After a strong showing at the opening round, where Catharine Pendrel came second to Erin Huck and Andrew L’Esperance second to Christopher Blevins, the Canadians will be looking to take over when US Pro XCT returns to Bonelli Park, Cali. this weekend. Canada’s Commonwealth Games team has jetted straight from Australia to America’s left coast, keen to keep the racing going.
The classic Bonelli course has been revised for 2018, bringing 4.5km of winding, dusty trail interspersed with double track sections for frequent passing opportunities. The heat is always a factor for Canadians heading south this early in the season, and came into play for several riders last weekend in Fontana, but a week in the California sun should eased our winter nation’s riders out of hibernation and into summer mode. It’s a hard life, pro cycling, but someone has to do it.
Bonelli Park XCO HC – How to Watch
Bonelli Park XCO race will be streamed live on nyaistartv.com. You may also be able to stream it from this YouTube link.
Update: It’s not clear why, but there is no longer a live stream for Bonelli Park HC XCO
Bonelli Park XCO Elite Women
Viewer’s envy will pass the minute the opening sprint passes off the start loop and up hill in a big cloud of dust, though. If you’re watching live, look for the blue and red kit of the Clif Pro Team on the front. They have a full contingent representing at Bonelli and, after placing five riders in the top 10 at Fontana, have clearly found strength in numbers. Pendrel will lead their crew, but Haley Batten and past Canadian cyclocross national champion Maghalie Rochette were right up there with the veterans, Pendrel, Lea Davison and Eva Lechner.
American Erin Huck won the opening round, just ahead of Pendrel. But she’ll be under pressure, and not just from the Clif Team. Haley Smith has flown directly from the Gold Coast to race Bonelli and, while jet lag will surely be a factor, will be riding high off her bronze medal performance there. Specialized’s Kate Courtney will be more recovered after her ABSA Cape Epic effort, and Coquitlam, B.C.’s Sandra Walter (Liv Cycling) is showing great early season form, finishing fourth in Fontana behind veteran Italian World Cup campaigner Eva Lechner (Clif Pro Team). Canadians Cindy Montambault (Equipe du Quebec) and Jenn Jackson (AWI Racing) had great races in Fontana as well, and will carry that momentum into this week.
Bonelli Park XCO Elite Men
On the Men’s side, Andrew L’Esperance has continued his great start to domestic racing. The Forward Racing founder finished second to Specialized’s Christopher Blevins in Fontana, and won the opening Canada Cup round at Bear Mountain. Norco Factory Racing’s Peter Disera was right behind L’Esperance in 3rd, having raced together at the front from the start.
L’Esperance’s teammate, Sean Fincham, had a great start last weekend and looked to be ready to repeat his 4th in Victoria, but felt the effects of the head and faded to 14th. Pivot Cycles-OTE’s Marc-Andre Fortier was also looking on form, finishing 10th at Fontana.
Returning from opposite sides of the globe, keep an eye out for Raphaël Gagné (Silverback OMX Pro Tam) and Léandre Bouchard (KMC-Ekoi-SR Suntour). Gagné returns to racing having taken some time to recover from his first Cape Epic appearance, while Bouchard raced Commonwealth Games in Australia on Thursday. Bouchard finished sixth there after chasing back to the front of the race from less than ideal start, and will want more in Bonelli.
Holden Jones will look to continue his 2018 winning streak, having already claimed the Bear Mountain Canada Cup and Fontana round for the new Pendrel Racing Development team. Cumberland B.C.’s Carter Woods (Rocky Mountain / Cycling BC) was second behind Jones in Victoria, and fourth in Fontana after struggling with the heat. Look for these two young riders to try attack the field again on Saturday. Tyler Clark (Homestead Racing) and Charles-Antoine St-Onge (Equipe du Quebec) finished 7-8 last week, making four Canadians in the top 10, so watch for them again in Bonelli.
Equipe du Quebec has been a force in the junior women’s racing, with Marianne Theberge third, Mireille Larose-Gingras fifth and Roxanne Vermette in Fontana. Larose-Gingras won Bear Mountain ahead of Theberge, so look for the young pair to take on last week’s Scandinavian 1-2 of Sofie Heby Pederson (Denmark) and Saga Molin (Sweden)