More than 500 participants from across the country will descend on Bear Mountain from Nov. 26 to 28 to compete in the 2021 Canadian Cyclocross Championships.
Event director Jonathan Watkin said the sport is different from mountain biking or road cycling. The bikes have sloping handlebars like road bikes, but use tires with a thicker tread to help riders negotiate muddy tracks. Racers do a roughly three-kilometre loop and sessions will last somewhere between 40 and 60 minutes.
“Part of the appeal is the participants are riding these bikes that really don’t seem to be the right bike for the terrain,” Watkin said. “And it’s it’s really exciting to watch how people sort of navigate through these different obstacles and mud.”
The sport is a cultural phenomenon in Belgium, with races regularly attracting crowds of upwards of 60,000 people. It is also gaining popularity on this side of the Atlantic, and is one of the fastest growing cycling disciplines in North America, Watkin added.
The event will feature races for youth, novices, “weekend warrior” riders and elite level competitors. World ranking points are at stake for those competitors and are used to determine their start positions as the circuit moves to Europe.
“If you don’t have a good start (position), that makes it really hard for you to get a good result,” Watkin said. World ranking points are also used for Canadian national team selection for World Cup and world championships events, he added.
Among the local riders poised to do well at Bear Mountain include Victoria native Isla Walker, returning from her season in Europe; Canadian under-23 champion Emily Johnston from Comox, and Cumberland’s Carter Wood, a former national champion.
Watkin said the event is ideal for spectators, with the track being self-contained in the Bear Mountain resort complex. COVID-19 protocols will be in place for riders and spectators and anyone in attendance is encouraged to be vaccinated.
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