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Jackson and Bouchard take first elite titles at XCO nationals

First cross country champs held since 2019 at Baie-Saint-Paul

The first Canadian cross country championships in two years were held on Friday at Baie-St.-Paul. Jenn Jackson and Léandre Bouchard walked away with wins in the elite races, both first time champions in the senior category.

In the under-23 racing, it was Emilly Johnston and Gunnar Holmgren taking top honours.

Baie-St.-Paul hosted the first post-COVID nationals on a muddy weekend day. The event, first was first scheduled to take place in 2020 at Horseshoe Resort. Baie-St.-Paul took over when the original venue declined to host. Nationals will, likely, return to Ontario in 2022.

Elite race – A new champion arrives and an established champion retires

The women were the first elite championship race on course in Baie-St.-Paul. Multi-discipline talent Jenn Jackson used her combination of mountain bike and cyclocross World Cup skills to take the win. Laurie Arseneault looked well recovered from a big crash in Snowshoe at the final World Cup, taking silver behind Jackson. Sandra Walter proved consistent as ever, finding her way onto the podium in third.

Jackson’s win wasn’t the only notable event in the women’s race. It was also Catharine Pendrel’s last elite world championship before the highly-decorated Canadian moves on to the next phase of her career. Cycling Canada recognized Pendrel’s many achievements after the women’s race. In a nice bit of continuity, Jackson and Pendrel have been training partners in Kamloops ever since the new champion relocated to B.C. in 2020.

In the men’s race, Léandre Bouchard adds elite national champion to his list of accomplishments. The 2016 Olympian raced alone off the front to win his first elite title, adding to his constantly strong results this year.

Under-23 races – Johnston and Holmgren back up World Cup promise

In the under-23 races, Emilly Johnston and Gunnar Holmgren take the wins. Both have delivered impressive performances at World Cup’s this season. Racing at home, the two champions, one from B.C. and the other Ontario, showed they can be the fastest of Canada’s next generation of riders.

Victor Verreault and Charles Antoine St.-Onge flanked Holmgren on the u-23 men’s podium, delivering results for the host province.

Marianne Théberge, who also has strong international performances to her name in 2021, and Sidney McGill round out the u-23 women’s podium.

Junior and under-17 racing

Four Canada Cup age categories were awarded national titles on Friday. Before the u23 and elite took to the course, the junior and under-17 races had their chance to fight for maple leaf jerseys.

In the women’s racing, Ophilie Grandmont won the junior women’s race and Merin Lowe the u17 title. Grandmont shared the podium with Marie-Fay St.-Onge and Ella Myers. Lowe was followed by Ava Holmgren and Isabella Holmgren in the u17 race.

Owen Clark and Ian Ackert take home the junior and u17 men’s titles. Clark was chased by Leif Rodgers and Zorak Paille. Ackert bested Cam McCallum and Jacob Roy to take the under-17 win.