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Holmgren, Ackert lead as young racers claim national ‘cross titles in Victoria, B.C.

Under-17, under-23 and junior racing from Layritz Park

Photo by: Nick Iwanyshyn

Canadian cyclocross national championships are back in Layritz Park, just outside Victoria, B.C. From a frosty start to muddy mid-day races, thrilling racing from Canada’s next generation revealed new champions and a bright future for the country’s cyclocross program.

Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

Under-23 Women

On the start line, junior world champion Isabella Holmgren was clearly the woman to watch. While just in her first year of U23, the Stimulus-Orbea racer already had the Pan Am championship title – and several other wins – to her name.

Off the line, though, last year’s silver medalist Jenaya Francis clearly wasn’t keen to let the favourite off easy. Francis was locked to Holmgren’s wheel for the opening laps. Holmgren pitted, switching to full mud tires for grip, and picked up the pace.

Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

“Jenaya’s a super strong rider, so I was definitely a little worried,” Holmgren said after the race. “She went into the pits on one lap and I just kept my pace pretty hard, kept putting down the power and made the gap.”

That gap stuck to the finish line and Holmgren added another national championship jersey to her growing collection. Despite the success at the continental and international level, a national championship title is still something special.

“It definitely means a lot. There was a super strong field, really fast girls today. So I’m happy I was able to have a good performance,” Holmgren said after her win.

Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

Under-23 Men

A four-way battle quickly formed in the under-23 men’s race. Last year’s junior men’s champion, Ian Ackert, traded leads with Noah Ramsay, Cody Scott and Owen Clark. While Ramsay was pushing the pace in the front group, a mechanical saw his drop back into the field. While he chased valiantly to get back into the top 10, the Bateman’s rider will be left wondering what could have been.

Up front, Acktert and Scott had formed a leading duo. While Clark rejoined occasionally, the front two were locked in a battle for the lead. Ackert, the youngest but already the Pan Am under-23 champ, arrived in Victoria with solid form and confidence.

Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

“It was definitely a lot slipperier than I thought, I spent the first couple laps just trying to learn the course. I felt like I had good legs, so I just took it easy in the beginning to find all the grip. On the first lap, I switched to my B bike, which had a bit lower pressure, and was able to rip it from there.”

The patient strategy paid off. When Clark rejoined the duo with two to go, Ackert was quick to respond.

“In the middle of that lap, I looked back and saw I had a couple of seconds out of a corner,” Ackert says of the winning move. “I Just focused or the next few corners and came out with five seconds, so I just went from there.”

Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

Cody Scott was working his own strengths to try hold his own as the lone B.C. racer in the Ontario-dominated quartet.

“We had a good group going and conditions were extremely slick. I knew if I could hold Ian in the corners, I’d have a good chance of staying on the wheel,” Scott said after. “We each had our bobbles, and at one point I found myself on the front. I knew I had to just keep it smooth and calm. On the last lap, I didn’t have quite enough to keep with Ian, but I’m super stoked with how that went.”

Ackert wheelied across the line for the win. Scott crossed second with Owen Clark holding on for third.

From here, both riders are headed overseas for the next phase of their season. Christmas cross, training camps and world championships await. While for most racers, this weekend marks the end of the season, the fastest are just getting started.

“We’re like halfway through at this point,” Scott says. “It’s a long season!”

Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

Junior men and women

Rafaelle Carrier has dominated much of her junior women’s racing this fall, at the USCX series, Pan American championships and elsewhere. On Saturday, Alberta’s Nico Knoll pushed Carrier for the first half of the race. While the Pan Am champ was able to gain some separation on the closing laps, it remained close until the line. Carrier earns the title with Knoll second and Quebec’s Lily-Rose Marois rounding out the podium in third.

On the men’s side, Jayden Mcmullen was able to quickly separate himself from the men’s field, despite reporting a slow start off the line.

“I couldn’t really get clipped in. But as soon as I did, I found a gap on the right side on the first corner and I scooped six people. I just kept looking for gaps to get to the front and, when we hit the first greasy section it was just carnage behind me.”

Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

From there, Mcmullen rode solo off the front of the junior men, but not alone. The KW Cycling Academy racer quickly started reeling in the under-23 men’s field that started one minute ahead. With Alix Brunelle and Graham Francis chasing, Mcmullen had to move through traffic efficiently.

“They were pretty understanding,” the new junior champ said of the u23’s. “I had to slow in a few corners, but most let me by pretty quick.”

Mcmullen takes the jersey, Brunelle silver and Francis bronze.

Lydia Stack-Michasiw. Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn

Under-17 men and women

The under-17 women raced the first start of the day, launching into frosty fields and still thawing mud. In possibly the trickiest conditions of the day, Lydia Stack-Michasiw of Saskatchewan won the maple leaf jersey.

“It was really slippery and hard. We were battling back and fourth. People were crashing all over the place,” the Saskatchewan racer said after. With sketchy course conditions, keeping pressure on was key. “Honestly, the girl in front of me crashed right before the finish, and I just went for it,” Stack-Michasiw said of her winning move.

She was joined on the podium by a B.C. duo of Tayte Proulx-Royds and Sabina Rossiello.

Under-17 men fly off the start. Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

An hour later, the under-17 men faced a constantly changing, and still very challenging course. As the ground thawed, a film of mud developed on top of the still-frozen ground.

“On the first lap, the side hill section was rideable. Very quickly after, it degraded and I had to run it,” said new u17 champion Ethan Wood. With the unpredictable course, he says the winning strategy was simple. “Just keep it smooth.”

That worked, as Wood escaped Larix Hallett on the final lap to take the win. Farland Lamont followed in third.

Results: 2023-24 Canadian Cylocross National Championships (Layritz Park, Victoria)

Under-23 Women

1 Isabella Holmgren (Stimulus Orbea) 46:09.19
2 Jenaya FrancisGrouwels (Watersley R+D Team) 46:43.25
3 Ella Myers (The Bike Shop) 48:32.30

Under-23 Men

1 51 Ian Ackert (Stimulus Orbea)

2 52 Cody Scott (Comp Edge Racing)
3 53 Owen Clark (Hockley Valley Armada)

Junior women

1 Rafaelle Carrier (Equipe du Quebec)
2 Nico Knoll (Cyclemeisters / Bow Cycle)
3 Lily-Rose Marois (Equipe Quebec) 39:06.03

Junior men

1 Jayden Mcmullen (KW Cycling Academy)
2 Alix Brunelle 
3 Graham Francis(Juventus CC )

Under-17 Men

1 Ethan Wood (Charge BC XC)
2 Larix Hallett (Team Alberta – RMCC)
3 Farland Lamont (AWI Racing p/b The Crank & Sprocket)

Under-17 Women

1 Lydia Stack-Michasiw (Team SK)
2 Tayte Proulx-Royds (Liv Canada Off Road team)
3 Sabina Rossiello (Team DEVO)

Full results from all categories are live on Webscorer.com