It’s the last weekend of March which means Bear Mountain in Victoria, B.C. is once again swarming with mountain bikers.
Many are here for an early season training camp, culminating in the first Canada Cup XCO of 2019, but Bear Mountain isn’t only a cross country race. There’s a sold-out enduro for the local Island Cup series on Sunday, BC Cup short track XCC, non-UCI events, and kids events, which makes for a great convergence of different riders.
A pack of national team riders and Olympians rolls by, followed immediately by a group of teens in full face helmets. The XCO and enduro courses have two trails in common, bringing together riders that might usually ride in very different parts of the woods. There’s coaches, parents helping out with the course or carrying bottles and jackets, and groups of school age kids out to get comfortable the trails before the big kids ride on Sunday.
Canadian MTB will be on hand all weekend covering racing, which includes the new short track XC format and an Island Cup enduro event on Sunday. Follow on Canadian MTB on Facebook, Instagram , and Twitter for updates.
Canada Cup XCO – Elite Women
There’s some serious depth to Canada’s women’s mountain biking program right now, and early season US Cup races have shown there’s a number of Canadian’s ready to claim a podium spot in Victoria. Olympic bronze medallist Catharine Pendrel has won at Bear Mountain before, but Haley Smith already has a string of UCI podiums to her name in 2019. Add in Sandra Walter, Jenn Jackson, and a host of fast riders moving up into the under-23 and elite categories, and this should be an exciting race.
Missing from the start line will be Emily Batty, who is away on a training camp preparing to keep her momentum going from a stellar 2019 World Cup season.
Canada Cup XCO – Elite Men
The first race of the year has always been unpredictable for the men’s Canada Cup field, but two past-winners will be on the start line. Raphaël Gagné and last year’s winner Léandre Bouchard are both in Victoria for the race. They’ll be challenged by, among others, a quartet of Norco Factory Team riders. National champion Peter Disera has been fast in early season US Cup’s, with Andrew L’Esperance often joining him on the podium. Sean Fincham rode off the front of the under-23 men’s race at nationals last year, and through most of the elite men’s field, making him a threat in combined u23/elite races, and Quinton Disera has been close behind his older brother this year in California. Bouchard’s new teammates on the Pivot Cycles-OTE have been helping stoke the Blue Train’s fires too, pushing the pace at the first two US Cup races.
The XCO course has been updated for 2019 to be much more compact and spectator friendly. This version of the course returns to the Flow Trail, a fast section of berms and jumps that can be seen from the start finish line. Mixed in with the flow are several sections of singletrack from previous years as well as the steep, golf kart opening climb which tops out just at just over 20% grade. Completely new for 2019 is the addition of Little Bones, a steeper, technically challenging section of trail built just for the race with help from The Cycling Co.’s Dirt Squad youth team.
For those of you that want to get into the details of the course, our web editor in Victoria was sent out for a lap of the new-look Canada Cup course. The course is 4.3 km long, with around 150 m of elevation each lap. Laps should be well under the 20 minute mark, so expect fast racing and high lap counts for all events.
Saturday March 30 – Canada Cup XCO – Bear Mountain Schedule
There will be three Canada Cup category starts on Saturday. New for 2018, the U17 men and women start the day off at 10:30AM and 10:38 AM, respectively. Elite women go next at 12:30PM, with the Junior women following two minutes behind. The last event of the day is Elite men at 2:30PM, with Junior men again starting 2 minutes behind.
Elite Men – 2:30 PM / Junior Men 2:32 PM
Elite Women – 12:30 PM / Junior Women 12:32 PM
U17 Men 10:30 AM / U17 Expert Women 10:38 AM
Sunday March 31– BC Premier Series Short Track XC (XCC)
Sunday’s short track XC showcases the new race format added to the World Cup schedule in 2018. Elite, U23 and Juniors will race together on a shorter, fast paced and spectator friendly loop. Race time should be closer to 20 minutes, with lap primes added to keep the pace high for the duration of the race.
Women start at 11:30 AM and Men at Noon.
Bear Mountain Enduro
Following the XCC, Sunday’s racing concludes with the year’s first Island Cup enduro event. There are five downhill timed sections for experts and elites, including a trail on Skirt Mountain built for the race by event sponsor Marty’s Mountain Cycle. There’s a new, expert only stage called Bearback. The enduro shares two sections with Saturday’s XC race. The flow trail, and Chainsaw-Little Bones, both of which have been updated with help from the local youth team, Dirt Squad.