Returning to the World Cup downhill mountain bike circuit, Whistler's Jack Iles found himself in a familiar place — in the top 10.
Iles matched a career-best World Cup finish by placing ninth in the junior men's class at Fort William, Scotland, on June 8, then topped that in Austria this past weekend with a seventh-place result at Leogang on June 15.
"I'm extremely stoked, because seventh is my best result so far in any World Cup," said Iles, who was making his return to Leogang after ending his 2013 campaign there at the World Cup finals.
Iles said nerves got the better of him when starting at Fort William, but the 18-year-old was encouraged to crack the top 10 there on a day when he wasn't at his best.
"I basically tensed up for the first half of my run... and my forearms got really tired," he said. "I couldn't really hold on, but it was a good learning experience even if it wasn't the best run ever."
Iles finished the Fort William course in five minutes, 3.56 seconds, which put him 12 seconds back of the winning time posted by Belgium's Martin Maes.
"The track was completely different from anything I've ever rode," said Iles. "It was like riding on pea gravel, and I'd never really raced on that."
Iles said that the nervousness disappeared when he arrived at Leogang, a place where he knew he was capable of a strong result.
"I was more focused and I'd been there before, so that took out a bit of the stress," he said. "I focused on... just breathing and didn't get tired or anything — Leogang is a lot shorter of a course and (a more traditional) surface."
The gap between Iles and the triumphant time posted by France's Amaury Pierron was less than four seconds at the Austrian stop.
"My run at Leogang was really good," he said. "I didn't really make any mistakes and I had one of the fastest split times in the last interval as well."
After putting in a lot of hard work during the offseason to get in shape for the summer, Iles said the impacts of his winter training were obvious when racing the two World Cups.
"I did a lot of gym work and a lot of cardio," he said of his offseason plan.
His seventh-place finish was also the best result by a Canadian rider in any racing class at Leogang. Iles was the only Canadian junior racing at either World Cup this month, but he said he wasn't feeling too lonely out on the road.
"It's not too bad," he chuckled. "I have a few older people I can ride with, too."
The next few races on Iles's schedule won't require him to carry a passport, as he'll be headed to Panorama for the next Canada Cup race in early July, then off to Sun Peaks the following week to compete in the Canadian Championships.
After that is the next World Cup on the first weekend of August, which takes place in Quebec at Mont Ste. Anne.
Iles said he's motivated by this month's World Cup results as he prepares for the next several weeks.
"I feel good on my bike," he said. "I feel a lot more confident and more ready to race going into some of these other events like nationals. After doing a few World Cups, I'll be less stressed.
"I'll be doing a lot of riding, more gym work and some yoga — just full-on training until the next race."