A new set of wheels was a godsend for Georgia Astle.
The local downhiller, 19, debuted her new ride, complete with bigger wheels and a new suspension, at the UCI World Cup downhill at Mont Ste. Anne, Que. on Aug. 7. In just her second-ever World Cup event, Astle took a seventh-place finish, finishing about 20 seconds behind juggernaut rider Rachel Atherton, who had no one within 11 seconds of her.
Astle said the Quebec course wasn't one that fit her style, but she managed to keep calm and ride on.
"The Mont Ste. Anne track is an extremely fast and open course, but also you don't need as much bike skill in cornering. It's just really high speed and there's really big impact — for example, a lot of drop-in features," she said. "It was nerve-wracking to hit all those features, so pretty much every time dropping into the run, you have those extra concerns. It's not just riding a corner well, it's riding insane high-speed drops and jumps and trying to hold onto your bike.
"I wouldn't say it's the track that suits me best, but I had a lot of confidence with the new bike."
Alhough she had only just over a day to ride and set up her new bike in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, Astle felt good on it fairly quickly as she took more and more runs.
But returning to Mont Ste. Anne, the site of her World Cup debut a year ago when she finished 13th, was also a boost.
"Coming in the second time, knowing what to expect from the track and having more bike skills, I was more prepared for it," she said. "I haven't done as much racing this year, but the last couple months, I've been on my bike pretty much non-stop. Coming into it, I was really confident on my bike."
Next up is Crankworx, and though Astle admittedly hasn't ridden many of the prescribed courses yet this year, she plans to change that in the next few days. And besides, since it's her own backyard, getting familiar with them again is almost like riding a bike.
At Crankworx, Astle plans to line up for the Fox Air DH, Canadian Open DH and Garbanzo DH races, the latter of which she expects will feel particularly good on her new setup considering it's a bit longer and more gruelling course.
"I'm pretty excited heading into Crankworx... Being on home territory will be really nice," she said.
Astle has also qualified for a pair of major events in September — the final World Cup in Vallnord, Andorra, and the world championships in Val Di Sole, Italy. Vallnord hosted last year's world championships when Astle competed in the junior women's category and she's excited to return.
"I'll get to see the track a second time and then go to worlds again later," she said.
In the junior men's division, meanwhile, Finn Iles continued his outstanding season with a second-place finish. Iles., who qualified in first, was edged out by France's Gaetan Vige by three tens of a second.