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Canadians go 1-2 on 1199 at Canadian Open DH

A perfect result on the Stevie Smith legacy track's opening day

Dane and Jake Jewett hug in the finish area Photo by: Clint Trahan / Crankworx

Crankworx Whistler opened its week-long festivities with a race down the brand-new 1199 downhill track. The course for the Canadian Open Downhill, created to honour the legacy of Stevie Smith, is years in the making and served up racing as wild as the man himself was.

Canadians went 1-2 in the pro men’s field with Jakob Jewett and Mark Wallace. Miranda Miller, longtime friend of Smith’s, earned bronze in the women’s race. Dane Jewett, the younger brother of the elite men’s winner, led a Canadian sweep of the junior men’s race.

Men's and Women's Canadian Open podium
Canadian Open DH podium. Photo: Clint Trahan

Canadians dominate on Stevie Smith track

Anticipation was high and crowds in Whistler were huge for the Canadian Open Downhill after three Canucks put down the fastest seeding times on Saturday for Sunday’s finals. There was an audible response from the crowd when it was announced that Finn Iles, fastest in seeding the day before, would not be starting finals after an injury in practice on Sunday morning.

That lull in the excitement was short-lived, though. Mark Wallace and Jakob Jewett stepped up to give the hometown fans plenty to cheer for.

Wallace (Norco Factory Team) was the second-last rider on track and, racing his prototype Norco, edged out Tuhoto-Ariki Pene (Mondraker) to take over the lead by just 0.036 seconds. With that time, and only Jakob Jewett remaining at the top of the mountain, that guaranteed the first race down the full 1199 track would be won by a Canadian. For Wallace, it meant a little more than other races.

Mark Wallace on track during Canadian Open DH
Mark Wallace. Photo: Clint Trahan

“I’m really happy to put down a run I can be proud of, on a track in his memory. And on a track that I think he would have been really excited to race. He preferred the more difficult tracks, more technically challenging that you really had to send it,” said Wallace.

For Wallace, Smith’s influence was very direct. The two started what has become a wave of fast downhill racers coming from Vancouver Island.

“I credit me being here, even still, largely to him. When I was 16, wanting to race, he kind of showed me the way. I’ve tried to remember the things that he taught me, because it obviously worked out well for him. He would be so excited to go send it down this track, I just gave it my best and tried to do something similar.”

Jakob Jewett races 1199 track in Whistler
.Jakob Jewett. Photo: Clint Trahan

Smith’s legacy didn’t end with Wallace, of course. Many riders adding to Canada’s momentum on the international scene credit Chainsaw as an influence. At just 20 years old, Jakob Jewett is one of the younger riders to have actually seen Smith ride.

“I was lucky enough to meet him a handful of times when I was younger. I watched Stevie a lot as a young kid at Mont-Sainte-Anne and stuff, I really wanted to do good at this race,” Jewett said after the finish line, adding that Smith’s legacy is extending to younger riders that might not have had such a direct opportunity to see the Chainsaw in action. “Not only me, but the next generation of Canadians coming up. You’re seeing that Canadians are really becoming a threat in downhill and I think it’s all because of him.”

For the Pivot Factory Racing rider, the drama started before he dropped into his run. “I was a bit bummed out when I heard Finn wasn’t starting but I got really nervous after that when I realized I was going got be the last one to start.”

Jewett had a sketchy moment early on, getting caught out by a ball of roots, but regained composure. He piloted his prototype lugged carbon Pivot down some absolutely wild lines to take the win by a full second ahead of Wallace. He was immediately swarmed by other riders including Dane Jewett, his younger brother who had won the junior men’s race just a short time earlier.

“For me and my brother to both get first in our categories, can’t think of a much better day,” Jacob Jewett added.

Veli Holl launches off a jump during Canadian Open DH racing
Vali Holl. Photo: Clint Trahan

Open Women: Miller makes a special return to downhill

Valentina Höll (RockShox Trek) absolutely dominated the field at the Canadian Open Downhill. The reigning world champion won by just a hair shy of 20 seconds on the new 1199 track.

“It’s an honour to be a part of this kind of stuff even though I didn’t get to meet Stevie in person,” said Höll,”

“To see the Canadians following in his footsteps and to see what he did for the Canadian kids is amazing! The track definitely shows you how gnarly Stevie Smith was as a rider, because it’s super full on, it’s so hard, but it’s also really Canadian.”

One racer who is also very Canadian and also very connected to Smith’s legacy is 2017 world champion Miranda Miller (SRAM). While Miller has mostly moved on to enduro and other adventures, the Squamish racer made her return to DH for the opening of 1199. Finishing just two seconds behind Louise Ferguson, Miller earned bronze on the track named after her late friend.

“Seeing his legacy forever immortalized with the 1199 race track, in the greatest bike park in the world, is absolutely incredible. His impact on the sport is obvious and I couldn’t be more excited for the future of downhill,” Miller posted after the race. “I’m feeling lucky to have been able to race on the new track, got smashed by Vali Hoell but let’s be honest, I’d expect nothing less. Seeing her level is inspiring, even to this ol dog.”

Emmy Lan, another Vancouver Island racer who currently leads the U21 Enduro World Cup standings, raced to fifth on 1199. Canadian national champion Bailey Goldstone was seventh.

Dane and Jake Jewett hug in the finish area
Dane Jewett, in green, congratulates his brother Jake Jewett on winning the pro men’s race in Whistler. Photo: Clint Trahan

Junior Men: Canadians sweep the podium

Before Jakob Jewett won the pro men’s race, his younger brother Dane Jewett led a sweep of the junior men’s race. While there was an international field of racers from around the world in Whistler for the junior men’s race at the Canadian Open DH, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the top 10 finishers. Canucks took 10 of the top 11 spots with only Caden Gray sneaking into eighth to break up the parade of maple leafs.

On the podium, though, it was Dane Jewett (Pivot Factory Racing) followed by Tegan Cruz (RockShox Trek) and Ryan Griffith (Pivot Next Gen)

Tianna Smith showing off her tattoo at Crankworx Whistler
Tianna Smith shows off a tattoo of one of Stevie’s quotes. Photo: Rob Perry

Replay: 2023 Canadian Open Downhill – Crankowrx Whistler

Results: 2023 Canadian Open Downhill – Crankworx Whistler

  1. Jakob JEWETT (CAN) – 3:29.807 / Valentina HÖLL (AUT) – 4:12.913
  2. Mark WALLACE (CAN) – 3:30.847 / Louise FERGUSON (GBR) – 4:32.311
  3. Tuhoto-Ariki PENE (NZL) – 3:30.883 / Miranda MILLER (CAN) – 4:34.313

Full results.