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Cross-country competition at the 2017 mountain bike championships concludes with Emily Batty’s 7th-place finish

Teammates and officials alike commented positively on a strong, world-class performance from Canadian riders.

Emily Batty
Emily Batty
Emily Batty’s top-10 finish was Canada’s best on Saturday, September 9. Photo: Matt Stetson

A familiar Canadian name found itself in the top 10 as cross-country competition at the 2017 mountain bike world championships came to a close on Saturday, when Emily Batty, representing Brooklin, Ont., claimed Canada’s top honours in Cairns, Australia.

Batty came in seventh in the Elite women’s competition, a strong finish for Canadian athletes at this year’s competition.

Batty and squadmate Catherine Pendrel were part of the lead group at first, with the former eventually finding herself holding down a seventh-place position — made interesting by a sprint finish with Corina Gantebein of Switzerland, following a crash on the final descent — for the duration of the race. Haley Smith powered from a start in the mid-30s to finish 16th, while Pendrel claimed 27th, Sandra Walter 30th, Cindy Montambault 37th, and Rebecca Beaumont 41st.

Smith, after the race’s conclusion, was thrilled with her performance. “I don’t know what to think,” she said. “I’ve never been inside the top-20 before and to do a top 20… I know it’s not a podium result, but it’s absolutely huge for me, so I don’t know how to process it.”

“I had a crappy start loop and actually crashed in the first couple of laps, but I stayed focused and moved through people,” Smith added. “I couldn’t have hoped for a season this good; this is a big jump for me, and I’m very happy to end the year on this note.”

In the Elite men’s competition, Leandre Bouchard was Canada’s top rider, pulling off a 24th place finish. Andre L’Esperance came in 44th, Derek Zandstra 45th, Evan McNeely 46th and Raphael Gagne 52nd out of the tough field of global athletes. “I was pretty lucky on the start,” Bouchard remarked. “I had some space to move up and the start was really important. So I was able to move up quickly and then protect my place. I’m really happy with this race because I had almost no errors; it was the most dusty race of my life.”

“I did my first top-20 in the World Cup here last year, so I knew I could do well,” Bouchard said, recalling past experiences on the Aussie terrain, “and so I was looking for a top-25. It’s good to end the season like this.”

Canadian performances in other categories included Soren Meeuwisse’s 16th-place finish in the Under-23 women’s race, while Anne Julie Tremblay, after encountering mechanical difficulties on the start, finished 23rd.

Looking back on his team’s world-class performances, head coach Dan Proulx joined his athletes in expressing his satisfaction with this year’s world championships, not to mention a bit of pride. “We had a great Worlds team this year — new energy and enthusiasm,” he said. “The highlight was Holden Jones’s bronze medal. The team really impressed me with their performance.”

“Overall, it was a race where at least one Canadian in every category was strong and competitive. That bodes well for the future. The ones who performed best are just getting started in their careers as high performance athletes.”