July 24, 2006 (Whistler, B.C.) — Canada’s fastest downhill mountain bikers sorted out who will proudly wear the red and white 2006 National Champion’s jerseys in a heated battle on a scorching day. The newly crowned champs in the Elite Men’s and Women’s and Junior Men’s and Women’s categories are: Andrew Mitchell (BC, Team Cove Bikes), Michelle Dumaresq (BC, Santa Cruz/NSMB.com), Steve Smith (BC, Team Cove Bikes) and Micayla Gatto (BC, Rocky Mountain/Business Objects).
The action started with the Junior Women. Brittany Wood (BC, BC Team) was the first to go, charging out of the start gate just after noon yesterday. Wood was followed shortly by defending National Champion Gatto, the definite race favourite of the field of two. Gatto, who has been racing in the Elite ranks all season, stomped Wood’s time by over half a minute. Despite her win, the 17-year-old was not completely satisfied with her run. “I’m never happy with it,” she said of her races. Gatto is likely her harshest critic — yet the clock put her into sixth place among the Elite Women.
Next to battle the pressures of a championship competition were the Junior Men. A competitive field of 18 riders created excitement for the crowd who waited at the bottom of the dusty, rough course, braving temperatures in the high 30s in order to get a first-hand view of the action. Current Canada DH Cup leader, Hans Lambert (QC, Equipe de Quebec) was the first rider to punch in a noteworthy time, when he screamed down the loose track, off of the GLC Drop and over the finish line with a time of 3:16.825. He waited nervously in the hot seat as the next nine competitors were unable to match his run. It was the winner of the qualifier, 16-year-old Smith, however, who shattered Lambert’s dream of the title, when he hammered out an elite caliber run (he would have placed fifth in the Elite Men’s field). Smith’s final time was 3:11.662. Dan Csokonay (BC, Norco), who had also powered out a solid run, was ranked third.
The Elite Women followed in the tire tracks of the Junior Men, having to battle increasingly rough conditions due to braking bumps that emerged from heavy trail use. The podium was decided in the final three riders, with two-time Canadian National Downhill Champion Dumaresq, stepping up to take her third title. Danika Schroeter (BC, Team Cove Bikes) descended before Dumaresq and had to watch her time of 3:38.87 fall to the Santa Cruz rider by one second. Last year’s National Champ, Adrienne Miller (BC, Devinci-Daredevil) was the final racer but despite winning the qualifier, the Courtenay, B.C. resident wasn’t fast enough in the final. She had to settle for third spot. Controversy erupted at the awards ceremony when Schroeter climbed onto the podium wearing a shirt displaying a hand-lettered comment — “100% Pure Woman Champ 2006″ – that was a direct jab at the winner Dumaresq who is a transsexual. According to all of the sport’s governing bodies – the IOC (International Olympic Committee), UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) and CCA (Canadian Cycling Association) — all athletes like Dumaresq may compete.
The Elite Men had a hard time breaking the 3:20 mark, but once former Junior National Champion Jamie Biluk (BC, Team Cove Bikes) logged a time of 3:13.822, the competition was really on. Biluk spent a lot of time in the hot seat, watching riders take worthy jabs at his effort and failing, until Charles-Alexandre Dube (QC, Equipe du Quebec) finally unseated Biluk with a time of 3:09.823. Dube warmed the seat for defending National Champ, Tyler Morland (BC, Team Cove Bikes), who took the chair with his smokin’ 3:09.425 run. But Mitchell, who won the qualifier, did not let his chance pass, and he careened to victory with a time of 3:06.358, shattering his winning qualifier time as well. After his run, Mitchell commented the course was “pretty loose” and “sketchy.” Perhaps overcome with the excitement of winning the National Champion title, all he could say of his achievement was: “It feels pretty good.” Morland relinquished his title gracefully, commenting that he was happy with his second-best run. Dube managed to cling to the podium with third spot.