicycles, my team Forward Racing-Norco and all the supporters of that program. I am excited to do my best to represent the maple leaf for the next year and thanks for reading.
Photos by Rob Smith and Haley Smith.