Sports » Features

Whistler riders to race world mountain biking championships


A handful of Whistler riders headed Down Under this week to take part in the UCI World Championships of Mountain Biking in Canberra, Australia.

On the cross-country side, Joanna Harrington was picked to represent her home country of Australia after racing in World Cup events and Canada Cup races in Canada this year.

Harrington will be staying at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) with other team embers to get in some training next week before the races get underway at Mt. Stromlo. The World Championships run from Sept. 1 to 6.

For Harrington, the opportunity to race in the championships meant sacrificing her opportunity to participate in local events like the Test of Metal, Four Jacks, Canadian Open Enduro (Crankworx), and other contests. Instead, she spent her weekends on the road travelling to Canada Cup and World Cup races in North America.

"I've had a plan all year with (trainer) Val Burke, she's my coach and she's been coaching me all year towards the goal of making the team," said Harrington. "I guess I've been working to get on the team for about three years."

As the host country Australia was able to field more athletes than at a typical World Cup event, something that worked in Harrington's favour. If she does well enough at worlds - her goal is to finish mid-pack with a decent time - she may be one of four girls picked to join the Australian team for the rest of the season, and next season as well. That will mean travelling the world to race in World Cup events.

Having grown up in the area Harrington is familiar with the terrain, and has already raced the course a few times. The area was impacted by wildfires recently, but the general layout of the course will be the same as past years.

While she's staying at the AIS Harrington will be tapering her workouts to prepare for the World Championships, but will still benefit from some team exercises, nutritional assistance and recovery work.

Harrington recently broke a rib in a crash at the Mont Sainte Anne World Cup and missed her start at Bromont as a result. She is healed from that injury and ready to race.

Also making trip to the World Championships this year is Whistler's Claire Buchar, who won her first national downhill title in July after years of crashes and mechanical issues. Buchar is currently ranked 10 th overall on the World Cup downhill circuit, with 11 top-10 finishes in UCI-sanctioned events. Most recently she placed sixth at the World Cup race at Bromont.

Whistler's Katrina Strand and Rebecca McQueen also qualified to race downhill in Australia, but will not attend. The lack of funding for the downhillers - most of the Canadian Cycling Association's funding goes to events that are in the Olympics - will keep Strand at home, while McQueen is recovering from a broken collarbone.

Pique also received word that Whistler's Tyler Allison will race as a junior in both the cross-country and downhill events. Allison has been both the provincial and national champion in both disciplines, although he's ratcheted up the intensity this year by competing as a Pro Elite class racer in many events.