Kieran Lumb had to wait a little longer than expected to get a chance to defend his Red Bull 400 crown.
The 19-year-old won the uphill event in 2016—in record time, no less—but the race was cancelled in 2017 because wildfires in the region created hazardous air conditions.
Lumb, a track athlete at the University of British Columbia, will aim for his second triumph in the uphill race, a 37-degree, 400-metre dash up the slope at Whistler Olympic Park. The race, which will run this Saturday, July 14, will for the first time qualify the respective men's and women's winners for the World Championships in Austria on Aug. 25.
"I'm definitely looking forward to it. Red Bull puts on a great event and I had a great time competing two years ago," Lumb said. "It hurts, but it's well organized and it's a great way to spend a Saturday."
Lumb's record time of three minutes and 48.39 seconds (3:48.39) has subsequently fallen, being most recently bested by Norway's Erik Resell, who posted a mind-melting 3:03.9 in Trondheim, Norway earlier this year.
"I'm not going into the event with big expectations. The record is a cool title, but because each course is a little bit different, it's not something that I'm really targeting," he said.
While cutting 45 seconds off his time isn't necessarily in his sights, Lumb said there are a few efficiencies he can create in his strategy.
"Because it's an event where you go into a lactic leg state so quickly, there's not a huge amount of pacing involved because no matter how hard you go at the start, it's going to hurt a minute and a half in," he said. "I might do my pacing a bit differently in that I'd start hard from the gun because you have the 100-metre flat and then you get right into the hill.
"I'll try to recover between the heats and finals, laying low and getting something to eat between the heats is really important."
The Red Bull 400 wraps Lumb's running season, which featured trips across Canada and into the United States to compete at various meets.
"Being my first year of senior (competition), it was a great learning experience, and it was a building season competing with older athletes," he said. "I was able to stay healthy for the whole season and get some really good, consistent training that will really help me going forward."
Women's winner Rachel McBride is also lined up to defend the women's title. Other athletes of note include snowboarder Craig McMorris and Mike Shaw, a freestyle skier who broke his neck in a ski terrain park in 2013 but who has subsequently recovered.
Those interested in participating can still register at www.redbull.com/ca-en/events/rb400-whistler.
Solo heats run from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The women's final is set for 2:30 p.m. while the men's final will go at 3 p.m.