Forward Racing-Norco: Canadian National Championships 2018 in Canmore, Alberta
July 27, 2018
By Andrew L’Esperance
Although National Championships are no different than any other bike race, they are. They are different because they carry that bit of extra weight; performing at Nationals is important. Some thrive under this extra pressure, others crumble because of it. We had a bit of both at Forward Racing-Norco this year.
The XCO Canadian National Championships were held at the Canmore Nordic Center for the second year in a row. After the last two World Cup races in Europe, it was nice to be closer to home. Course changes added some extra challenges but made the track more flowy overall. It was a tough one to ride and an even harder one to race – perfect for choosing the Canadian National Champion.
Lespy (Andrew L’Esperance) had a solid start and fought hard throughout the race. He managed to hold on to the lead group before he crashed on a technical downhill. With a strong mind and even stronger legs, Lespy finished 4th, missing the podium by only one spot.
“As a teammate and team manager it was an awesome day, as an athlete it was a tough one but equally awesome. Going into the race, I was riding waves of emotion as I prepared for a race that was very important to me. I did my best leading into race day and arrived at the line relaxed and ready to race. Right from the start I went for it. I led the first downhill and rolled the next climb with the leader. Unfortunately, I crashed in the first technical downhill after the start loop. I was completely fine, but the damage was done, and I slipped back in the field from there. Mid-race, I was in 8th place before I refocused and rallied back up though the field. This was my best recovery I have ever made in a race. I rode up to 4th place and closed the gap to the leaders. Although my ride was far from smooth and not exactly what I was hoping for, I am proud of the latter half of the race. I took some solid lessons from the experience.” – Andrew L’Esperance
2017 U23 XC National Champion, Sean Fincham, was determined to defend his title and represent the maple leaf jersey for another year. Read about Sean’s race below.
“This year’s National champs was one to remember because everything fell into place. But it was not without its challenges. The week prior to the race was far from perfect as I was very stressed. After a few successful European races and coming in as the defending champ, I felt that I needed to perform at my best. I was hard on myself because of the amount of pressure that I was under to win. I managed the stress as best as I could and prepared for the weekend just like any other race. On race day, I was definitely feeling the pressure more than ever but once I got on my bike and started to warm up the nervous feelings subsided, and I focused on what had to be done. I had a pretty good start and managed to get into the lap in second place. As soon as we hit the first long climb on the course I put in a pretty good attack and managed to separate myself from the lead group. I realized that I had a small gap at the top of the climb and rolled with it. I was a bit nervous riding solo from lap one, but I didn’t want to waste an opportunity. As the lap went on, I realized the gap was growing between myself and second place and it continued to do so in the following laps. I just focused on gaining small amounts of time anywhere I could without wasting energy. I wasn’t sure how much time was between myself and second place until the later laps when someone gave me a split of two minutes. I didn’t sit up. I just tried to catch more elites in front of me. It didn’t hit me that I had it in the bag until the last lap. I played it a little cautious and rolled it into the finish. Crossing the line felt so good and I am stoked that I was able to defend my title for another year.” – Sean Fincham
Congrats to Sean for the exceptional performance and managing the pressure leading into the race. We are very excited to have the maple leaf on our team for the next year and will continue to do our best on and off the bike to represent it well.
A big thank you to Norco Bicycles and all the sponsors, supporters and fans of our program. We couldn’t have had this kind of success without you and your support.
All images by Jason Haycock