Twenty-one-year-old Michael van den Ham of Brandon, Man., has spent almost all his time anywhere but Brandon throughout the past few years. He’s attended school in Edmonton, spent summers in Penticton, B.C., and has recently been cyclocross racing with Cycle-Smart in New England while living in Boston. At the beginning of the year, his cyclocross journey took him to Louisville, Ky., where he placed 31st in the UCI world championships in the under-23 category. This Saturday, van den Ham will scrap for the national under-23 champion’s jersey in Surrey, B.C.
Van den Ham recently spoke with Canadian Cycling Magazine about the nationals and his burgeoning career.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t going to nationals with the hopes of taking the jersey home,” he said, explaining that along with his coaches Adam Myerson and Shaun Adamson he’s been building his season so that he’s coming into good fitness in time for this weekend. Van den Ham sees his main under-23 competition as former teammate Connor Wilson, Jeremy Martin and 2013 world mountain bike championship silver medallist and national junior ‘cross champ Peter Disera.
Van den Ham has had several good performances of late, including seventh place on Day 2 of the Cycle-Smart International, and most recently eighth on the second day of the Supercross in Stony Plain, N.Y. This year, he “didn’t contest Aaron Schooler’s Alberta provincial dominance” at the province’s championships.
The forecast is calling for rain on Saturday and this suits van den Ham’s strength at churning through “slow, muddy, quad-burning bogs” though he is adept at racing drier courses. On Saturday, he’ll be astride his Van Dessel Aloominator, a handmade frame from Portland, Ore., and spinning Revolution Wheelworks wheels.
After his 31st placing in Louisville and his 2013 form, van den Ham says he has a good shot at being asked to ride for Canada at the 2014 world cyclocross championships in Hoogerheide, the Netherlands in February. “We’ve been planning my training as if I’ll be peaking again in February,” he said. If selected to ride, he will be aiming for a top 20th to 25th place in his last espoirs race before turning elite.
Next year also brings a new team for van den Ham, as he’s joined Trek-Red Truck Racing, Vancouver’s high-performance development squad. He’ll spend more time training and racing on the road, but made it clear that he’ll be “a ‘cross rider racing road, not a road rider racing ‘cross.”
Van den Ham and his espoirs rivals roll out along with the elite men at 3:15 pm PST, Saturday, at the South Surrey Athletic Park.