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The 12 riders of Cycling Canada’s Christmas Cross program

Canadians headed overseas to take on two weeks of European cyclocross events

canadian cyclocross championships 2018 peterborough
Ruby West takes the win in the elite women’s race at the Ptbo UCI C2 race following her U23 win at nationals.

12 Canadian riders will be spending their holidays racing in Belgium this year. They will be joining Cycling Canada’s Christmas Cross camp, which gets set to cross the pond for another year of European racing.

Among them will be under 23 national champions Ruby West, Gunnar Holmgren and elite men’s two-time champ Michael van den Ham. All three will be well versed in cold, muddy conditions they can expect to face in Europe. Each earned their maple leaf at Canadian cyclocross national championships held in Peterborough this November.

The 12 Canadians will race five events over traditional holiday period. Racing starts with the Namur World Cup on the 23 December, then Zolder World Cup on the 26th.  The races are part of an intense 12 day period of racing in Belgium, known as the Kerstperiode. This “Holy Week” of cyclocross sees nearly daily races held up to New Year’s Day.

Holmgren van den Ham
Gunnar Holmgren and Michael van den Ham racing in Peterborough, Ont. at 2018 Canadian cyclocross national championships

The lone elite woman joining the program will be Ontario’s Jenn Jackson. The AWI racer placed second to Maghalie Rochette at nationals. Rochette has already made her own European program as part of her new CX Fever p/b Specialized program. Van den Ham will have Cameron Jette for company in the elite men’s category.

RELATED: Finding balance in off season training with Canada Cup XCO champion Jenn Jackson

Jenn Jackson Peterborough Cyclocross national championships
Jenn Jackson finished second at Canadian cyclocross national championships in Peterborough, Ont.

West will be joined by three promising under-23 racers. Dana Gilligan, Sidney McGill, and Magdeleine Vallieres Mill finished second, fourth and fifth behind West at national’s in Peterborough. Holmgren, racing on his Vélocolour custom painted Cannondale, will be joined by Tyler Orschel and Nicholas Diniz. Orschel and Diniz were fourth and fifth at Nationals, respectively.

Two junior men will be representing Canada as part of the Christmas ‘Cross program. Ryan Maclean of Alberta and Ontario’s Paul Mysko will take on Europe’s junior men.

Based out of Tielt-Winge, Belgium, the five-race program concludes with DVV Trofee Azencross on the 28th, Sperprestige Diegem on the 30th, and Sven Nys GP on New Year’s Day 2019.

After the initial five races, Cycling Canada will host a spring training camp in Girona, Spain until 22 January 2019. The camp builds towards UCI Cyclocross world championships in Bogense, Denmark on 3-4 February 2019. Canadian’s will attend the Hoogerheide World Cup in The Netherlands on 27 Jan. as one final race before worlds.

Silver Goose Pan-American championships
Michael van den Ham on the podium at Silver Goose 2018 UCI Cyclocross Pan American championships in Midland, Ont.

Schedule: Cycling Canada Christmas Cross program:

We’ll leave it to you to make up the verses to a cycling themed holiday jingle, but here’s the races you can expect to see the 12 Canadian cyclocross racers making appearances at:

  • 23 December: Namur World Cup
  • 26 December: Zolder World Cup
  • 28 December: DVV Trofee Azencross
  • 30 December: Superprestige Diegem
  • 1 January 2019: Sven Nys GP

The Canadian Cyclocross program projects help organize transportation, accommodation, coaching, mechanic and soigneur support for athletes making the big step to race European cyclocross.

Because it is not an Olympic discipline, Cycling Canada receives little government funding for cyclocross. The Christmas Cross project is therefore largely funded through private donations and corporate sponsorships. Paris to Ancaster recently stepped onboard as the first major private sponsor of the program, signing on for the next five years.

If you want to support the Canadian cyclocross program, click here to donate.