The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Downhill season got underway in Vigo, Spain this past weekend with a strong group of B.C. and Whistler riders in the field. The crowd was estimated at about 15,000 spectators.
In the womens competition, Danika Schroeter of Maple Ridge and sometimes Whistler finished seventh behind the top women on the circuit. The top three spots went to Tracy Moseley of Great Britain, followed by Sabrina Jonnier and Emmeline Ragot of France.
Whistlers Claire Buchar was 10 th .
Whistlers other riders, Katrina Strand and Brook Baker both had big crashes, with Baker winding up in the crowd. Strand managed to get back on her bike and finish 19 th .
Canadas female downhillers will be back in action in two weeks in the second World Cup at Fort Williams in Scotland.
None of the Canadian men took part in the Vigo race, although the previous weekend Whistler downhiller Jeff Beatty, 22, took part in the first NORBA National Mountain Bike Series event at Fontana, California.
After finishing fifth in the qualifier, Beatty turned up the intensity in the finals to place second out of almost 50 riders, behind 21-year-old Warren Cody, the reigning NORBA junior downhill champion.
"It went really well, there were some big names in there like Jared Rando (Australia) and Amiel Cavalier, Curtis Keene, so I was pumped," said Beatty.
"The course was very different to B.C. there were no roots whatsoever, it was on a hill that was basically in the desert with lots of rocks. The average time was about two and a half minutes, but the leaders came in at around 2:15.
"The top was steep, really fun, but then you crossed over a road into this neighbourhood for about a 40-second walls sprint and I just pedaled my brains out."
Beatty says he has been spending some time on his road bike recently, which helped him in the sprint to the finish line.
His goal is to compete in every NORBA event this year, earning points to qualify for a spot on the Canadian World Cup team. In June hell leave on a three-week road trip that includes NORBA events in North Carolina and Vermont before heading to Quebec for the World Cup at Mont-Sainte-Anne.
After that its back to Whistler for the Crankworx festival.
Beatty has been working as a bricklayer all winter, and is almost completely self-financed this year. His only sponsors include NRG tires and brakes and a Whistler clothing company called Dincus, although he hopes that a second in the NORBA series will help him to find more industry support.
"NORBA is a step down from the World Cup, but the competition is pretty intense. The fields are huge, and they get a lot of spectators," said Beatty.
"Last year I got the best advice from Trevor Porter, who is one of Canadas top downhillers. He basically told me to step it up and get out there, and that the only way to get faster was to go out and race the best guys in the world. Ive been racing B.C. Cups and Canada Cups for a few years, and NORBA is a step above that in a lot of ways. It really feels like a professional circuit."
Hell also be spending his spare time this summer working as a coach for the DFX freeride camps, a youth downhill and freeride program that replaces STORMBC.