Under-23 world championships: Fincham top Canadian at Mont-Sainte-Anne
Dascalu earns Romania its first ever mountain bike world title
An exciting race at the front – with a strong front group falling into leading duo and a chasing group that fluctuated with the mechanical misfortunes of the leaders.
Canadians at home in challenging conditions
Sean Fincham was part of this lead group for much of the race, holding in the front group for and riding in the group chasing third at one point. As the race progressed, the Squamish, B.C. racer held pace, and held air in his tires to finish 11th. The first Canadian to finish, he crossed the finish arch to massive roars from the home crowd.
Fincham was the fastest Canadian, but he wasn’t alone at the front of the race. National champion Quinton Disera and Raphael Auclair were both riding a wave of crowd support to solid results.
“It was constant position changes. There was people coming on strong at the end, there was people falling back with flats. The conditions made it so challenging, even on the up hill it was had to just keep riding,” Fincham said after catching his breath at the finish line.
As for the opportunity to race worlds at home in Canada, Fincham was clearly enjoying the crowd support.
“It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I was suffering like crazy up those climbs but there all my family and friends just screaming at me – it was an unreal atmosphere.”
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Auclair was as far forward as 16th at the mid-point of the six lap race.
“The first few laps I was able to move up without wasting too much energy, and after that I just settled into a rhythm,” Auclair said after the race. “I had a little crash on the fourth lap, but made it to the finish line in 23rd and I’m really happy with that.”
“It was amazing,” Auclair said of racing world championships in his home province. “Everywhere I was on course, it was just a tunnel of cheers, it was fun.”
Canadian national champion Quinton Disera finished close behind Auclair after chasing hard to escape early lap traffic, and again to recover from a crash on the treacherous Sainte-Anne course.
“I had a pretty bad start, but had the opportunity to work my way up through the field on the second or third lap. I made it up to around 20th, then had a spill,” a mud-caked Disera said, adding “I took some course with me, it’s war paint.” The Canadian national champion showing signs of that crash, but also feeling the lingering effects of an earlier injury. “From there, I just decided to play it safe.”
“I’m happy with being able to race with the home crowd, and being able to wear the maple leaf crowd.” Disera said. “Racing at home is always an honour, being able to wear the maple leaf is amazing.”
Not far behind, Ontario’s Tyler Orschel was working his way through the field. Starting with race plate number 60, Orschel gained positions on every lap. After clearing the early lap traffic, the Ontario rider was setting top-20 lap times for three of the last four laps. The effort paid off, and Orschel finished 27th, two spots and just 30 seconds behind Disera.
Emile Farrell-Dessureault was next across the line in 45th. Gunnar Holmgren was 48th. Holden Jones, who had been riding in a group between Auclair and Disera when he was forced to drop out of the race after a heavy crash.
Flats and Romania’s first world champion
Other than race winner Vlad Dascalu, few racers at the front of the race made it through six laps unscathed. Second and third place finishers both suffered flats, in a front group that was constantly changing composition.
“It is super exciting for me, and for all of Romanian cycling,” Dascalu said of his win. The under-23 rider is the first Romanian to win a world championship title in cycling.
Dascalu has been on a roll all year. Early on, it looked like he would be challenged by Spanish rider Jofre Cullell Estape. The Spanish rider attacked, Dascalu responded. “I took first position on La Beatrice downhill, and then I was alone. I didn’t know what happened,” the Romanian recalled, “from there it was just full gas.”
Christopher Blevins was riding in third for much of the early race. The American could not escape mechanical misfortune at Saite-Anne, however. Blevins was still chasing for the podium when he flatted, far from the pit area. He would eventually cross the line 22nd.
Bronze medallist Albin Vital also struggled to hold air. Slick course conditions sent riders careening through Mont-Sainet-Anne’s numerous rock gardens, with traction at a premium if it existed at all. Mont-Sainte-Anne is “Not so much fun to ride with a flat tire in the corners,” said Vital.
Silver medallist Filippo Colombo had better luck, or less bad luck with his mechanical. The Swiss rider was able to ride a slow leak without losing too much ground.
“You must never say never” he Colombo of the Quebec course, which is notoriously demanding on bike and body, who also benefitted from the mechanical misfortune of Vital as well as Danish rider Simon Andreassen.