Last weekend I made the surprisingly short drive to Bromont, Quebec (only 4.5 hours, with stops, from Boston) to "race" the Canada Cup Finals. Other than the abysmal course conditions, it was a great experience and I'll probably do it again next year. It was really interesting to check out the scene across the border, and there was a bunch of things I wanted to mention that never really fit into the last post.
First off, the junior scene at the race was huge. I don't know if this is only true of Canada Cups, or all races in Quebec, but there were 40+ starters in both 15-16 and 17-18 boys age groups. From what I could tell they were mostly Francophones, so I think the local races up there have a lot of kids out. Definitely puts our junior scene (or lack thereof) to shame. These kids are numerous, serious, and FAST.
Of course, part of being serious and racing technical singletrack in large packs is never yielding to anyone, ever. Apparently. In the United States, with very few exceptions you can call a side ("on your left") and expect to get some space, provided you're not trying to pass in a very stupid place, and you can always expect someone off their bike to yield to you if you ask for it. Not so in Canada! If you're overtaking someone who is pushing up a hill, you can yell "a droit" and "a gauche" all you want, and it's not until you plant an elbow in their kidney that they'll consider moving over. A foot. If you're lucky.
So as you can imagine, trying to navigate through 40 15-16 year old Quebecois boys on the first lap is pretty hard. I assume the reason they are so numerous and aggressive is because they are fighting tooth and nail to impress the much less numerous Quebecois girls. There were "only" 7 girls in the 17-18 age group, which is still 7 more than you'd get at anything in the US. These girls are especially intriguing to the younger gentlemen (and to me) because they race with makeup. Seriously..
There's also an interesting "Pro XC" look to the bikes up there. Without question, the flat bar is still going strong in Canada, along with the hardtail. I saw (heard) a few sets of V-brakes, too, so the weight weenie/retro culture is apparently alive and well north of the border.
In summary, racing in Quebec is different than racing in New England. More different than I would have expected. I have a suspicion that their courses are much harder on average, but with a sample size of one I'll have to hold off on that rant until next year.
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