Naturally, podium spots at the BC Cup’s stop in Whistler on June 25 and 26 were overrun with Sea to Sky athletes.
The most impressive feat among them was the dominance in the UCI Junior Expert Men category, which saw local downhill mountain bikers take six of the top 10 spots, including four of the top five with Tegan Cruz (Pemberton), Wei Tien Ho (Whistler), Coen Skrypnek (Squamish) and Marcus Goguen (Whistler) finishing the race second to fifth, respectively.
“It’s nice … me, Tegan, Marcus and Wei have been buddies for a while. [We] went to Europe together to race, and it’s super nice to end up on the podium, especially when it’s as tight as it was,” said Skrypnek.
“I think me, Marcus and Wei were all within like a second. So super, super fun. Makes it that much better.”
Sea to Sky athletes racked up a whopping 10 first-place finishes, including: Squamish’s Bailey Goldstone in the UCI Pro/Elite Women category; Sechelt’s Gracey Hemstreet (UCI Junior Women); Whistler’s Mhairi Smart (U17 Women); Jake Polito (U17 Expert Men); Shane Gayton (Master’s Men); and Tori Dzenis (Expert Elite Women), among others—find full results at zone4.ca/race/2022-06-25/5a0fa924/results/.
Cruz’s older brother Lucas also took home second-place in the UCI Pro/Elite Men category.
However, Skrypnek—who finished with a time of 2:49.28, just 0.68 seconds behind Ho and 1.24 seconds out of Cruz’s second-place spot—battled back from a less-than-ideal race during the seeding day which ended with him sitting sixth, well behind his friends.
Luckily, on race day, Skrypnek was able to follow UCI Pro Men racer Peter Knott down the hill in the training run and get a better idea about the little mistakes he was making, which were holding him back.
“I usually don’t make last-minute changes like that to my run. But they were pretty essential to the race run,” he said. “So by the time I was at my race run, I was able to pull something together even though we had to wait like six hours after our final training run. It was wild.”
As for Ho—who admits there was quite the wide gap between him and first-place finisher and his Blueprint Racing teammate Max Halchuk—finishing just over half a second behind Cruz, who has already put up some strong results on the Junior World Cup circuit this season, has given him some confidence as he sets off to Europe for his first World Cup races of the season. Following that, Ho will return home for nationals in Kicking Horse and a few more stops on the World Cup circuit in North America.
“It’s nice to know that the speed’s there. Then again, I feel like World Cups are kind of a whole different animal at the same time, just with all the pressure, and the tracks being completely different,” said Ho. “But yeah, it’s nice to know that I can hold up against those guys. And yeah, it gives me a bit of confidence just showing that the work over the offseason has been working. So yeah, good little boost going into the season, for sure.”
Heading into the upcoming World Cup races, Ho’s got his focus set first on qualifying, and hopefully landing in the top-10. However, he’s still unsure how he matches up to the international riders, and just hopes to build on his World Cup experiences from last year and keep progressing towards his goals, while at the same time pushing himself harder and taking a few more risks than he did last season.
Skrypnek, on the other hand, is a little more optimistic. Especially with the entire Sea to Sky crew there supporting each other, Skrypnek believes multiple top-10 finishes could be in the cards for the boys if everyone shows up on race day.
“I have a feeling that if all of us Canadian juniors can pull it together, a lot of the top-10 could potentially be that Maple Leaf flag, which will be pretty rad,” he said. “But a lot of things have to fall into place for that to happen. I’m just looking forward to see if that’ll end up the case, but I’m pretty excited—it’s going to be awesome.”
The crew’s first World Cup stop is Lenzerheide, Switzerland from July 8 to 10, followed by Vallnord-Pal Arinsal, Andorra the following weekend. After that, they return to B.C. for Downhill Nationals in Kicking Horse followed by World Cup stops at Snowshoe in West Virginia July 29 to 31 and Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que. on August 5 to 7.