No man is an island, but Finn Iles was off on his own at the UCI DH World Cup opener in Lourdes, France, earlier this month.
The 16-year-old captured his first junior men's division title, besting runner-up Matt Walker by over 1.5 seconds to kick off his season in style.
Iles' team switched from Lapierre to Specialized over the winter, meaning Iles was getting comfortable with new equipment. Though he felt familiarized enough to win with it, he knows there are still some positive adjustments he can make with it.
"This year for me it was important, switching bikes in the offseason is definitely hard and I never got much testing on the bike. So getting a win in the first race is really good for my confidence because I know there is some room to improve and get faster," Iles said over Facebook Messenger. "I felt like there was some pressure on me going into the first race and for the season and I didn't really know where I was at speed-wise on the bike. So it was really good to have a good feeling on the bike and come away with a good result."
Bike aside, Iles appreciated the French setup he was tasked with overcoming. With some sloppy conditions adding to an already gruelling course, Iles explained he was glad to conquer it.
"The course in Lourdes was a good one, it was really physical and you never got any easier bits so it was really tiring. I think this year was especially difficult because of the crazy changes in course conditions so it was hard to have a consistent feel on the bike. I enjoyed the course a lot — it was fast and technical, which I enjoy. I just hope next time it doesn't rain," he noted.
After a long winter where he looked to become a more effective rider, Iles will next see action this weekend in Cairns, Australia. He feels his offseason helped him become a better rider, and the results will be evident throughout the year.
"Over the winter off the bike I was doing a lot of gym and a lot of cardio training as well as doing other sports to keep me busy when there was too much snow to ride. On the bike I was mainly trying to get used to the bike and just to build my speed up and work on my riding technique," he explained.Iles also received some other exciting news recently, earning a coveted sponsorship from energy drink giant Red Bull and becoming the youngest Canadian ever to do so.
"Red Bull is definitely a big one, it's something I dreamed of as a kid so being able to ride and represent them is an amazing opportunity," he explained. "Getting a Red Bull sponsorship now is a really big opportunity I think that riding for them and to have their support will help me develop as a rider."