12 standout performances from a big year in Canadian mountain biking

From Canada Cup's to world championships and the cliffs of Virgin, Utah, it was a really good year

December 11th, 2018 by | Posted in MTB | Tags: ,

Emily Batty Kate Courtney
Emily Batty and Kate Courtney after winning bronze and gold at 2018 UCI XCO world championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. Image: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

It’s no stretch to say 2018 was a fantastic year for Canadian mountain biking. From cross country to the wild extremes of Red Bull Rampage, Canadians were at the front and on the podium.

RELATED: 12 best Canadian mountain bike videos of 2018

When we started looking back at the year to narrow down our top moments of the year, we couldn’t quite keep it inside 10. So, from Canada Cup to World Cup and the deserts of Virgin, Utah, here are the top-12 best Canadian performances of 2018.

World Cup Cross Country XCO La Bresse France
Emily Batty finished second behind Jolanda Neff in La Bresse, one of the most dramatic and exciting XCO races of recent memory. Image: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

1) Emily Batty’s year end podium streak and world championships bronze

2018 was Emily Batty’s year. The Brooklyn, Ont. rider earned an incredible five straight World Cup podium finishes to finish the year, adding a third-straight Canadian XCO national championship along the way. The Canadian then topped all that off with a gutsy third place ride at UCI mountain bike world championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. While bronze at worlds is a career highlight for any rider, never mind year-end lists, her silver medal ride in La Bresse stands as our favourite race of the year. With race and series titles on the line, World Cup finals’ return to France delivered an all-out brawl for the win. After a series of strong results, Batty showed she was ready to go toe-to-toe with the world’s best, attacking Neff and Langvad to temporarily take the race lead. Neff was so exhausted from her winning effort in La Bresse that she faltered at her home-country world championships a week later in Switzerland. Batty rallied, hitting the podium again in third.

Red Bull Rampage 2018
(L-R) Andreu Lacondeguy, Breet Rheeder, Ethan Nell celebrate on the podium during the Red Bull Rampage in Virgin, Utah, USA on 26 October, 2018. Image: Christian Pondella / Red Bull Content Pool

2) Brett Rheeder wins Red Bull Rampage

Brett Rheeder has been at Rampage for a few years now, but the Ontario rider was the first to admit he’s struggled to feel at home on the exposed cliffs and drops outside Virgin, Utah. The Canadian has always been known for his incredible style on a slopestyle course but has had difficulty translating that to success in Rampages rawer setting. Until now. At an entirely new venue, Rheeder looked comfortable and in charge, putting down a winning first run that looked controlled, almost calm and effortlessly stylish despite the dangerous setting. We’re stoked to watch Rheeder return to Crankworx courses in 2019, but his Rampage performance was one for the books.

3) Elliot Jamieson’s downhill world championships bronze

Before the TV cameras turned on in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, White Rock, B.C.’s Elliot Jamieson lay down a blistering podium-placing run in the junior men’s downhill race at UCI mountain bike world championships. Jamieson’s medal was all the more impressive, as it was only the young Canadian’s second ever appearance in an international downhill race after 6th at Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup. Not just a downhill racer, the multi-talented youth was fifth in the junior men’s race at XCO national championships in Canmore, Alta, and has been storming through Canadian National Enduro Series events for years.

Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast 2018
Evie Richards (silver), Annie Last (gold), Haley Smith (bronze) Image: Rob Jones

4) Haley Smith’s Commonwealth Games Bronze

Haley Smith has been steadily progressing through the international cross-country ranks for several years now. The Ontario rider showed she was ready to move to the front of the race when she landed bronze at Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast. The medal appeared to inspire Smith to push for more, and the Norco Factory Team rider accelerated her climb up the World Cup ranks all season. Top-20 turned to top-15, and then a top-10 at home at Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup, where Smith finished eighth. Smith backed the home-country World Cup up at worlds, finishing her season with a sixth at worlds.

Finn Iles smashing his way to his first elite World Cup DH podium in Vallnord, Andorra. Image: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

5) Finn Iles first elite World Cup podium

Whistler downhill phenom Finn Iles may have had a wildly successful junior career, but the step up to elite is a big one. There’s no under-23 category in World Cup downhill, so Iles had to go straight from racing boys to men. Up against the crowded field of living legends, and a flying Amaury Pierron, Iles wasted no time landing his first elite downhill podium. In a discipline where tenths of seconds can push a rider from winning to outside the top-10 and a single result can make a career, Iles finished fifth at Vallnord World Cup in just his first season of racing. Even if you watched every race, Iles’ process of moving from jr. to elite has been thoroughly documented in the second season of  Red Bull’s Fast Life series, which you can watch here.

EWS Enduro World Series Finale Ligure ALN
After a long injury, ALN wasted little time returning to the podium. Image: Enduro World Series

6) Andreanne Lanthier Nadeau’s Enduro World Series comeback

After spending over a year sidelined due to complications from a broken wrist, Rocky Mountain / Race Face’s ALN escaped “wrist prison” to claim two podium finishes at the final two 2018 EWS rounds. It was a more cautious return than usual – last time ALN hit third in her first race back. Cautious by Lanthier Nadeau’s standards, though. Her first race back she finished inside the top-10. She moved up the next round, finished an incredibly close fourth in Whistler, then claimed third twice in a row to close out the year.

7) Cory Wallace defends his 24-Hr Solo world championships title

Jasper, Alta’s endurance mountain biker Cory Wallace had to ride through constant rain to his 24-Hour Solo world championships title, but the Canadian came out on top for a second straight year. Wallace first won the title in 2017 at Finale Ligure, Italy, and has already started looking forward to defending it again next year when the race heads to Brasil for 2019. What do you do with that base of fitness when the race is over? You crush the 24-Hour Annapurna Circuit record in Nepal, for charity.

8) Holden Jones and Carter Woods epic Jr. Men’s Canada Cup battle.

At every Canada Cup round Carter Woods and Holden Jones contested, they took the top two podium positions. Most of these races came down to sprint finishes. In the end, the series championship came down to a technical rule, with Woods’ taking the win by virtue of having the most recent win. The Cumberland youth then followed up, winning the Jr. XCO national title in Canmore, Alta. Then, at worlds, Jones finished 9th and Woods 12 in the junior men’s race. What we should all take away from the season, though, is that Canada has two incredibly talented young riders moving up through the age groups.

2018 Enduro World Series EWS Whistler Crankworx
Max McCulloch, Lucy Schick and Julia Long on the under-21 podium at 2018 Enduro World Series in Whistler B.C. Image: Enduro World Series

9) Max McCulloch and Lucy Schick 2nd in U21 EWS Whistler

Whistler always brings out the strong Canadian youths, and this year was no different. Max McCulloch and Lucy Schick finished second in the under-21 event, and Julia Long third. With all the top international riders still present, these results are more than a hometown advantage. It shows the talent of Canada’s young mountain bikers, who don’t always have the support to get to EWS events overseas.

10) Sandra Walters World Cup breakthrough

Racing isn’t all about podiums, especially with the incredible depth of the women’s XCO World Cup field. After years on the circuit, Coquitlam’s Sandra Walter suddenly broke into the top-20 this year with a 15th in Albstadt, Germany. Walter followed with a 17th a Vallnord World Cup, 14th in Andorra’s Short Track XCC race, 18th in Val di Sole, Italy and a silver medal at Canadian XCO national championships behind Emily Batty. We say “suddenly,” but those kind of results don’t happen overnight. Walter’s results show that  years of hard work and perseverance are still the best route to big results.

The first ever Canadian National Enduro Champions. Image: James Cattanach/Canadian National Enduro Series

11) Canadian national enduro championships

2018 was the first year that Canada had a national championship enduro event. High above the chairlifts of Panorama Mountain Resort in B.C., Remi Gauvin and Emily Slaco were crowned as the first ever Canadian National Enduro Champions. For 2019, the event is sanctioned by Cycling Canada and the UCI, and joins with Canadian downhill national championships for a gravity fueled weekend at Panorama.

12) Quebec women dominate junior XCO Canada Cup racing

Junior racing at the Canada Cup’s is proving to be exceptionally interesting. In the Junior women’s events, a trio of young Quebec racers dominated all year.Marianne Théberge won the Canada Cup series, never finishing lower than second all season. Roxane Vermette won junior women’s XCO nationals in Canmore, Alta, and two Canada Cup rounds. Mireille Larose-Gingras was second overall in the Canada Cup, and third behind Théberge and Emillly Johnston in Canmore. Where Woods and Jones dominate the jr men’s racing, the three Quebec riders made for dynamic junior women’s racing all season. They were never alone, with others joining them at the front, but the three were always present at the sharp end of the race.