If you had asked Finn Iles just five months ago how he saw his 2014 season playing out, he admits he would never have imagined what has happened.
"This has definitely been the best season of my life," he said. "Since May, I never would have thought this could happen. It's pretty mind-blowing."
The 15-year-old finished his 2014 campaign at the 2014 City Urban Downhill Tour stop in Taxco, Mexico with competition on Oct. 25. Iles finished 17th.
Then, on Oct. 27, Team Lapierre Gravity Republic announced it had signed Iles to a three-year contract after initially presenting him an offer in early September. As part of the deal, Iles will receive increased funding beginning next year from the team, which won the 2014 Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) World Cup.
"I was very surprised to get the offer," said Iles.
"It was a pretty clear choice to sign it, because last year, they were the No. 1 team on the UCI World Cup circuit for downhill," he explained. "It was definitely one of the best days of my life to get that offer."
Iles is too young to participate in UCI World Cup competition in 2015, but will be able to take part in 2016. He said in preparation for the jump, he will continue to compete in the BC Cup, and will also have the opportunity to travel to Europe to ride in new events he hasn't yet experienced.
Team Lapierre Gravity Republic team manager Laurent Delorme explained in an email that teams generally sign riders when they are still competing as juniors. However, with the team's high hopes for Iles, he noted several of those other agreements aren't "as professional as what we are trying to create with Finn."
Delorme also noted that though Iles can't compete with the team next year, he would take part in testing camp and some training races.
In Taxco, Iles was relatively pleased with his placement, but felt there were a couple of things he could have done on the course to vault him into the top 15.
"The course was pretty scary because the stairs were very steep," he said. "There's a lot of tight corners, so I wish I had been a bit faster through that."
The race capped a wild season for Iles, who, because of his age, had to jump through a few extra administrative hoops in order to compete at the Official Whip Off World Championships at Crankworx in August. Once there, he won the whole thing.
"The whole entire length of Crankworx was definitely the highlight of my season," Iles said.
Though downhill is the major focus for Iles, he competes in a few different racing disciplines, and feels he improved his cornering in technical races in particular in 2014.
"I've gotten stronger and more confident in my riding, so that's allowed me to go faster," Iles explained.