Whistler's Claire Buchar has had a lot of highs and lows in her years on the World Cup downhill mountain bike circuit, from top-five results to injuries that put her on the sidelines.
This past season was mostly about the highs, with Buchar earning silver and bronze World Cup medals in Pietermaritzburg, then going on to win the Canadian Mountain Bike National Championships for the first time in her career. She also made the podium at Crankworx, placing third in the Canadian Open Downhill and first in Womenzworx.
The fans were paying attention and as a result Buchar got the most votes of any athletes in the international rider category of Cycling B.C.'s annual awards poll. The votes were only part of the criteria used and in the end the award went to cross country racer Catherine Pendrel of Kamloops.
Buchar was excited to get the most votes, however, and says the judges made the right decision.
"It wasn't supposed to be a popularity contest, or for people to put it on Facebook and see who had the most friends," she said. "I deserved (to be included), but Catherine Pendrel definitely deserved (the award) after the season she had."
Buchar credits her results this past season to the fact that she is now training year-round.
"I've been spending my winters in hot places where I can ride and that's helped a lot, before that I was here with the snow and you can't really ride your bike. You can go to the gym a lot but it's rad when you can go out and ride every single day," she said. "Two seasons ago I spent the winter in California and last year I was in Australia.
"It also helped me this year to be on a team and having a lot of support, it just made a huge difference with everything," she said.
Buchar is in Whistler until the New Year, when she will head back to Australia with husband and fellow Intense Cycles/Chain Reaction Cycles team rider Chris Kovarik. She plans to ride and surf her way into the spring while competing in top tier Australian events. After that she'll join her teammates for a training camp in Europe before returning to North America for the annual Sea Otter Classic in California.
Buchar has set higher goals for this season.
"I'd love to stand on the podium at more World Cups," she said. "I'd be happy with any top 10, but I'm definitely aiming for the top five and I'd love to be the national champion again and podium in all the Crankworx events that I do. I also plan to do some coaching at Summer Gravity Camps and WORCA possibly, and do all the World Cup events and the World Championships at Mont Sainte Anne.
"That's a tough one to finish in the top three but I've been riding well (at Mont Sainte Anne) the last couple of years."