Photo Courtesy of Nick Iwanyshyn
We caught up with 3 Time Canadian National Cyclocross Champion, Michael Van Den Ham, to get an update on his 2021 racing season and to get his take on this year's Championship in Langford, BC
1) With a 2 year hiatus, how good does it feel to have the National Championships finally happen, and also to have it hosted in your current home province of BC?
I'm excited. Really excited. Having to cancel the Championships last year was the right thing to do, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. Believe it or not, I've never actually raced a Nationals in my home province! When nationals were last in BC, I didn't live here yet. When they were in Manitoba, I had already moved away. Just knowing that I'm going in and able to drive to the event instead of fly is a pretty big deal for me!
I also love have the National Championships pushed back in into the end of November - it doesn't work to do that in every part of Canada, but just with the crazy schedule that I have at the beginning of the season with the North American World Cups and the USCX series, it's really nice to be able to come in and know I have 4 weeks to prepare for nationals properly without having to travel across the continent every 5 days like we have been for the past month and a half.
2) What are you looking forward to the most at Nationals? What are your expectations?
Seems simple, but I'm just looking forward to racing at that level of event in Canada. National, no matter what province, is always one of my favourite events. It's partly the pressure and the stakes of the event, but it's also usually the only weekend of the year that I have family able to watch me race. This year my wife, Kiera, my parents, my in-laws, and some of my siblings are all going to be there and it's a pretty rare treat just to be able to race in front of them.
As for my expectations. That's a good one. I never want to go into a race saying that it's my expectation that I win it. I don't think that's a terribly healthy mindset to go in with nor does it really respect how many really talented racers are going to be there. Just because I'm the only Elite Male doing a full UCI calendar, definitely doesn't mean that I won't have some pretty stiff competition from the likes of Gunnar Holmgren, Marc-Andre Fortier, and others! That said, I'm definitely going with the expectation that I'll be at my best fitness. This event is circled on my calendar. Anything can happen on race day, but I'm preparing to show up on the start line with the best possible chance to win again.
3) 2021 has been an interesting year for Cyclocross with many races coming back online. Can you give us your impression of your cross racing so far in North America since the pandemic? Are you happy with your racing performances so far?
It's been big. Really big. With the new USCX series being televised, Worlds happening in Fayetteville, AR, the fields just seems bigger and faster than they have in a long time. I was up against some 70 rider UCI Elite fields! Those are probably the biggest fields I've raced since the last time Worlds were held in the US, in 2013.
My own racing has gone really well. I've been pretty consistently in and around the top-5 at the USCX series, landed a podium on the opening weekend, and had one of my best ever World Cups this past weekend in Iowa with an 18th, so I'm happy. I usually don't come into the season that quick, so this is definitely a big improvement for me and I'm looking to build on it throughout the year.
4) If you were to decide on what food to serve spectators at Cross Nationals, what would you choose as your top 3?
That's an easy one. I love Belgian style frites, that'll always be my top choice. After that, I'm a big fan of the post-race burrito or a nice wood-fired pizza.