Over 250 racers took to the brand new course at the 2016 Canadian Downhill Mountain Bike Championships in Sun Peaks on July 24.
Kirk McDowall, from Anmore, B.C., claimed the elite men’s title with a time of 4:55.03 edging Duncan B.C.’s Mark Wallace by 59 tenths of a second. The two fastest men posted the only times under five minutes in the race. Max Scharf, from Salmon Arm, finished in third place.
“That was one of the gnarliest runs I’ve ever done. I’ve never wanted to pull over and quit so badly. Everything was burning, I could hardly see straight but I somehow kept it together,” McDowell said. “It’s so hard to do a clean run on this course.”
Whistler’s Finn Iles won the junior expert men’s category with a time that would’ve seen him finish in third place in the elite men’s category. Last year’s champion Magnus Manson, from Sechelt, B.C., won the silver medal and West Vancouver’s Henry Fitzgerald claimed the bronze medal.
Miranda Miller, from Squamish, B.C., defended her elite women’s title with a time of 5:44.72. Two women from Whistler, Georgia Astle in second and Claire Buchar in third, rounded out the podium.
That was one of the gnarliest runs I’ve ever done. I’ve never wanted to pull over and quit so badly. Everything was burning, I could hardly see straight but I somehow kept it together,
Stephanie Denroche of Whistler won the junior women’s category and Kamloops’ Kyleigh Stewart finished second.
“Things went as pretty close to perfect as we could get,” said organizer Henry Pejril. “We were really pleased. Everything was on time, we had great co-operation from the mountain and I thought it was a great way to finish off the sanction.”
A new top-to-bottom, single-track course was created for the third straight year of the championship being hosted in Sun Peaks. The new course started beside the Sunburst Lodge, connecting classic trails Insanity One and Honey Drop via newly created Sticky One with another new trail, Resurrection, taking riders to the finish near Bento’s Day Lodge.
“This is definitely the best course they’ve had here in Sun Peaks,” Iles said. “To compare the courses I’ve been riding this year it’s a little bit narrower but it’s definitely faster. It’s really fun to ride.”
“It’s almost unreal that it’s the same mountain. The course is so much different and much better in my opinion,” McDowall said.
A ghost lap was held ahead of the elite men category, the final group of the race day, in honour of the late Steve Smith, the 2014 champion and 2015 silver medallist, who died in May.
“That was emotional. Steve had some success in Sun Peaks as well,” Pejril said. “I’ve been doing races for 20 years, so he’s been to most of my races as he’s gone through his development and growing. We watched him go from a young kid to this elite World Cup racer. It really did affect us all when he passed so we were glad we were able to do something to mark it.”
The Canadian Championships will move to Panorama in 2017, but Pejril said the Sun Peaks will continue to host races including a BC Cup event next year.