Before heading out to race the cyclocross Pan American championships in Cincinnati, Jérémy Martin of Focus CX Team Canada spoke enthusiastically about the season up to date. A week before the Canadian Cyclocross national championships which take place on Nov. 5 in Sherbrooke, Que., Martin and his teammates were contesting another important race as they build up for nationals.
His Focus CX Team Canada is new on the scene in 2017 and is lead by veteran Aaron Schooler with the goal of helping to develop the sport in Canada. “The team has been doing awesome,” Martin said. “We started the season in Rochester then raced CrossVegas and Jingle Cross. We had a little break in October racing more local stuff.”
Martin’s season has been off to a good start. After the first two rounds of the World Cup, he sat 18th overall but did not defend that position as the racing moved across to Europe for the remainder of the season. The results guaranteed he would be representing Canada at the world championships in Bieles, Luxembourg in the new year.
“Every year more and more Canadians are stepping up,” Martin notes about the number of Canadians with strong performances in big races this season. Martin is a mountain biker at heart and is only tackling his second full cyclocross calendar with significantly more travel than what was required as he dabbled in the local scene before. “It’s been really cool battling with fellow Canadian Michael Van den Ham, we are pretty even depending on the conditions.”
The stage for a competitive race at nationals is set and Martin said, “I think this year nationals will be a good race with four or five guys to really to watch.
“Obviously, it’s a big race with the jersey and UCI points on the line. Like all races, you won’t really know what will happen but unlike the big U.S. races and World Cup where the time gaps are bigger because it’s super hard from the start, it might be more tactical,” explained Martin. “There will be four or five guys closely watching each other.”
Martin said he excels on challenging courses. “I really like tough courses, technically and physically. In general, I like harsh conditions, messy courses have lower speed races that suit my set of skills. Fast courses are different because I don’t have the same road pedigree as some other guys.”
Cyclocross is a sport Martin sees growing around him. The U.S. races he said are getting bigger and he hopes that one day Canada will have more UCI races on the calendar. Last year, a C2 race followed nationals in Winnipeg but this year the only UCI points up for grabs on home soil are at nationals, making the race even more important. Martin also points to the increasing number of North American riders who are specializing in ‘cross which is elevating the playing field.
One thing that Martin points to that makes the sport very appealing is how safe it is and how accessible it can be. “The cool thing with ‘cross is it’s accessible.” For people just getting into the sport, Martin suggests trying out a local race or finding a bike to put some grippier tires on to ride around on grass or trails. “It’s a pretty safe sport with fewer injuries than in road or mountain biking. It’s also a good way to stay fit.”
Martin and his teammates are excited for ‘cross nationals with the whole outfit ready to put on a show for the spectators. With more focus on cyclocross specific training under his belt, Martin hopes to be one of the riders in the elite men’s race in contention next Saturday.
“I like racing against the best because you can see how you stack up. When we pre-ride the World Cup races with the European guys you see how incredibly skilled they are. It motivates me to push technical limits in training, to try to innovate and train harder. I have a lot of room for improvement, but on a team with a guy like Schooler helps me and physical I improve and get stronger every year.”