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Get to know aMTB DH: Panorama winner Cole Bernier

Kelowna, B.C., rider is stoked to be back at the races, and on building the future of aMTB

2021 is the first year aMTB DH is included as a series category at Dunbar Summer Series. We’re catching up with the riders to find out how their week on the mountains and in the races are going.

Cole Bernier, winner of Wednesday’s race in Panorama, is one of the more experienced riders in the aMTB field. The Kelowna rider’s worked with Bowhead and Kootenay Adaptive pushing the series – you can watch his KMHR nationals course preview – as well as pushing the limits of his Bowhead Reach.

I caught up with Bernier after his win to talk about the series, and where he see’s it going in the future.

Bernier rallying berms at Pano
Canadian MTB: Congrats on your win today. How was your race?

Cole Bernier: Today was good! We had the opportunity to get a practice run in today before the race, which helped. It was nice not to just dive right into finals. And the course stayed pretty consistent, which was a change from Fernie. That course shared the bottom half with the pros, so it got pretty beat up over the weekend. That’s obviously fun, too, but this made for more predictable racing.

How important is it that these races aren’t standalone events, but part of the bigger Dunbar Summer Series?

Yeah, this is the first aMB DH race series in Canada, that we know of. That’s pretty badass.

I think being part of the series just legitimizes it a little bit. It’s nice to have the crowd and podiums included. It’s just more fun being here all weekend with the crowd. We’re out here racing and training all week with the pros and everyone else, and mostly on the same course. To be in the start hut and in the hot seat, and have that all be the same, it’s a lot of fun.

We are adaptive on bikes, but we’re all mountain bikers. So it’s nice to be a part of the whole crew.

Cole Bernier Podium interview with Brett Tippie
How was the course here at Panorama?

Today’s course was good. Really gnarly and tech. Not too many steep sections, but a lot of off camper drop offs, and gnarly run outs. And a lot of narrow sections, which the Bowhead does really well at. It was nice to get the chance to test that out.

Fernie was more wide open, with lots of lines. This week, you were forced onto the same line in a few places.

What does it feel like been being back at a mountain bike race?

Oh, that’s a cool feeling. I grew up racing moto and riding mtb. So being back at a mountain bike race is pretty cool. The downhill format is different than being on the start line with 40 guys, and its taken a bit of learning to get used to. But being back in a start gate, focusing on breathing, trying to keep it rubber side down. It’s so great.

There’s a group of nine of you in the aMTB race. How much collaboration is there, working out the track, and how much competition?

Everyone’s friendly and working together, but we’re also competitive. We’re all trying to get faster out there. We’re all looking at each others times, trying to figure where to gain or make up time.

It’s fun to be in the hot seat, sweating it out and watching the others come down the course. Fortunately this week I was fastest, so it was good.

Cole Bernier Bowhead team high-five on a solid day at the races.
What’s next for aMTB after this?

Man, I’m so excited. It’d be cool to get people in from other countries – the U.S. is so close – or to get more of a series, more events. I know there’s a few guys from up north that couldn’t make it, too. It’d be great to shoot for more numbers.

We all learned so much this year – what works, what doesn’t. The courses were good, and really challenging. I’m hoping we can double the numbers next year, and make that a pattern. Hopefully we’ll get more people out trying the Bowheads, and getting involved.

Christian Bagg, founder of Bowhead, was on the Singletrack podcast talked about how the Reach is an aMTB, but it’s not just an aMTB. How important is the bike to you off of the race course?

Getting out on course is one thing, and get down safely, and having fun. Fun is always the target. But I would trade that in a heartbeat for where we can get with our bikes. We finished our race and had a little celebration then headed back up the mountain to watch the Pro/Elite men on Wall Street. For context, that’s riding up 3/4 of a ski hill on our bikes. Then we’re sitting on steep side hill and it’s comfortable, we’re having a beer watching races and listening to music. The racing is great, but I wouldn’t trade it for being able to get around like that, getting down to the river for a swim. Even just getting around the race pits here with the bikes has been so much easier.