By Madeline Pollock
Elite cyclist Evan Russell of Mill Bay rode to a commanding victory in the elite men’s field at the National Cyclocross Championships in Victoria on Nov. 25.
“It was such a satisfying feeling to make the home people proud,” said the 22-year-old cyclocross racer.
Last year, competing in the U23 event, Russell placed second overall.
Cyclocross is a cycling discipline that sees racers riding knobby-tired road bikes off road and over various obstacles in a lap format. Races are typically very high intensity and are around 50-60 minutes in duration with competitors doing multiple laps.
Right from the whistle the pace of the leaders was blistering and Russell and three other riders separated from the rest of the group.
In preparation for the Championships, Russell competed in the Cross On the Rocks cyclocross series throughout the fall. This meant that he appeared comfortable and agile in the slippery West Coast mud that coated the course.
Russell, known for being both a tactically and technically strong competitor, said that “by about second lap I noticed the guys were starting to lag.”
Not long after, the group began to fall apart with Luke Valenti from Ontario going off the front to try to secure a gap. Russell responded, chasing him down ferociously.
As Valenti began to fatigue he made an error, causing him to drop his chain. Russell launched a well-timed attack at this moment and found himself leading the race.
The final lap was a nail-biter, with Valenti sitting only a few corners back on Russell.
A couple hundred people were out encouraging the riders.
“I have a lot of people that were cheering for me along the entire course. I would just hear my name from every single corner,” Russell said.
With hands in the air and plenty of encouragement from the home crowd, Russell glided across the line to win his first national title as well as secure a spot for himself at the World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic, in February.
“Coming across that finish line and everyone is cheering for you, leaning over the barriers,” Russel said. “It’s just a dream come true.”
North Vancouver-raised Madeline Pollock is a journalism student at Brevard College in North Carolina