Three local cyclists battled slick conditions and the world’s elite riders at the Pan American Cyclocross Championship, bringing home three medals — including two golds — from the event in Missoula, Montana last weekend that attracted the world’s top athletes.
The trio from the Stimulus Orbea racing team tested out the muddy, challenging course on the day prior to the big race and “felt strong and prepared” heading into their events, said coach Rob Homgren.
Reigning junior world champion Isabella Holmgren was granted permission to race up into the elite women's category.
The race started fast with a group of four forming at the front, which included Isabella and Canadian Sidney McGill. The pace was high and the four stayed together for the first three laps, said coach Holmgren.
On the fourth of six laps, the talented local athlete turned up the effort and no one could keep pace. Race favourite and American champion Clara Honsinger was closest but unable to make significant gains on Isabella once the gap was established. Isabella rode two more strong laps, riding in solo to take the gold.
“Isabella showed her technical abilities being able to 'bunny hop' the barriers during the race, where the other women had to dismount and run,” said coach Holmgren.
“Her patience and tactics were outstanding showing it takes more than skill and fitness to win cyclocross races.”
Severn Township's Ian Ackert raced in the U23 men's race and was one of many podium favourites heading into the race.
Ackert had a clean start and was able to get a gap on the field early in the race with fellow Canadian, Luke Valenti. After two laps together, Valenti was unable to hold Ackert's pace and the local cyclist rode solo for four laps, bringing home the gold and the Pan American champion's jersey.
“Winning by more than 50 seconds over a strong field was impressive and demonstrates the level Ian has achieved as an 18-year-old with three more years of eligibility in the U23 category,” said coach Holmgren.
Orillia’s Ava Holmgren, twin sister of Isabella Holmgren, continued her impressive comeback from injury, pushing herself to a silver medal in the U23 women’s division.
Ava Holmgren pushed the pace from the start, and only two other challengers could follow. She showed her strength and consistency lap after lap, finishing second to American Lauren Zoerner.
Ava Holmgren has worked hard to come back from her injury and to get to the start line; she impressed the field in her first of four years in the U23 category.
Coach Holmgren said he was impressed with his team's performance over the weekend and proud to bring home two jerseys and a silver medal.
“As this is the team's first year out of the junior ranks, they have worked hard to be prepared for the higher level of competition,” he said. “The teamwork, attention to detail, and love of the process has proven to be a winning combination.”
The team has now arrived in Langford, B.C. where they are preparing for the upcoming Canadian National Cyclocross Championships on Nov. 25, before heading to Europe for World Cup action and Kersteperiode racing.