Jeff Beatty is having a good season. At a World Cup at Mont Sainte Anne, he was the top Canadian in 27 th place, automatically qualifying for a berth at next month’s UCI Mountain Bike World Championships at Fort William, Scotland. He placed third in another Canada Cup race, and was the top Canadian in the Jim Beam Air Downhill last week at Crankwork, in sixth place. He also placed a solid 11 th in the Canadian Open Downhill, third among Canadians in a field that included some of the top World Cup racers in the world.
It was a different story a year ago, when Beatty nearly sidelined himself permanently with a neck and back injury in the national downhill championships. At the time of the crash Beatty was leading at the splits, and at the very least was headed for a spot on the podium.
Beatty has learned from that experience, and came into this season with a different style.
“That’s just how it goes — I can say that I would have won so many times, but obviously I was doing something wrong last year because I was crashing quite a bit,” he said. “I’m happy because this year I’ve changed up a few things, and I’m having good results and not as many crashes. Last year I finished only two races or something like that, and this year I have four or five really good results.”
Beatty, fellow Whistler rider Tyler Morland and Luke Kitzanuk of Quebec, will represent Canada at the world championships. On the women’s side, Whistler’s Claire Buchar will race, along with West Vancouver’s Micayla Gatto. Katrina Strand was close to qualifying, but missed too many events this year with an injury.
With the best-of-the-best making up a field of 200 riders in Scotland, Beatty is hoping to place in the top-40 — possibly in the top-30 if everything goes his way.
“I’ve been to the worlds as a junior, but this is my first time as a senior. I just want to get there, get all my lines dialed in over the first couple of days and then have a really solid run that would put me in the top-40. The top-30 might be doable. I’d like to be able to beat guys like (Fabien) Barel, but it’s going to be a couple of years before I’m at that level.”
Beatty, who teaches mountain biking in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, has been mostly self-funded this season. He has been helped a lot on the equipment side by sponsors, including Orange Mojo bikes, Sun Rims, FSA, Maxxis and NRG, but is looking to host a fundraiser with other members of the national downhill team. Since 2005, the Canadian Cycling Association is no longer providing any funding or support for the downhill team, as downhill mountain biking is not an Olympic discipline — yet. Some believe it’s just a matter of time, as the International Olympic Committee and its partners review sports with the goal of making the Games more exciting and relevant to the times.
Beatty obviously supports including downhill in the Olympics, given the popularity of the sport around the world — after the world championships he’s heading to Slovenia for the World Cup finals. He also doesn’t feel that mountains are necessary to have a good downhill, given the success of past events at smaller hills like Canada Olympic Park. Mont Sainte Anne — a modest mountain by any stretch — is now the longest running world downhill event, running for the past 13 years, and is famous for its long, technical course.
“You don’t need a lot of altitude, just a good trail,” said Beatty.
Beatty and the team will leave for Scotland in late August, with the competitions taking place from Sept. 3 to 9. Visit http://fortwilliamworldchamps.co.uk to follow the national team.