The cyclists have come and gone but the biggest impact may be yet to come.
The Bear Mountain Canada Cup XC proved to be a platform not only for the athletes competing and scoring points for future races, including the 2016 Rio Olympics in August, but for future races right here on Vancouver Island.
“It was exciting for me personally to see the best, to have the idea to house the best in Canada and see them here and how excited they were here,” said Bear Mountain’s mountain biking director Rob Fawcett. “This has never happened at this level, to see truly the best athletes in Canada competing at that level.”
The long-time mountain biker estimated well over a thousand spectators dispersed around the five-and-a-half kilometre loop, filtering into the trees for the race, and filtering back out to see the race finish, before heading back out to their favourite viewing spots. The Union Cycliste Internationale sanctioned race saw Catharine Pendrel match gold medals with Raphael Gagne in the Elite Women’s and Elite Men’s categories respectively. Pendrel is ranked top three in the world and a medal hopeful for Canada at the Olympics this summer. Fawcett said seeing her and future Canadian champions train here year round and compete here could only lead to bigger and better races in 2017.
“We hope to move into higher-level sanctioning, to get more UCI points, higher cycle cross races and going forward to 2020 we would like to have a high-level cross and mountain bike race at Bear Mountain,” he said. (This) gives (future) Olympic athletes (opportunities) to earn points and enjoy the sport right at home.”