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Holden Jones gives Canada first medal at 2017 mountain bike championships

Roxane Vermette was the top Canadian finisher in the junior women's category

Holden Jones

Canadian mountain bikers claimed their first medal of the 2017 mountain bike championships in Cairns, Australia on Thursday, after Holden Jones, from Squamish, B.C., took third in the junior men’s competition.

For the junior women, Roxane Vermette of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., was the top Canadian finisher, rolling in 16th.

A five-lap competition, the junior men’s race kicked off with Cameron Wright, racing on his home Australian soil, tearing away from the rest of the field to give the host nation its first title. Battling it out for second close behind was Jones and Joel Roth of Switzerland, who had dropped the rest of a chasing field by the end of the opening lap.

The pair rode together until the final half. Roth attacked, opening a nine-second gap on the Squamish, B.C. rider to claim the silver medal. Jones’s third place finish gave Team Canada the bronze, and its first medal of the competition.

“I think after riding the relay yesterday and looking at the lap times, that I was there with the faster juniors,” Jones remarked. “That really gave me some confidence. That removed some stress from under me and I just did what I knew I could do, and it all worked out. It caught everyone off guard when [Wright] went so quick.”

“The rest of the race was us just trying to hunt him down, but he was on fire today,” Jones added. “It’s pretty unbelievable; this is my best race of the year, maybe of my life. I couldn’t be more proud to show the world that Canada is on the map.”

In the junior women’s competition, Vermette, the reigning Canadian champion, finished five minutes and 32 seconds behind winner Laura Stigger, representing Austria, after a consistent pace that put the Quebec-based athlete in the mid-teens throughout all four laps. “It’s my first year as a junior and my first world championships, so I’m very proud of what I did today,” said Vermette. “I had no idea what I could do, so my plan was to just go hard on the hill and smooth on the technical section. But I didn’t have a lot of energy in the last lap, so I just did my best.”

“My season has been awesome, so when I came to Australia it has been a dream already and I just tried to do my best,” Vermette said.

Other Canadian results including Tyler Clark of King City, Ont., taking 27th and Gunnar Holmgren of Orillia, Ont., taking 29th in the Junior men’s race. Brody Sanderson of Oro-Medonte, Ont., the national junior men’s champion, pulled out of the competition after a crash. In the junior women’s category, Dana Gilligan of Oro-Medonte, Ont., was 20th and Leya Masson of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que. was 23rd.