In the Elite Men’s competition Matthew Beer (BC) Intense reclaimed the title from defending champ and World Cup star, Steve Smith (BC) Devinci Global, with Smith’s teammate Matthew Wallace (BC) grabbing the final podium spot. Beer first won the crown in 2012 at Mont-Sainte-Anne, QC, becoming the first rider from Newfoundland to win a National title.
Weather conditions on the previous day forced the cancellation of the Seeding runs due to thunderstorms that forced the closure of the chairlift operation.
Smith, the 2013 UCI Downhill (DH) World Cup Series champ, came to Sun Peaks to do one thing and one thing only: vanquish the field at the 20th annual DH Nationals.
When Sun Peaks was awarded the three-year bid to host the Canadian DH Championships, promises were made that the course would become “more technical” and that the flat-out drag race that characterized much of the previous courses would be tempered somewhat, and reward braking and bike handling skills as much as balls-to-the-wall speed.
Veteran course designer Henry Pejril packed the top part of the course with a series of tricky switchbacks that are consistent with the kind of technical challenges found on other UCI courses as well.
Smith dumped his speed and his chances of winning another Canadian DH championships in these tight turns which both challenged and confounded riders throughout the weekend.
He later posted an Instagram of the course and commented, “It’s hard to race at walking speed.” Smith railed over his Devinci and clipped a brake lever on the side of a berm, causing him to lose control and precious seconds. “I tried going as fast as I could for the remainder of the course, but didn’t want to risk further injury,” he added.
In the end, it was Beer, who now lives in North Vancouver, that pulled on the winner’s red maple leaf jersey on the podium. Beer admitted that, “If Steve hadn’t lost time at the top of the course, I’d probably be in second place. The switchbacks are simply too narrow to fit the bikes in.”
Smith, who has been at home in Nanaimo recuperating from injuries that caused him to miss most of the 2014 season, is now on the comeback trail. Just prior to the DH Nats he finished ninth at the World Cup DH race in Lenzerheide, SUI. Racing for the Intense National Team, Beer romped and rattled down the 2,000 vertical foot Sun Peaks course in 3:42.14, with Smith less than three seconds behind and Wallace a mere 0.29s back in third.
On the UCI Elite women’s side, BC’s Sea to Sky region finished one-two on the podium with Miller capturing the top spot in 4:09 over former DH champ, Clair Buchar, less than three seconds behind in 4:12.13. Michelle Griffiths took the bronze in 04:17.05. This was Miller’s first Elite title having won the Junior women’s crown in 2006.
Two other UCI winner’s jerseys were up for grabs in the Junior Men’s and Women’s categories. Whistler’s Georgia Astle and Stephanie Denroche finished 1-2 as the only two competitors in the Junior Women’s 17-18 race.
The Junior Men’s side was a BC sweep with Sechelt’s Magnus Manson (Norco Factory Racing) in top spot, followed by West Vancouver’s Jack Almond (C4 Racing) in second.
Sun Peaks Resort will be hosting the 2016 Canadian National Downhill Championships next July.
Full results here.