Grouse Mountain World Cup to host the strongest Canadian field ever
There are two schools of thought on hometown advantage in sports. The first is that you have the advantage because you know the field/rink/course. The crowd is behind you, your family and friends are there, and a win means a lot more.
The other theory is that competing at home means more pressure, more emotion, and infinitely more distraction. You can also get lulled into a false sense that youre harder to beat because you know the venue inside and out.
Both schools of thought will be put to the test when Canadas best mountain bikers charge out of the gates at Grouse Mountain in the Tissot/Union Cycliste Internationale Mountain Bike World Cup triple crown, which runs from July 6 to 8.
In the cross-country category, Victorias Roland Green is the first male Canadian to win at the World Cup level, and three races into the eight-race season, he is the first Canadian to lead in the overall standings. He finished 11th in his first race, but came on strong to finish a close second in Sarntal, Italy in the second race. A week later, the 26 year old was on top of the podium at Houffalize, Belgium.
Green also became the first male cyclist to win a World Cup cross country race with a dual suspension bike. Winning at Grouse would extend his lead in the standings and make him the first male Canadian to win at home.
Hes definitely up to it. Last weekend (June 22 and 23), Green led the Canadian charge at in the National Off-Road Bicycling Association (NORBA) races in West Virginia, winning both the short-track cross country race and the UCI 35.5 kilometre cross country.
Four out of the top five spots went to B.C. racers. Ryder Hesjedal and Geoff Kabush, both also of Victoria, finished third and fifth, while Whistlers own Chad Miles finished fourth.
The women are also in a good position, with two-time world champion and Olympic silver medalist Alison Sydor leading the way. Also from Victoria, Sydor is currently ranked sixth in the overall standings with one bronze medal after three races.
Ontarios Chrissy Redden, currently ranked 13th, also put on a strong performance at the last NORBA race, winning the short track and placing second in the cross country.
Trish Sinclair of Victoria also made the leader board, finishing in fourth place in the cross country.
Other Canadian riders to watch for include Lesley Tomlinson, Marie-Helene Premont, Kiara Bisaro, Linda Robischaud, Claire Townsend, and Amber and Eron Chorney.
Canada is not as strong in the downhill and cross country categories, but if home does turn out to be an advantage there are a number of competitors who are capable of making the podium.
Andrew Shandro of North Vancouver is always a strong contender, and in West Virginia he showed his stuff with a fourth place against the top ranked downhillers in the world. Vancouvers Chad Onyschuk, the current national champion, and Dave Watson of Coquitlam are strong contenders. Eric Cseff of Milton, Ontario, rounds out the national team, but you can expect strong prospects from this years Canada Cup and B.C. Cup races to make the list.
On the womens side, Lorraine Blancher of Kelowna, and Katherine Lobodzinkski of London, Ontario are currently the only national team downhillers. There are a number of strong Canada Cup and B.C. prospects who have been waiting for a home event to prove their mettle.
Tickets are going fast, but you can order them in advance from the Grouse Mountain website at www.grousemtn.com .
The cost is $18.95 for a general access ticket to the cross country, dual slalom or downhill events, or $29.95 for a Prime Access ticket that includes priority boarding on the Skyride and access to a private cash bar.
You can get also buy a ticket for all three days of the event for $59.95 that includes Prime Access privileges.
Training for all three events takes place on Friday (July 6), starting with the cross country training at 9 a.m. Dual slalom qualifications take place at 4:15 p.m.
On Saturday, the World Cup downhill semi finals start at 11 a.m. and run until 1 p.m. The finals take place at 2 p.m. At 6 p.m. you can catch the Dual World Cup finals.
On Sunday morning, July 8, the cross country course will be used for World Cup support races for junior men and women. The womens cross country begins at 10:30 a.m. and runs until approximately 1 p.m. The mens cross country starts at 1:30 p.m.
For a complete schedule, check the Grouse Web site.