Whistler XC racer second at nationals 

Local cross-country rider played the long game in Quebec

click to flip through (2) PHOTO BY SCOTT ROBARTS/CRANKWORX - CROSSED UP Whistlers Chloe Cross, shown here competing at Crankworx in 2015, took second at the 2019 Canadian XCM MTB Championships in Quebec.
  • Photo by Scott Robarts/Crankworx
  • CROSSED UP Whistler<0x2019>s Chloe Cross, shown here competing at Crankworx in 2015, took second at the 2019 Canadian XCM MTB Championships in Quebec.
 

The old adage that it's a marathon, not a sprint played right into Chloe Cross' hands at the 2019 Canadian XCM MTB Championships in St-Felicien, Que. on Sept. 14.

With much of her competition more accustomed to the shorter Olympic-distance cross-country races, Cross let them take off quickly before she tracked down and passed all but one en route to a second-place finish at the 65-kilometre national event. Representing Team Whistler, Cross finished the women's division race seven minutes, 41.32 seconds (7:41.32) back of winner Caroline Villeneuve, and 10:21.27 up on third-place finisher Amélie Simard.

"My main competition were all XCO specialists," she said. "The start was really fast. I was definitely not solidly in second off the bat, but I'm pretty comfortable with my pace for longer events.

"I actually ended up attacking most of the women earlier in the race than I thought I would. Probably by the 20-km mark I would say, I had caught everybody except for the woman in the lead, who had obviously got off to a really good start and I didn't see her again for the rest of the race."

Admittedly, Cross was also surprised at the gap she opened up behind her as well, with double digits between herself and the rest of the pack.

"When I was passing the other women, I was passing them quickly, passing strong, and after I passed the woman in second place, it was a pretty lonely ride," she said. "I pushed hard all the way, but I never ended up seeing any other women for the rest of the race.

"I didn't know where [Simard] was. We did ride together for a little while when I caught her. It was a bit tactical. We were riding into a headwind and neither of us wanted to do the work. When I rode away from her, I had no idea that I was putting that much time in."

A major story of the day was the weather and conditions riders faced, with Cross describing the situation as "apocalyptic." After having completed some "blind" events such as the BC Bike Race in recent years, Cross said she felt more comfortable taking on courses sight unseen.

"It rained really, really hard overnight and actually stopped raining for the race start, but the course was very sloppy with big puddles," she said. "Even though there was a lot of single track and not much fire road, tactics could play into the outcome a lot. It turns out that everyone was really spread out, so that really didn't come into play.

"I enjoy those kinds of conditions because I feel like you have to be mentally strong and adaptable. It's a sign that you're a good mountain biker and not just the strongest engine out there."

While the Quebec course wasn't a typical challenge found in a marathon-distance event, Cross said it still suited her all right, as she'd unknowingly found a way to replicate something similar while training here in Whistler.

"It didn't have any sustained climbing or descending and that's not really what we're used to racing," she said. "It did remind me very much of Comfortably Numb in terms of being really technical, really rocky."

Another unusual sight, Cross recalled: riding through a barn filled with cows.

"It was pretty awesome," she said.

Cross had been battling a cold leading up to the race, but managed to kick that before lining up at the start. She said she also employed a different macro approach to the season, taking time off from racing beginning in July to allow herself to mount a strong late charge.

"It was a number of things coming together, really, and I ended up feeling really good on the day," she said. "I took the summer off to enjoy time with my family, take a bit of a break, see what would happen if I tried to train for another peak late in the season.

"It was a bit of a gamble. I wasn't totally sure it was going to work for me, but it seemed to work really well."

Cross' season typically started in March in the U.S., which she did this year, but powering through straight to September resulted in fatigue and not performing her best.

"Burnout is a good way to describe it," she said. "This is just an attempt to combat that."

The first chunk of Cross' season, however, was difficult as she found it hard to get winter training in because of the weather.

"In previous years, I've done a lot of riding in Vancouver and Squamish, but the last couple years, it's been snowed under everywhere. I couldn't even get down to Bellingham or the Sunshine Coast or anywhere that you can usually get to to do winter training," she said. "I raced my way back into shape during the early part of the season, for sure."

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