By Andrew Mitchell
The Whistler Secondary School pulled off a coup at the B.C. High School Mountain Bike Championships Saturday, May 26, placing third out of all schools with a small team of just nine riders and a run of bad luck.
Tyler Allison, reigning Under 15 provincial and national champion, repeated his high school championship title against a strong field of riders in the Juvenile Boys division.
The week before the race Allison crashed in the dirt jump park, almost ripping his lower lip from the bone and requiring 50 stitches on the inside of his mouth. The injury didn’t bother him while racing, but it did add another element to Allison’s ride.
“I felt a little bit nervous riding some of the trails, I didn’t want to fall and open everything up again,” he said.
“I was leading when I came through on the first lap, and the guy who was in second tried to sprint past me but I outsprinted him and got to the singletrack before him. He dropped off, he was tired out after trying to pass.”
Allison’s main focus this year will be the national championships, as well as some of the downhill events in Crankworx. He’s also racing the Test of Metal in June, as well as a few other races around the province.
Jesse Melamed finished fifth in the Juvenile category, while Luana Auer was fifth in Juvenile Girls.
Three top five results was good enough to place Whistler’s three-person juvenile team second overall in the category.
In the Bantam Boys race, Max Horner pedaled his way to third place overall out of 48 racers.
“The hole shot (onto the singletrack) was really important from the start, but after that it was a fun and flow-y course,” said the Grade 8 student. “I was fourth getting onto the singletrack, but I passed the kid ahead of me as soon as I had a chance. I tried to catch up to the other kids but they were too far ahead.”
Horner says he is starting to get back into cross-country after focusing on riding downhill for the past few years. He is coming out to the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association’s (WORCA) Loonie Races, and enjoying being out on the trails.
“I’m just starting to get back into the whole cross-country thing again, and it’s been tons of fun. It was great finishing third in one of my first real races in a few years.”
Teammate Brendon Lee finished in 40 th place after his chain popped off and got stuck. To Lee’s credit, he still sprinted his broken bike to the finish line to earn 20 points for his team and help their overall score. If he had pulled out with a mechanical he would have earned just one point.
“He was a champion, he carried his bike and sprinted to the finish,” said Miriam Bride, a teacher from Whistler Secondary who has helped coach and organize the mountain bike team the past three years.
“It was really important because he was still able to collect points for our aggregate score. We’re super proud of him for doing that. All his teammates were at the finish cheering him in, so it was a great moment for the team.”
Mackenzie Patterson got off to a strong start in the Bantam Girls division, but finished 11 th after her chain kept popping off.
“It was frustrating. My chain came off right at the start, so I started out in dead last, and then it came off four times on the first lap and five times on the second,” she said. “I kept passing people, then they would pass me again. I still think I did pretty well considering all the problems I was having.
“This was the first race I’ve ever done, so I just wanted to do well and have fun.”
Patterson will focus on practicing downhill over the summer, but also plans to keep her cross-country riding up by taking part in Loonie races. When it comes time to race again for her school, she plans to be back.
In the Senior Boys, Conor Halliwell was fifth in the heavy bike category, while Toria Whitney just missed the podium finishing in fourth place out of 19 racers. Nadine Crowe was a solid seventh.
Putting their results together resulted in Whistler Secondary finishing third out of 33 participating schools, many of which brought teams of 20 or more riders.
The team will continue to train on Friday nights through the end of school, and is already looking ahead to next year. The team was coached by Sean Bickerton, WORCA’s director of youth, and Eric Crowe.
“Our coaches were just great, they were very supportive and showed the kids a lot,” said Bride. “What was so exciting is that our Grade 8s and 9s are just getting started in mountain biking, who are looking for some coaching, and we’ve started to do some networking to get a few more riders out to participate as well,” said Bride.