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Michael van den Ham on his “new” competition at the ‘cross nats

The defending champ is ready to race in Victoria this weekend

After two years of cancellations, Michael van den Ham is ready to defend his cyclocross national title. In those two years though, he knows a few of his younger peers have grown up and are now serious rivals. Either way he is definitely excited to go to battle.

Gravel races in the summer

MvdH is off to a great start this season, and he mentions he’s made some changes in training with his build-up to the season.

“The biggest difference between this year and at least the past couple is that I raced a lot more in the summer than I ever did during the pandemic years and switched a lot of the racing that I was doing over to gravel,” he says. “I tried to pick gravel events that fit into my CX season build stuff relatively short for the discipline, and tried to use them the same way a lot of Europeans have been able to turn racing the spring classics into success on the cross course. So far I guess you could say the verdict is out on whether or not it worked! I had a good North American season and was consistent, but also wasn’t quite able to get to that next step where I’m competing for wins as the USCX series.

Build-up to the worlds

Van den Ham is taking a break after the nationals, but will then resume training and racing with his goal of finally breaking into the top-20 at the world championships.

Although he hasn’t seen the course yet, it’s not something that he usually dwells on.

“You can only race the course in front of you and great riders can win no matter what the course is, so I focus more on showing up as prepared as possible and then just rolling with whatever is thrown my way on race weekend,” he says.

The kids are all right

Since his win in 2019, a whole bunch of youngsters have got much quicker–which means there’s several riders who are serious threats for his maple leaf jersey.

“This is probably the toughest competition I’ve faced yet for a national title. Between Gunnar Holmgren, Tyler Clark, Tyler Orschel, Brodie Sanderson, and whomever else comes out of the woodwork, I don’t have an easy task trying to win this thing,” van den Ham says. “But you know what? That’s exactly the way I want it. In a lot of ways, this is the old guard versus the new and as much as I’m happy to see that the level of ‘cross is Canada is continuing to go up, I don’t plan on giving anything to anyone anytime soon.”