It hasn't been the easiest season for Jaime Hill.
The Pemberton-based downhill rider wasn't thrilled with how she started the 2015 campaign, including a seventh-place finish at the Sea Otter Classic.
So with an opportunity to get back on track, Hill decided to throw a bit of caution into the wind, taking a "less conservative" approach at the BC Cup Provincial Championships here in Whistler on June 28.
"I haven't felt super confident on my bike through the first little bit of the season," she said. "I was starting to get a little bit down on myself. That's sort of why I took a bit of different approach in training this weekend, using my free lap to really find where my edge was and know that when I went into race day, I knew exactly what to expect."
Hill captured the elite women's division crown in a time of three minutes, 3.30 seconds (3:03.30), which was 2.48 seconds up on Whistler's Maria Luz Darquier and nearly six up on third-place finisher Georgia Astle.
In the elite men's division, Australian Whistler resident Chris Kovarik won in 2:33.63, with Anmore's Kirk McDowall just over a second back and Denmark's Sebastian Jensen 2.35 seconds off the pace.
Other winners included Harry Steer (senior men), Flo Belanger-Jones (senior women), Daniel Shaw (junior expert men), Stephanie Denroche (junior women), Jesiah Dyck (junior sport men), Michael Mooney (master men 50+), Don Van Eesteren (master men 40-49), Corey Kenahan (master men 30-39), Matthew Coetser (U17 sport men), Blake Bunting (U17 expert men), Tharen Markle (U15 men), Claire Hinchliffe (master women 30+) and Kyleigh Stewart (U17 women).
Hill explained in advance of the race, she used her free laps to take aggressive passes and build up her speed even with a dry and brittle course. Hill said the trial-and-error ended up coming in handy during the finals especially, as she had more of a baseline from which to work as she sought the ideal line down the course.
"On race day, I really tried to ride as good and confidently as I could," she said. "The track did break down a lot over the weekend because of how dry and dusty and loose everything got. By Sunday's finals, it was a matter of trying to keep it smooth, keep in control, but find the places where you could just let off the brakes a bit more and pull back in some of the looser, sketchier bits. Keep the rubber side down."
While the rising dust would cause visibility problems when one rider followed another closely, Hill downplayed the effects of the heat on the humans, as the adrenaline allows riders to push it to the backs of their minds.
"When you're riding, you don't actually notice it too much. It's moreso when you get to the bottom and you're standing in line. That's where you get to notice it," she said.
"It was hot, but it's been hot for quite awhile. I think we've gotten a bit used to it by now."
Hill hopes the race is a "jumping-off point" as the Canadian DH Championships are fast approaching on July 11 at Sun Peaks. She expects to face similar conditions there, so she feels this win could fast-track her back to where she wants to be.
"This weekend, I really started to find my stride again, so that's what I'm hoping to continue and keep improving," she said. "I like when it gets rough and there's an additional physical challenge combined with the mental aspects of being able to stay off your brakes and float over all the rough roots and rocks."
The provincial cross-country championships were also held over the weekend. Victoria's Craig Richey and Katelyn Button won the respective elite divisions.
Other winners included Erik Ashton (U13 men), Felix Shorter (U11 men), Kaila Lafrenier (U13 women), Elliot Jamieson (U15 men), Emily Johnston (U15 women), Shane Patterson (U17 men), Julia Long (U17 women), Rhys Verner (junior/U19 men), Emily Handford (junior/U19 women), Matt Drown (master 40-49 men), Carsten Ivany (master 30-39 men), Larry Hindle (master 50-59 men), Ian Parker (master 60+ men) and Alyssa Myshok (master 50+ women).
Full results are online at www.cyclingbc.net.