After years of coming up just short Derek Zandstra finally grabbed the brass ring this past Saturday near Barrie.
The 28-year-old Trenton native won his first ever Elite Men’s title at the Canadian Cross Country Mountain Bike Championships .
Zandstra, who was just recently inducted into the Quinte West Sports Wall of Fame, is a member of the Ontario-based SCOTT-3Rox Racing Team won the Elite men’s title by attacking his teammate and three-time Olympian Geoff Kabush, and the two-time defending Canadian champion Max Plaxton (Sho-Air/Cannondale) of Victoria, B.C. with two laps to go in the six lap, 36 km race.
“It’s pretty awesome, I’ve always wanted this title, ever since I was a Cadet, but it’s always just been out of my grasp. I lost it by one second (in 2010), so I’m really happy to get the jersey,” Zandstra said in a post race interview with Cycling Canada.
Zandstra, a National Team member since 2005, finished second at the Canadian Championships in both 2008 and 2010 while finishing third in 2009, 2011 and 2012. This year’s win makes him the first Ontario rider to win the national Elite men’s title since Andy Fouts did it in 1994.
“Wehave a great program with Ontario Cycling. Brendan Arnold does a great job with the high performance and we have a good development program, so we’re pretty happy with everything that is going on in Ontario,” Zandstra said.
Another of Zandstra’s SCOTT-3 Rox Racing teammates, Cameron Jette, set an early fast pace forcing everyone to be on their toes as a 10-strong chase group formed behind. By the second lap there were five leaders including Kabush, Zandstra, Plaxton and Raphael Gagne (Rocky) but soon after Kabush attacked. By the third lap it was a three-horse race with Plaxton and Zandstra trying to reel in Kabush. On Lap 4 it looked like Zandstra was fading but by the halfway mark he’d surged to take over the lead and never looked back.
“We certainly had some team tactics today. We had three of us [SCOTT-3 Rox Racing] in the top four today. We played around at the beginning of the race, something we tried last weekend to see how it would work… and it worked out pretty awesome today. Geoff and I had some different setups out there, and we were able to capitalize on our strengths and weaknesses, and use them to our advantage,” Zandstra said.
“It was a long race and going into the last lap, I couldn’t feel my legs, but I stayed focused and relaxed and tried not to mess it up! I’ve been doing it for so long that you just know what you’ve got to do at the end, and hope for the best. It’s a bonus to know that you are pulling away time as you are just pacing yourself. It gave me a little more confidence,” added Zandstra.
There is no rest of the weary, though, as Zandstra and his teammates leave today for Andorra, the tiny European principality that is staging the fourth round of the UCI MTB World Cup. The event, being held at Andorra’s world class Vallnord Bike Park in the Pyrenees Mountains near the border of Spain poses a great challenge for the male riders as the World Cup competition really heats up.
“It’s going to be a great trip,” Zandstra said. “We’re flying out Thursday and going to visit SCOTT headquarters and see some of the guys there and see how stuff is made. It’s going to be a tough competition, I’m really looking forward to it.”