BY ZACHARY CORMIER
One local cyclist is celebrating a successful end to his season this week.
Lacombe’s Ethan Palamarek recently returned home from a long and gruelling week of racing which saw him place 11th at the Pan-American Cincy CX (cyclocross) Championship in Cincinnati and 8th at the King’s CX race in that same city the next day. He then travelled to Sherbrooke, Que. for the Canadian Cyclocross Championships this past weekend where he placed fifth out of 24 riders in the junior age group.
“It was cool to get the opportunity to go out east and do the big UCI races and stuff because all of the UCI races are the best riders on the continent, basically. So it was nice to put myself up against the best of the best and have the opportunity through CX Alberta to travel with professional riders and be helped financially in that aspect,” said Palamarek.
The 17-year-old said that while he’s happy with his season overall, he felt he could have done better at the Canadian championships had he not been forced to deal with some difficult circumstances.
“I was hoping for a bit better of a race but conditions didn’t really serve me all that well. It was really muddy and just barely above zero with a little bit of snow on the ground that morning. I had a little bit of a frustrating race but it was still a really good experience.”
This is just Palamarek’s second season competing in cyclocross, which is a cycling discipline which typically takes place in the autumn and winter months and consists of riders racing around a short course that includes pavement, dirt trails, grass, hills and obstacles which require a rider to dismount their bike and carry it as they navigate the obstruction.
“I started doing cyclocross to sort of extend my season,” explained Palamarek, whose main discipline is road cycling, which ends around the end of August.
“There’s no road racing, really, after that in Alberta at least. So I started cyclocross just as a way to keep on racing while there’s still good enough weather to be out on the bike.”
In fact, Palamarek loves road racing so much that he actually declined an invitation to go to Europe to race in the Cyclocross World Cup later this year in order to focus on preparing for the next road season.
The goal, he said, is to build on the success that he had this year that saw him finish 25th at Canadian road racing nationals despite being sick during the race.
He also placed 11th at the national time trials and 8th in the Criterium.
The student from Lacombe Composite High School said he gives a lot of credit to his coach, Phil Abbott from the Calgary Cycling Centre, for his success this year.
“This was my first really serious season with a full-time coach and everything. He’s coached Olympians and some of the best riders in Canada,” Palamarek said, adding that his coach also helped him set a number of goals for this season and next year as well.
Specifically, he wants to return to road Nationals as a member of Team Alberta and go to the Tour de l’Abitibi, a World Junior road race in Quebec that is for the best of the best riders.
Palamarek had the opportunity to compete at the prestigious six-day stage race earlier this summer and said that it was a dream come true.
“I ended up finishing third place in the hill climb classification and 25th place in the general classification out of somewhere around 148 other riders, so I was pretty satisfied with how my year went,” he said.
“It’s sort of like if you want to become a professional cyclist, that’s the race that you have to do as a Junior.”
This season, Palamarek wants to return and win the polka-dot jersey as the winner of the hill-climb classification.