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Canada’s cyclocross stars preview the 2018 Silver Goose Pan Am cyclocross championships

Maghalie Rochette, Canadian champion Michael van den Ham and last year's Silver Goose winner Ruby West talk about the course, the race coming to Canada and more

Canadian national champion Michael van den Ham. Photo: Molly Hurford

Midland, Ont. will host the first-ever Pan American cyclocross championships on Canadian soil over the Nov. 3 and 4 weekend. The event is notable because it’s the first time masters racers will get a chance to race for the continental title. The top racers from the Americas will race for the chance to wear a special jersey for the year.

The course through Little Lake Park has been a hit since the inception of the Silver Goose ‘cross race and with a stronger field than ever before, it’s sure to be an exciting weekend of competition. In 2017, the venue hosted a UCI weekend and now it moves up to host the continental championships.

Pan Am cyclocross championships come to Canada

Maghalie Rochette at the Waterloo World Cup. Photo: Molly Hurford

At last years UCI race, Ruby West of nearby Dundas, Ont. the U23 Canadian champion won both days of racing while Jack Kisseberth did the same.

“This year is a huge year for Canadian cyclocross having all the UCI races and having Pan Ams is huge. The level of riders has just grown even in the past few years,” said West. “Since the U23 category has come in, a lot of girls I know personally wouldn’t have raced otherwise. Having these races is important for being able to develop those new riders.”

Van den Ham and Rochette go into the race with big ambitions. Both capable of winning on their day but they face a strong field.

Canadian ambitions

Ruby West celebrates her win at Sherbrooke CX. Photo: Martin Labelle

“Since the second it was announced it would be in Canada I have been dreaming of winning but that’s a pretty lofty goal,” says van den Ham. “My expectation is to show up on the start line with the pieces in place to be in a position to contend for that victory.”

Van den Ham earned a podium in 2017 behind Stephen Hyde who has won the past two editions of the Continental championships. With Hyde just coming back from injury and the likes of Jeremy Powers having a slow start to the 2018 season, van den Ham feels the race is pretty wide open.

Every year, the Pan Am championships have been contested, Katie Compton has won the elite women’s title. So far, she isn’t on the start list but if she shows up you can’t count her out. Other top riders include Ellen Noble who was second at the opening round of the World Cup and Katie Keough who won in Iowa City.

“The goal is to win the championship. If I have a clean race I can’t be disappointed if someone else is just stronger than me that day,” Rochette says about her own ambitions.

The course

As one of the riders who is most familiar with the venue, West is excited to return to racing at the Silver Goose following her sweep of the UCI Sherbrooke CX weekend where she returned from injury. “It was one of my favourite races last year. It felt like a really professionally run event. I will definitely be comfortable going back to the course. I am sure they will make tones of changes but it’s cool to have a mental picture of where I will be racing,” she says.

Rochette didn’t race the Silver Goose last year but expects it to be a fun and challenging course. “It will be a surprise for me just like everyone else. I really looking forward to seeing what they did with the course,” Rochette explains.

The weather for the weekend looks damp but depending on if much precipitation falls right before or during the race on Sunday could have a huge impact on the race and the course. “So much on the course can change depending on the weather conditions. Everything I have heard about that Midland course leads to tight competitive racing which is great for spectators,” says van den Ham.

The course includes some sandy sections along the beach at Little Lake, some fast sections through the forest, a stone staircase run-up and a paved and straight start finish area.

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