After a 20 year hiatus, the Canada Cup Downhill circus returned to Ontario this past weekend at Blue Mountain Bike Park’s East Coast Open. The question on everyone’s mind – and most internet forums – heading into the weekend was simple: Could Ontario provide a track that would live up to the standards of the Canada Cup Series?
Following Friday’s track walk and practice, the answer was clear. Anyone who arrived expecting this stop to be a relaxing, laid-back, XC-style course was going to have to change their approach. Blue Mountain’s Trail Crew had devoted countless hours to making sure Shotglass was up to par. With the exception of a couple short ski trail crossings, the track required riders to be on top of their game from top to bottom. And while it was still on the shorter end of the spectrum in terms of Canada Cup courses, that just meant that a single mistake would send you plunging down the final results list.
Weather and course conditions were not helping any of the riders keep it rubber side down either. A hot and dry week leading up to the event meant that the Blue Mountain moon dust was in full effect; piled deep in every corner, coating the trackside foliage and lingering in the air after each rider came down the trail. The thick dust added to the existing technicality of the track, resulting in quite a few spills and crashes which unfortunately also took out some potential podium threats.
The fact that Ontario has been without a regular provincial-level downhill race series left another question on many minds: Could our local talent hold their own against some of the fastest riders from across the country?
On the women’s side, all eyes were on 16-year-old Skye Follas from Fergus, Ontario. After her first place finish at the first Canada Cup stop of the year in Tremblant, plenty of folks were wondering if she could follow it up with another solid performance to hold on to the leader’s jersey. Skye would end up putting in the best race run of the Ontario riders, topping East Coast Open regulars Jenn LeBlanc and Monika Luebke, but she wasn’t able to track down British Columbia’s Nicole Sculsby who put just over 8 seconds into the rest of the field. Still, Follas’s second place finish was more than enough to keep the leader’s jersey on her shoulders heading into the final two Canada Cup stops of the season.
On the men’s side, Performance Cycles rider Hugo Langevin was the man to beat from the get go. He came into the weekend with the 001 plate on the front of his bright red Trek Session, and was on the gas through every single one of his runs. As the last man down the track, he put just over 2.5 seconds between himself and Major Cycles/Devinci rider Sam Thibault. Two Ontario-born riders managed to make their way onto the podium as Sid Slotegraaf and Adam Robbins climbed into the 3rd and 4th positions. Quebec’s Benoit Rioux rounded out the podium in the 5th spot. As for the locals, Taylor Rowlands, Tyler Maxwell and Ben Reasbeck all managed to ride their way into the top ten, finishing 6th, 9th and 10th respectively.
All in all, it was a great weekend of downhill racing, and definitely proved that Ontario’s terrain and riders are up to the task of competing at the Canada Cup level. Personally, some of the best moments of the weekend happened off the course; seeing the looks in the eyes of young riders trackside as the best riders in Canada came charging down the mountain. Hopefully we see this event carry on in the future, so these youngsters can have their chance to fight for their spot on the national podium as well.
Massive thanks to all the staff, volunteers, racers, riders and spectators who helped make the weekend happen, as well as Cycling Canada, Clif Bar, Rockstar Energy, Subaru, Scott Bikes, Coors Light, Riding Feels Good and the Blue Mountain Bike Park for their support.