Ava Holmgren Makes the Most of Leveling Up to the Elite Race at Canadian Nationals
The young Canadian took the Elite Nationals win and now sets her sights on a podium at Worlds
Ava Holmgren has had a monster year in her second campaign as a cyclocross Junior. She finished 3rd in the Junior Women’s race at the Maasmechelen World Cup, 9th in the Elite race at the Koppenbergcross, won Junior Pan-Ams, and finished 2nd in the Elite race at Noho.
With that results sheet in hand, she decided to level up to race the Elite race at Canadian Nationals last weekend. The step up was a big one, but with Jenn Jackson and Ruby West not racing much cyclocross this season, Holmgren entered the race as the most experienced among the race favorites.
Her decision to race the Elites paid off, and she took home the championship after both West and Jackson were knocked out of contention by mechanicals.
Holmgren is already busy getting ready to head over to Europe for Kerstperiode, so I caught up with her via email about her Championship ride at Canadian Nationals.
Interview: Ava Holmgren, Elite Women’s Canadian National Champion
Zach Schuster: Did you feel any pressure to win after deciding to level up to the Elite race?
Ava Holmgren: I didn’t feel a lot of pressure to win, but I felt like I needed to do well enough to make the upgrade reasonable.
Zach Schuster: What were the conditions like and did they favor you? What were the keys to riding well with the mud and the darkness?
Ava Holmgren: It was raining throughout the race and the course was quite muddy. The mud was not deep but it was very slick. I’m not sure if it gave me much of an advantage but it was really fun. The only key to riding is to wear clear glasses and try to memorize the course!
Zach Schuster: How did the race play out for you?
Ava Holmgren: My start was great, and I was in a group with Jenn [Jackson] and Ruby [West]. The pace was high but I could follow their wheels well. After the second lap, they started dropping because of mechanicals but I was able to avoid getting any. From there on I made sure to keep the pace high and hold my lead to the end.
Zach Schuster: What does it mean to win Elite Nationals while you're still a Junior, especially with all the racing you have left this year?
Ava Holmgren: It definitely means a lot. If you had told me three years ago that I would be the Elite National Champion I wouldn’t believe you!
Zach Schuster: What does it mean to you to represent the jersey after Maghs, who has been such a great ambassador for Canada and the sport?
Ava Holmgren: Maghs is probably my biggest idol in cyclocross, and I feel very honoured to represent the Leaf internationally, especially after she wasn’t able to make it to Nationals this year.
Zach Schuster: Have you and Isabella always been into cycling? What's it been like growing up with her pushing you side by side?
Ava Holmgren: We’ve always been cycling and it’s been challenging but rewarding to always have someone to push me all the time.
Zach Schuster: You have finished 1-2 quite a few times. Are there any Holmgren family tactics when you're racing together?
Ava Holmgren: In some races, we will work together by sharing pulls but we never let the other one win.
Zach Schuster: What are your plans for the rest of the season now?
Ava Holmgren: My plan is to head over to Europe for the Kesterperiode and then try to do all of the Junior World cups leading up to Worlds.
Zach Schuster: I don't think a Canadian has ever podiumed at Worlds. After your 7th last year, that seems very possible for you at Hoogerheide. What would that accomplishment mean to you and to Canadian 'cross?
Ava Holmgren: Being on the podium at Worlds is one of my biggest goals this season. That accomplishment would mean a lot not only because I would be making history but hopefully inspire more Canadians to take up or try cyclocross.