On a huge day of racing at Fernie Alpine Resort, new – and one returning – Canadian downhill national champions were crowned. It was tight racing throughout, with some close races and surprise wins across categories.
Lucas Cruz earned an extra-special win, taking his first elite national title on his 22nd birthday. Bailey Goldstone put in a strong run to defend her elite women’s national title.
One of the big stories of the day, though, is junior men’s winner Brock Hawes. The Vancouver Islander not only beat a stacked field in his category but set the day’s fastest time of any rider in any category. Impressive work from the young rider.
Elite Men: Birthday boy takes the win in a Norco sweep
The pro men’s racing was tight, even if it was dominated by one team. Norco Factory Racing showed up with a fresh new prototype bike, intent on proving its worth. The team swept the top three spots on the elite podium.
For Lucas Cruz, Sunday’s winner, finals were a big day before racing started as race day coincided with his 22nd birthday.
“It was a big day. I woke up way too early but I had most of the day to chill. Then, at dinner time, had to ramp it up and put it all out there,” Cruz said of his birthday celebrations.
The day wrapped up in story-book fashion for Cruz. He set the fastest pro men’s time by 0.12 seconds, with Norco teammate Mark Wallace joining him in second. Norco “engineer-racer” Kirk McDowall just edged out Intense Factory Racing’s Seth Sherlock for third, by a razor-thin 0.02 seconds. Jackson Frew rounded out the podium, 2.09 seconds behind Cruz.
All three Norco racers were on the new prototype replacement for the team-only modified Range. Mid-season bike switches can be stressful on riders, who’ve spent the whole winter training on another bike, but a podium sweep in the new rig’s first appearance doesn’t hurt.
“I was a little worried about it when [Norco] first made that plan, but the engineers did such a good job of getting our baseline settings for when we showed up that that first day, it was already feeling comfy. You could go fast.”
Nationals is a big race to debut a new bike, but the team’s next stop is even bigger: 2023 world championships.
“Yeah, that definitely builds confidence. We’re headed to worlds in just under two weeks now. We’re ready to go for it!”
Elite women: A returning champ
On the women’s side, defending champion Bailey Goldstone went head-to-head with the dominant Enduro World Cup racer Emmy Lan. While Lan now spends most of her time on enduro courses, the past junior downhill national champ showed she still has DH chops by setting the fastest seeding time on Saturday.
On Sunday, it was all Goldstone. The Dunbar/Corsa racer set the fastest time by 3.24 seconds to retain her maple leaf sleeve. If winning her first title was good, winning twice was just as nice.
“The second time feels better than the first, I think, just because I wasn’t expecting it,” Goldstone said after the race. “Honestly, that’s not my type of track and I was going to be happy with a podium. So I’m over the moon. I’m so happy.”
“It was a wild run,” Goldstone adds. “There were a couple of moments where I almost hit a tree or almost went off line, I thought there was no way, but I guess it worked!”
Emmy Lan (Forbidden Synthesis) takes second with Ainhoa Ijurko, Eva Leikermoser (Gravity MTB), and Rachel Pageau rounding out the podium.
Junior men: Hawes takes on the juniors, and everyone else
The fastest time of the day, though, goes to Gravity Racing’s junior, Brock Hawes. Up against an absolutely stacked junior men’s field, including current World Cup leader Bodhi Kuhn (Trek Factory Racing), Hawes put in a huge run to take the win. His winning time of 2:31.04 set a bar that none of the pro men were able to match.
How did the young Vancouver Island racer do it?
“It was loose, to say the least. Definitely a couple sections that I could have hit a lot better, but I’m stoked to take the win,” Brock says. “Yesterday I ended up crashing in my seeding run and rag-dolled pretty hard. That took a lot of my confidence away but, after watching the video back, I figured I had the speed if I just dialed it back in that one corner.”
With the win, Hawes heads back overseas to world champs with a renewed sense of confidence.
“100 per cent, yes. Being on this new bike has just been a dream,” says of the win, and his new Forbidden downhill prototype. “To show up here and beat some of my idols, it’s sweet.”
Jon Mozell earned a second silver for the Forbidden Synthesis Team (one of several for Forbidden Bikes), Bodhi Kuhn (Trek Factory Racing) third, Wyatt Harrington (Pinkbike Racing) fourth and Dane Jewett (Pivot) fifth.
Junior Women: Hometown hero
The junior women’s race, and national title, went to Fernie’s own Joy Attalla (Dunbar/Corsa). With a big crowd cheering in the woods and more waiting at the bottom, it was quite a day for Attalla.
“It’s unreal. I did my first downhill race here, so it’s a real full-circle moment, it’s awesome,” Attalla said of her first championship win, adding “And amazing to have my friends and family out. That just makes it, honestly.”
The winning run itself was as smooth as only a local could manage.
“It went really well. It was clean, I got the lines I wanted to, that’s what this track is all about. I’m so stoked.”
Under-17: Shelly scores the win
The youngest UCI category turned into a battle with between Canadians and U.S. racers. Two Canucks led, with Anthony Shelly (Instinct Development) taking the win and Ryder Wilson following in second. But three U.S. racers, Luke Mallen, Cohen Bundy and Alex Mallen taking the next three fastest times.
The u17 racers had to drop in right after a half-hour course hold, as officials cleared an injury. Shelly was unphased.
“I was just hanging out with the boys at the top. I tried to keep a chill mindset and just have fun with it, really,” Shelly said after his championship title win.
That proved to be a winning tactic. From there, Shelly just had to get down the course.
“It was really good,” the Instinct racer said of his winning run. “I dropped in and just tried to be smooth on my bike. I feel like I did a good job of that.”
Good job, indeed. Shelly joins the roster of new Canadian national champions crowned on Sunday at Fernie Alpine Resort.
Nationals was also the first event in the 2023 Dunbar Summer Series. Racing continues with the Panorama Canada Cup on Wednesday, July 19. The series resumes in August with a return to Kicking Horse and a new stop at Sun Peaks on the 13th and 20th.