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Local athlete rides through mud, rain to capture national title

Gunnar Holmgren won U23 men's title, while other local athletes also shone on national mountain-biking stage

Gunnar Holmgren capped off his best ever mountain-biking season by capturing a national championship on the weekend.

The talented Oro-Medonte athlete won the Canadian title in the U23 men's race in Baie St. Paul, Quebec, defeating the country's top riders while battling rainy and muddy conditions.

The title capped a sensational season as Holmgren broke into the top 10 internationally when he battled to an impressive ninth-place finish at the World Cup in Switzerland, followed by a ninth-place finish at the World Cup at Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia.

He was the top rider from North America at both of those races.

Holmgren also represented Canada at the Mountain Bike World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy, where he placed 17th. Holmgren is a graduate of the Hardwood Next Wave Cycling team and currently represents Pivot-OTE Canada. 

Holmgren was just one member of his talented family to shine over the weekend as several Hardwood Next Wave cyclists proved their mettle against some of Canada's top mountain bikers.

Ava Holmgren placed second and Isabella Holmgren was just behind her in third in the U17 women’s national championship as both turned in strong performances on a highly technical course.

They are preparing for the upcoming cyclocross season and have been selected to represent Canada on the World Cup circuit against the best cyclocross riders in the world.

The sisters aim to be selected to Canada’s Worlds team at the end of January 2022. Cyclocross Worlds will be held in Fayetteville, Arkansas. With the recent addition of a junior women’s category there has been increased female representation on the world stage.

Hardwood Next Wave’s Ian Ackert dominated the U17 men’s race, coming home with a national title and the coveted Canadian jersey, leading his race from start to finish.

Team Hardwood Next Wave was well represented at the national championships with riders across most categories, including: Katelyn Walcroft, Ben Sweet, Kelly Lawson, Matthew Leliveld, Reid McKinnon, Keith McKinnon, Ian Ackert, Ava Holmgren, Isabella Holmgren and Lisa Holmgren.

Hardwood Next Wave head coach Rob Holmgren has been leading the charge and said he is proud of the athletes. The longtime coach has been instrumental in adapting training during the pandemic, being creative in assisting the athletes to reach their potential. 

Other top finishers from the area included Jenn Jackson (Horseshoe Valley) taking the win in the elite women’s race and Quinton Disera (Horseshoe Valley) taking the win in the first ever nationals short track race. 

Proving this was a family affair, Lisa Holmgren, the proud mom of the cycling Holmgrens and wife of coach Rob, captured the master's women’s national race for women aged 45-54.