Kirk McDowall knew precisely what he was up against at the B.C. Downhill Championships in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park on June 26.
The Anmore racer topped the elite men category by well over a second, knocking off defending national champion Matthew Beer, who took second, and Whistler resident Rémy Métailler, who took third. McDowall also took Whistlerite Chris Kovarik as a major threat to his chances, though Kovarik didn't finish in the end.
"I was a little bit nervous having Chris and Matt there, who are both really fast guys, and Rémy as well," McDowall said. "I love racing against them.
"My aim is to do well at nationals and Matt was the national champion last year, so it's good to know that I'm on that level," he said.
Though McDowall isn't overly familiar with the trails the course designers prescribed for the weekend, they were still the type he liked and could work well with.
"It's not something I do a whole lot of laps on on the weekends, but I've been riding Whistler for a long time," he said. "I enjoy riding that techier, rockier stuff, which there is a fair amount of on that course."
McDowall came into the finals after taking first in the seeding competition the day before. Even though he was on top by over two seconds, he was looking over his shoulder the entire finals, knowing he would have to find time somewhere. He did just that, trimming well over four seconds from Day 1 to Day 2.
Strategy also played a major part, McDowall noted, as he hit parts of the trail just right and used his energy efficiently to complete his best race.
"I have been training fairly hard and knew that I would need to pedal as hard as I could at every real opportunity," he said. "I had a couple good lines up there that I don't think the other people were doing."
As for the elite women, Whistler's Claire Buchar took top spot, edging out local up-and-comer Georgia Astle by about 1.3 seconds while North Vancouver's Vaea Verbeeck notched third.
Whistler's Stephanie Denroche, meanwhile, topped the U19 podium while the U17 men's sport division was a Sea to Sky smorgasbord with Pemberton's Lucas Cruz, Mount Currie's Ruben Guibert and Whistler's Nick Knapton making up the top three. Whistler's Sean Faulds took second in the open men's category, placing just behind Joel Ducrot of Fribourg, Switzerland.
Other winners included: Vancouver's Blake Bunting (U19 men expert), Sidney's Kael Markle (U17 men expert), Sooke's Piper Allman (U17 women), North Vancouver's Ethan Shandro (U15 men), Anmore's Adam Woodhouse (senior men), Vancouver's Owen Hunter (U19 men sport), Garibaldi Highlands' Don Van Eesteren (master men 50+), Delta's Trevor Brown (master men 40-49), Squamish's Rob Davis (master men 30-39), Duncan's Claire Hinchliffe (master women 30+), Courtenay's Savannah Glennie (senior women), West Vancouver's Matteo Mueller (open junior men) and London, U.K.'s Keren Wareham (open women).
The provincial championships for cross-country were also held as part of the weekend.
North Vancouver's Craig Richey topped Squamish's Rhys Verner and fellow North Vancouverite Kevin Calhoun for the elite men's win while Nanaimo's Carey Mark overcame Whistler's Chloe Cross and Victoria's Katelyn Button for the elite women's crown. Whistlerites found gold in other divisions as Tony Routley (masters men 60+), Julia Long (U19 women), Mila Wittenberg (U17 women), Wei Tien Ho (U13 men) and Kaila Lafreniere (U13 women) were all victorious, as was Pemberton's Joe Davies in the open junior men event.
Whistler's Nina Arnold, meanwhile, took second in the senior women category to Revelstoke's Emily Unterberger.
Other winners included: Comox's Emily Johnston (U15 women), North Vancouver's Nathan Bishop (U15 men), Squamish's Holden Jones (U17 men), Victoria's Max McCulloch (U19 men), Vancouver's Alyssa Myshok (master women 50-59), Squamish's Joseph Maika (master men 50-59), Nanaimo's Justin Mark (master men 40-49), Pitt Meadows' Steve Devantier (master men 30-39) and West Vancouver's Blake Ramsden (senior men). Full results are available online at www.whistlerblackcomb.com.