Whistler's Felix Burke's bid for a national junior expert cross-country mountain bike title fell just short on Saturday as Burke placed second overall at Hardwood Hills, Ontario, losing to a rider that grew up riding the trails. The heat was also likely a factor, with temperatures climbing near 40 C with the humidity.
Peter Disera, who races for Team Ontario, finished the 24km course in 1:10:04, with Burke, racing for Quebec-based CVM 2 VALS, finished 2:03 back. Felix Belhumeur of Quebec was over 45 seconds back of Burke.
Whistler's Mahon Lamont also raced, placing 11th overall.
Burke said he was hoping for better, but was still happy to finish second.
"(Disera) is a year older than me, he's been racing at this level for a long time, and it was his own course, so he had all the cards on his side. But I had a good race, and I was really happy with what I did," said Burke.
While Burke has been training and racing out east, he said the extreme heat did catch him off guard.
"That was definitely a huge factor for me because I'm not used to this kind of heat yet," he said. "I really had to race within myself because I knew that if I went out too hard at the start I could overheat and probably crash. I might not be able to finish the race, or I could drop back, so I knew I had to be really careful."
Burke said his result at this race and results all season on the Canada Cup tour — he's still sitting first overall in that series — were good enough that he was extended an invitation to join Team Canada at a few events this year, including the World Cup at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec on Aug. 10-11 and the UCI World Championships in South Africa from Aug. 26 to Sept. 1.
Burke said that making the national team was a goal at the beginning of the season, and it was a relief to reach it.
"I'd say it's kind of a relief because you train so much in the winter by yourself and you build everything up so much, and now I've finally achieved that goal I can relax a bit in some ways and focus on riding. Now I've been selected I have to do the best race of my life."
Burke is also excited to return to Whistler for the Canada Cup finals, which take place on Aug. 14.
"That's a big race for me too, I'm really excited to come back and have the Canada Cup leaders jersey and see all my friends again — it's just a huge thing for me."