Squamish riders part of Pinkbike Academy | Squamish Chief

Squamish riders part of Pinkbike Academy

New episodes of reality show released weekly

Though Nicole Kennedy's stint on the new Pinkbike Academy reality web series lasted just two episodes, the Squamish mountain biker was still more than happy to have taken part.

The series, which was shot over two weeks at Big White earlier this summer, debuted online earlier this month, with episodes being released every Thursday for 10 weeks. Kennedy was officially the first competitor eliminated at the end of the second episode, which came out on Oct. 22.

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Riders are competing for $25,000 and a one-year contract with Orbea Bikes.

In Kennedy's case, the call for applications came right as COVID-19 ramped up in March, she was laid off and submitted her edit.

"Who doesn't want to try for a pro contract in the sport that they love?" she said. "After getting into enduro racing the past few years, I thought I would take a chance. I told myself, 'You miss 100% of the shots you don't take,' so I thought I'd give it a go."

Similarly, fellow local contestant Jo Peters saw some opportunity to compete in a summer where there was little other chance to do so, while she was also glad to earn some exposure as she launches a new coaching company JP & Co.

"My strength is doing video work and I like being on camera. There was no racing this year, so I was pretty stoked with having something else to do," she said.

Angie McKirdy, meanwhile, joined up because it was a chance to boost her career.

"It was a really good opportunity for me to showcase my skills and who I am," she said. "It was a really unique opportunity most of all."

In addition to the three Squamish-based contestants, two Whistler locals in Julia Long and Misa Pacakova rounded out the women's side.

Kennedy fell behind the eight ball early, struggling in the Episode 1 competition to put together her dismantled bike, opting to ask for help from another contestant and being the last to finish.

"I never had to do anything like that with a camera in my face," she said with a chuckle. "I was just trying to stay calm and collected and know that it was just going to be there.

"I can do all of those things. I can put my bike together. I've travelled over to New Zealand and I did put my bike together on my own, but I didn't have to do it in seven minutes."

While elimination wasn't on the line, the results of the early competitions were cumulative, and after a flat-tire-replacement challenge and subsequent race, Kennedy was bumped out after busting a tire.

"Going into the race, I was trying to be smart because of my previous result in the last competition," she said. "I thought about taking a medium, controlled piste and getting down the mountain, having a clean, safe run. I knew they weren't just judging about speed. They were judging about attitude and line choice."

Kennedy's unfortunate landing not only resulted in a flat tire but broke her rim as well.

"If I knew about the rim, I would have just plowed down the mountain. It's already broken; don't try to nurse it," she said.

McKirdy, meanwhile, was officially the loser of the bike-building challenge, as the judges were unimpressed with her work. She redeemed herself in the race with her riding, coming down as the fastest woman.

Going in, she sought to perfect her riding as much as possible and, to this point, it's paid off.

"I was just trying to ride my bike as much as I could given the pandemic restrictions and go into it with an open mind," she said. "[I had to] try to get comfortable in front of the camera. That was a big thing for me to overcome. I'd never had much experience in front of the camera."

Through two episodes, anyway, the atmosphere has been mostly co-operative and friendly, with the tension primarily coming from the challenges as opposed to interpersonal conflicts.

"For the most part, I think, mountain bikers are all pretty accepting and have a good attitude," McKirdy said. "That's consistent with all the contestants that were in the show. I'd love to be able to go on a ride with anybody that was in the show."

"There were things that happened in the competition, but as soon as we were all hanging out, we were all hanging out together and we played cards," Peters said.

The contestants have had some mixed emotions as the first two episodes have come out, recognizing that it's difficult to square one's image of oneself with how one is presented from the selections made from thousands of hours of footage. McKirdy, in particular, took flak for a confessional comment that she felt Kennedy should have lost the first challenge rather than herself.

"I made the mistake of reading the [YouTube] comment section for the first episode. It definitely affected my opinion of the show and my overall mood," she said. "It turned out a little bit sad for the next couple of days and then I cut myself off from reading the comment section.

"I know who I am and my community knows who I am … They're talking about a character that's in my image, not who I am."

Despite the vast differences between the shows, Peters couldn't shake comparisons in her own mind to other reality-type shows such as The Bachelor.

"We're so used to seeing actors and celebrities who have perfect makeup and tans and perfect bodies, and so I think when I see myself, I'm just a normal person. I'm an athlete, obviously, but I'm at an amateur level. It's different. It's not what you see on TV all the time," she said. "Aesthetic is really important to me and being unique and having personality is something that I really value, and I just realized that."

Even with her short time on the show, Kennedy had a brief opportunity to share her story of recovery after a significant head injury. The bounce back from not only the injury but subsequent depression took three years, and the Colorado native credited her commitment to biking for pushing her forward.

She's already received some positive feedback from fellow head injury sufferers.

"It felt quite good to hear that from people and it's more motivation to keep moving forward," she said.

Find the show here.

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