Nanaimo's Steve Smith is one of the top-ranked mountain bike downhillers in the world these days, and is currently sitting third in the UCI standings after placing third and second at the first two World Cup races of the season in Scotland and Italy.
For the first time since he was a junior, Smith was in Canada for the national championships, which took place last weekend at Panorama Mountain Resort. It was a chance for up-and-coming riders to measure themselves against a World Cup star, as well as for Smith to reconnect with the Canadian scene.
Smith posted the fastest time in the qualifier and then won the short but technical race in 2:24.22. He was followed by Kyle Sangers in 2:28.50 and Sidney Slotegraaf in 2:29.81.
Whistler's Nick Geddes was 12th overall in 2:37.20, Squamish's Kip Shortreed 17th in 2:41.02 and Whistler's Tyler Allison 29th in 2:48.38.
Smith told Canadian Cyclist that the pressure was on him to win. "I am happy to have won this race," he said. "There was a lot of pressure on me today, as everybody expected me to win. It was kind of tough. And now that the rule has changed to a sleeve we were all stoked to come out and still be able to support our sponsors."
National champions were once required by Cycling Canada to race with a prominent patch on front of their jerseys, something that heavily sponsored riders like Smith have shied away from. The new rules allow the rider to make note of their status as national champion on their sleeve.
Smith said his goal is to build on his early season success and get to the top of the World Cup podium. "I really want to win," he said. "Last year a second or third was an accomplishment. This year it's the win that I am going there to do. I am moving on from where I was in Italy (second place) and progress from there."
In the women's elite category, the North Shore's Micayla Gatto was first in 2:48.43, followed by Squamish racers Lauren Rosser and Miranda Miller in 2:51.92 and 2:53.42. Jamie Hill from Pemberton was fifth in 3:07.31.
The women's field started without defending champion Casey Brown of Revelstoke after she broke her collarbone in training.
"They made some good changes to the course," Gatto told Canadian Cyclist. "They took out an uphill section, which was nice. They also added a bit more technical sections, which I am used to riding on the North Shore. I like the fast, technical courses."
In Junior Expert Men, the national title went to Mark Wallace of Duncan, B.C., with a time of 2:34.06. He was followed by Hugo Langevin of Quebec in 2:34.41. The third Canadian rider, finishing fourth overall, was Whistler's Xander Geddes in 2:35.75, followed by Lee Jackson of Squamish in fifth and Whistler's Jack Iles in 2:39.63. Bowen Irvine was 14th.
Tyler Allison, Claire Buchar top Phat Wednesday
The fourth Phat Wednesday presented by Bud Light took place on July 10 with a field of 246 turning out to race the Orient Express — Ninja Cougar, Karate Monkey and Samurai Pizza Cat. To mix things up the course skipped Ho Chi Min, and instead followed Afternoon Delight and the bottom section of Lower Whistler DH.
There was a timing mix-up, and as a result the wrong person was crowned as fastest. After going through the data, organizers were able to determine that Tyler Allison was the top rider with his time of 3:31.77. He was followed by Remy Metailler in 3:34.49 and George Newham in 3:34.97, with the rest of the top 10 comprising of Chris Kovarik, Denis Courchesne, Tom Skillicorn, Shawn Neer, Sean Faulds, Simon Buzacott and Paul Stevens.
The top female racer was Claire Buchar in 4:05.17, followed by Katrina Strand in 4:06.33 and Pat Moreno in 4:09.82. The top 10 included Emily Slaco, Ellie Maxfield, Jen Ashton, Leonie Picton, Erica Lawson, Lula Darquier and Kari Mancer.
Finn Iles was the fastest junior this week in 3:50.61, followed by Isaac Marangoni in 3:51.83 and Vincent Pasquier in 4:00.15. The top 10 included Drew Vanunen, Braden Metza, Lucas Cruz, Tom Peele, Spencer Wight, Adam Woodhouse and Tyler Tourond.
Adam Bowie won the Master Male category in 3:43.88, followed by Chris Dewar in 3:43.89 and Chris Young in 3:44.15. Also in the top 10 were Kris Atkinson, Andrew Gunn, Mathieu Hebert, John Moon, Luke Radnor, Ryan Newton and Adam Dagg.
The next Phat Wednesday downhill race was on July 17. Results will be posted next week. Future events are July 31 and Aug. 28, with a makeup race to reschedule from earlier in the season.
Also coming up is the bike park's first Enduro race, taking place on Friday, July 19. For $10, participants get three timed Enduro descents, a free beer (if of age), and a chance to win draw prizes. Registration opens on July 17 at Guest Relations or by calling 1-800-766-0449.