Jack Iles got his big breakthrough on home soil this past weekend, earning his first UCI World Cup downhill podium finish on Sunday, Aug. 3, when the circuit stopped at Mont Ste. Anne, Que.
Iles rode to a second-place finish in the junior men's race on Sunday, clocking in less than three seconds behind American winner Luca Shaw.
"It feels awesome," Iles said Tuesday, Aug. 5, from New York, where he's preparing for the next World Cup stop. "I've been training all year especially for this race, too. I've wanted to be on the podium at (Mont Ste. Anne) — it's one of my favourite tracks and it's also in Canada — so to be up there is just amazing."
The Whistler native posted a time of four minutes, 30.416 seconds on the Mont Ste. Anne course to establish his new career-best World Cup result — a seventh-place finish at Leogang, Austria, earlier this season was his previous best. It's also the best World Cup finish ever for a junior Canadian male.
The 18-year-old said he figured he had a chance for a strong result on Sunday, but wasn't expecting to leave Quebec with a medal.
"I knew I could definitely get a top five, but top two is amazing," said Iles. "It definitely gives me a (sense) of where I'm at and where I can be."
During the Aug. 2 qualifying runs, Iles finished in ninth spot out of 60 riders to earn a place in Sunday's final. But he found another gear for his race run, reaching the finish line 10 seconds faster to rocket up the leaderboard.
"On my qualifying run, I was having a bit of trouble with the top section, but I didn't pedal as much and just kind of rode to get a time," he said. "In my race run, I really put it down and focused on being relaxed and not stressing out about it too much. And I rode an awesome run."
Iles moved into the lead when he crossed the finish line and hung around in the hot seat for a while, but saw Shaw — the last rider to start — arrive with a time of 4:27.529 to snatch the victory away.
"(Sitting on the lead) was a bit nerve-wracking, but it was good," said Iles. "It's cool to come down and be in first and be in front of some of the top guys while you watch them come down."
Iles added that he wasn't too upset finishing second to Shaw, who has three podium finishes and two wins from five World Cup races this season.
"There was no way I could have made up two-and-a-half seconds," said Iles. "He just rode better than me."
Iles competes again on Saturday, Aug. 9, at Windham, N.Y., squeezing in one more World Cup race before coming home for a full block of Crankworx races. He heads in brimming with confidence after the runner-up result in Quebec, which has bumped him up to fifth in the World Cup standings.
"I've never seen (the Windham course), so I'm stoked to get to ride it," said Iles.
"Now, I know where I can be, and I just have to do the same thing."