Coaches to develop new programs, bring in more riders
With the regular program increasing from 35 kids to 50 kids over the previous year, and members of the racing team jumping up into more difficult competitive categories after dominating last year, coaches with the Single Track Off Road Mountain Bike Club of Whistler have their hands full.
With the season over, however, founder and coach Chris Colbeck can say it went better than he could have expected.
"Everyone on the team seemed to jump up to a higher level of competition last year, and the riders had a hard time at first," says Colbeck. "Everybody stepped up, and I think everybody came out of the season a little stronger, a little more aware of whats required to make the next big jump."
For the club, Colbeck says the highlight of the season was the performance of downhiller Jeff Beatty, who after struggling at the beginning of the year in the Junior Expert level at the provincial level, caught his stride midseason to win both the provincial and national championships.
"It was unbelievable to watch him improve in every race, and to finally get named to the national team for the world championships," says Colbeck.
Brook Baker also performed well at the provincial level and finished fourth in the Junior Expert Women.
"The numbers are down for cross-country races, and its too bad because at a lot of races Brook didnt have near enough competition. Even when they put the Under 17 and Junior Women together, she was still faster, and that made it tougher for her to step it up."
Colbeck feels a higher level is needed at that level to push the athletes to go faster.
He also has to compete with other sports and school for the athletes attention, and as a result competitors couldnt make a full commitment to their training until the season was already underway.
"With all these elements competing for their time, we still managed to do pretty well," he says.
"Next year will be a good season to step up the training a little, especially the physical and mental aspects. The older athletes are getting to the point where they have all the physical requirements, but we have to make sure theyre mentally ready, and are using their heads to get through technical trails. They have to think in terms of winning races," he says.
The regular program, which includes spring, summer and fall camps, attracted more than 50 riders this season, of all ages and skill levels. Over the winter Colbeck and the coaches will work on creating a progression that allows the better mountain biker a chance to move ahead of his or her peers.
"Its important that they train with kids in their age group, but its more important that they train with kids of their skill level," says Colbeck. "Well sit down this winter and look at ways we can polish the program a little so racers can get the most benefit, and keep moving up the ladder."
He also encourages athletes to learn both cross country and downhill racing skills a cross country racer can benefit from downhill skills by riding faster in the technical sections, and a downhiller can benefit from cross country fitness and strength.
"One thing that worked out well this year was having (2000 Canadian Cross Country Champion) Chad Miles with us, doing interval training and cross country training for downhillers. That freed me up more to do office work and to take care of technical training."
The club has helped to produce a number of up and coming athletes that have a good chance of making the competitive team in the next few years.
"There are a few kids that have definitely caught my eye who seem interested, although its hard to tell whats going to happen. Theyre 12 years old."
Some of the younger riders who have impressed include Alex Prochazka, James McSkimming, Jillian McArthur, Sophie Doyle, Corbin McGaw, and Derek Craig, although there are a lot of other kids who have potential.
Colbeck also expects the club to double in size over the next few years as the popularity of the sport grows, and STORMBCs reputation builds.
"We had 50 kids this year, and thats mostly word of mouth. We havent done any advertising, and I put up maybe 15 or 20 posters around town. There is a potential to get a lot bigger, but weve been more interested in the past in making sure the kids we do have are progressing. Weve got more of a structure in place now than we had even last year."
The team has also been successful in attracting sponsors, and has put the money and resources towards the athletes, competitions and a team van.
The club will hold its end of year party at Gaitors on Saturday, starting at 6 p.m. All past and present members and their families are welcome to come out to celebrate a successful season. The cost is approximately $15 per person, including dinner.