On the centre podium at the B.C. Cross Country Championships and the recent B.C. Cup at Hemlock, Whistlers Brandon Semenuk looks small next to the other racers. Thats hardly surprising because at 13 years old hes still a year to two years younger than the other riders in the provincial Under 15 category.
He says he still feels a little intimidated by the other riders in his category at the start line, "but its okay, because now I know I can beat them. Ive always ridden with older kids anyway, so Im not really worried."
In two weeks Semenuk could claim the B.C. Cup title for his age group with a fourth place finish at the final race of the series at Mount Washington. The way hes been riding this summer, it would take a crash or a mechanical breakdown to take the title away from him.
Still, once the race is underway he doubts that hell be able to hold back. He plans to start the race behind the two competitors that also have a chance of winning the title, and pass them in the first technical section. Its a strategy that has been working for Semenuk all year, something hes picked up in his more than three years of racing in the same category.
"I usually try to get a lead on them early on, and after Ive passed them and stayed in front the whole time I find places on the course where I can make a lot of time, and I know I have the lead, so I can take off."
In the most recent B.C. Cup, Semenuk finished more than two minutes ahead of his next closest competitor. In the B.C. Cross Country Championships in Squamish the week before, a much longer race, Semenuk was 13 and a half minutes faster.
Semenuk says there a few reasons why hes winning so much this season.
"Im older, faster, and Ive done a lot more riding," he said.
The courses are also longer and more technical, which suits his riding style. When hes not riding technical cross-country trails around Whistler, you can find Semenuk in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park or at the dirt jumps and flow area near the skate park.
"More people are doing the circuit, people are getting faster, so theyre making the courses longer and more technical," he said.
"My descents are still definitely better than my climbing, but Ive gotten a lot better at climbing this year."
Semenuk also tries to pace himself with riders in the Under 17 Expert category as much as possible, including a friend named Graeme Bant who is still 14 but moved up into another category this year because he turns 15 in November.