When the Canadian Cycling Association (CCA) released the team selection for the upcoming UCI Cyclocross World Championships, two top cross racers were missing from the list: Natasha Elliott and Derrick St John. The pink dynamic duo, a couple in real life were both sponsored by Louis Garneau-Club Chaussures-Ogilvy, had decided to cut short their cross season.
Even though she won the overall NACT series and finished third in the Canadian National cross Championships, the last few years of racing full cross and road seasons caught up with Elliott. That combined with an illness this summer and a phone call helped her make the decision to skip racing in Europe.
“We got a call from Garneau saying that they were going to fully support her next year for cross, she wants next year to be a big season with World Cups and Worlds for her.” said St John.
After three years of racing cross and five years on the road, the 31-year old Elliott will be all about cross in 2010.
“Now I’m going to focus on it and it might work out really really well because what I do on the road season will be with Louis Garneau. They’re going to give me a road bike and let me do whatever I want on it.” said Elliott. “It’s all training for cross.”
Elliott will basically travel with the Louis Garneau men’s road team and train for cross during the spring and summer with some road or mountain bike races thrown in where it makes sense.
St John is also joining the Louis Garneau team in 2010.
“We have a pretty big season ahead, we’re going to go to Brasil to March which is why the Europe thing… I have to be in shape. Tour de Beauce will be the major objective for me this year.” said St John. With a tenth place overall, the 32-year old was the top Canadian finisher at the 2009 Tour de Beauce while guest riding for the Louis Garneau team.
The couple that races together stays together. “I think it’s easier, it’s really enjoyable.” replied St John when asked if it was easier that they both raced cross together. Elliott agreed “we wouldn’t see each other.”
The pair packed up their car and traveled to cross races in Canada and the eastern seaboard of the United States this fall.
“No,” laughed St John when asked him if they talked cycling all the time, “we talk about other things, we go for coffee, eat chicken shwarma.” Elliott interjected “We spend a lot of hours in the car and talk about stuff.”
Elliott started off strong winning the NECCS Schoolhouse Cyclocross in September and sweeping the second NACT weekend in October.
“It’s awesome.” said Elliott about winning the NACT. “I wasn’t planning on it and it just happened that I won the two days at Gloucester and I knew from then on that I could actually win it being that the two other races were in Toronto and not having a lot of girls come out to it but just to win Gloucester, that’s where it all began and I was like ‘whoa I guess I’ll probably win the jersey’.” she added with a laugh.
But by the end of November, Elliott was battling illness.
“I gave it everything I could off the start, I went as hard as I could in the first lap and then I went into my little falling backwards a lot. I did my best, I wanted to make the NACT series proud, I wanted to make Louis Garneau proud so I gave it everything I had for today.” said Elliott after the final NACT race in November.
Given Elliott’s illness, the pair decided to change their original plan of traveling once again to Europe and end their cross season early.
As for St John, a self declared roadie, he gives himself a 4 out of 5 grade for his cross season.
“I was second at Nationals and got a few podiums at the smaller verge races which is pretty good because I’m mostly a road racer who does cross. I don’t have the greatest starts so a lot of times it puts me out of the running for a podium on the first lap, I manage to run in the top 10, it’s a 4 on 5. If cross was my focus and I was riding this way I’d probably want to shoot myself.” laughed St John.
Elliott is ready for the added pressure of solely focusing on cross in 2010 and is looking forwards to not having the stressors from a road team.
“There are always these promises for cross, I ride for a women’s road team and they get me for cross but then I spend a lot of time helping the girls out in road racing, teaching them stuff and then when I get to cross, it’s ‘we used all the money for road and there’s nothing for you for cross, thanks for your time’.”
Now she wants to see how far she can go with a goal of standing on a World Cup podium.
“So this year I want to do it my own way and Louis Garneau gave me the opportunity, they are the ones that came to me and said would you like to just focus on cross next year? So it’s different when somebody is asking directly, they don’t expect anything on the road, they just want me to train right.”
St John has not decided yet what his 2010 cross schedule will be. “I still take it seriously but I try to have fun. For sure, Natasha will be one hundred percent focused on it next year. We’ll see what I do, maybe I’ll just do the C1 like Nationals and big races and then a little bit in Europe.”