For Marin Lowe, this summer was supposed to be filled with cross-Canada travel and a run at a national title.
But, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic having wiped out the bulk of races — even local Toonies — and harnessing riders closer to home, the Team Squamish member is taking it all in stride.
Most recently, Lowe has excelled in the Throwdown Thursday events in Abbotsford, a six-race time-trial series held every other week. After missing the first two, Lowe has claimed victory in the three most recent events.
"They've been really fun. Getting a little bit of competition is all that counts for us," she said. "It's been really good that we actually have a chance to race."
Outside of those competitive slots, Lowe has been grateful for the opportunity to ride thrice per week with the team, with varying focuses on both the enduro and cross-country disciplines. Among the more memorable rides, she said, have been the old Test of Metal course and Whistler's famed Dark Crystal.
"I'm just riding and having lots of fun," she said. "It's definitely opened up more opportunities to explore new places."
Head coach Mike Charuk, meanwhile, recalled the pandemic's effects on the team hit swiftly, as some riders were down in California for UCI races at Vail Lake and Bonelli Park when the borders were being shut down, resulting in a bit of a mad dash to get home.
"We had to cut it short and get back to Canada," he said.
However, since then, the team has been able to put together a positive summer all things considered, with additional coaches and better administration this year, he said, noting Tobin McCallum taking the lead at the Abbotsford races, which have been a positive for the club.
"We're the most represented team in British Columbia down there and the riders have been doing really well," Charuk said.
While club members have had to deal with the disappointment of missing higher-level competitions for 2020, Charuk said they've managed to find silver linings.
"There was some frustration, of course. We would have had, definitely, some national champs this year," he said. "But they're taking the opportunity to focus more on the skills and... they've gone on some epic rides that are more skill-based.
"There's almost a lot more riding because you don't need to taper for the races."
Additionally, Charuk said, riders have more than enough access to trails to hone their skills and be in race shape for when competition ramps up again, so the loss of travel isn't a huge loss in that sense.
"Usually, we'll be in Quebec for a couple of weeks and Ontario for a couple of weeks, and California, but because of those events they cancelled, we're staying closer to home and riding a lot more locally," he said. "We've got world-class trails here, so everyone's been enjoying it."
Among those who have taken strides this year are Cam McCallum and Jasper Fleming on the boys' side, as well as Lowe.
"She's ahead of the curve on her development," he said of Lowe.
Some newer members of the team have also been welcomed, as Eric Sol moved from South Korea to be a mountain biker, while the three Roldan sisters from Yukon have fit right in.
"They've been a good asset to the team with very positive energy," Charuk said of the trio.
For more, visit teamsquamish.ca.