Everywhere you look in mountain biking, Canadian women are among the fastest in the world. Emily Batty won bronze at 2018 UCI mountain bike world championships after closing her season with a string of five World Cup podiums. Just a couple spots behind Batty in Lenzerhide, Haley Smith finished sixth at worlds. When the trail points downhill, Canada’s best are right there at the top of the leaderboard. Andréane Lanthier Nadeau earned third at the final two Enduro World Series stops in 2018, while Casey Brown and Vaea Verbeeck shared the podium in the year-long Queen of Crankworx race.
Here’s the top Canadians to watch out for this year in mountain biking:
Brooklyn, Ont.’s Emily Batty has had success on the World Cup circuit in the past, but 2018 was something different. At every round, the Canadian Olympian was at the front of the race, and attacking. The Canadian national champion’s first World Cup win remains elusive, but five consecutive podiums and a world championships bronze is a remarkable accomplishment. Especially in the crowded elite women’s cross country scene, Batty’s ability to consistently be in contention for the win was incredible. All eyes will be on her when Mont-Sainte-Anne hosts world championships this August.
Following several years of steadily pushing upward through the World Cup ranks, Haley Smith jumped up the rankings in 2018. A top-20 was followed by a top-15 finish. Then, at Monte-Sainte-Anne, Smith was eighth. The Uxbridge, Ont. racer followed up at world championships, finishing sixth in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. Steady progress and growing confidence make Smith one to watch this season.
After her Olympic bronze medal from the 2016 Games in Rio, Catharine Pendrel’s 2018 season was interrupted by a broken humerus, sustained in training at home in Kamloops, B.C. The Clif Pro Team rider rallied hard, just barely making it back to health on time for the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup. Even with a major mid-season injury, Pendrel was able to hit the top-15 in the remaining World Cup rounds, and was riding inside the top-10 at worlds before a late race flat tire let the air out of her race. Last time world championships were at MSA, Pendrel came in with the pressure of being the defending world champion racing at home. Look for her to bring that experience to the race course in 2019.
2017 downhill world champion Miranda Miller is setting her sights on a new discipline in 2019. After a year in the rainbow jersey where Squamish’s hometown hero was revisited by old injuries, she decided to make the switch from World Cup downhill racing to the Enduro World Series. Miller’s also moved over to Kona’s enduro squad, and immediately seems at home with the more relaxed team. While it’ll be her first full year on the EWS circuit, Miller’s not new to the race format. She’s already posted several top-10 results when she’s fit in EWS events between downhill races. It will be exciting to see what she does with her attention fully focused on Enduro.
Andréane Lanthier Nadeau
A lingering wrist injury meant Andréane Lanthier Nadeau had a late start to the 2018 Enduro World Series. The Canadian wasted little time catching up, though. At Petzen-Jamnica, her first race back, she finished ninth. ALN improved every round, ending the season with back to back third places. Now based out of Squamish, B.C., Lanthier Nadeau and her Rocky Mountain Race Face teammates are off to a healthy start to 2019, which will likely translate into more podium appearances.
2018 saw Verbeeck nab the Canadian downhill national championship title in Panorama, B.C. It also saw her finish third in the year-long Queen of Crankworx competition, despite missing part of the four-stop series after an injury sustained during racing in Rotorua, New Zealand. While downhill is Verbeeck’s specialty, the Canadian has been pushing into new Crankworx disciplines in her campaign to dethrone six-time Crankworx Queen Jill Kintner from her throne. 2019 could be the year it happens.
One spot up on the Queen of Crankworx podium from Verbeeck was Casey Brown. The Revelstoke, B.C. rider is known for her style on the bike, and for throwing down massive whips in the Crankworx whip-off world championships. Despite finishing third in the Petzen-Jamnica EWS Brown announced she’ll be leaving enduro behind for 2019 to focus on a combination of Crankworx and filming projects, including Anthill Productions upcoming Return to Earth feature.
While she’ll be starting just her third season of cross country racing, Jenn Jackson is proving to be a quick study on the bike. She earned the under-23 national championship title in her first season, and followed that up by claiming the Canada Cup series title in 2018. Jackson’s proving to be skilled wherever she points her wheels, taking second in elite women at cyclocross national championships in Peterborough, Ont. During an overseas stint of racing with the Christmas Cross program, Jackson landed 10th at the DVV Trofee GP Sven Nys event in Belgium. If her learning curve so far is anything to go by, look for Jackson to keep moving up the field in 2019.
2018 wasn’t Sandra Walter’s first year on the World Cup circuit, but it was the year something clicked. The Coquitlam, B.C. racer scored top-15 and top-20 results in Albstadt, Germany and Val di Sole, Italy XCO, as well as in the new Short Track (XCC) at Vallnord, Andorra Wolrd Cup. At home, Walter was second at cross country national championships in Canmore, Alta, and third at cyclocross national championships in Peterborough, Ont. These results earned Walter an upgrade to a spot on Liv Racing’s international squad. With the increased support, it will be interesting to see what she can do in 2019.