ROUGH TERRAIN- Mountain bike racers practice on the track Saturday to get ready for the provincial championships that took place Sunday at Canyon Ski Resort.

Successful weekend at mountain bike competition

There are many downhill sports and most take place in winter. Then there are sports in the summer like downhill mountain biking.

Downhill mountain biking? That’s right, downhill mountain biking.

The conditions for the Downhill Mountain Biking Provincials held at Canyon Ski Resort were perfect – lots of sunshine and warm temperatures. “We still do it in the rain, it just makes the course more interesting,” said race organizer Deanne Coish. “When it’s drier you definitely get faster times.”

Conditions are important. If there are dry conditions you have a good downhill mountain bike race – fast race times and a generally accident free day. Wet conditions make for slower times and lots of work for the emergency crews on hand.

Let’s face it this is downhill mountain biking. This is an extreme sport. But it’s a sport nonetheless. Sometimes a dangerous contact sport like when you contact the ground if you fall off the bike.

Canyon Ski Resort is the only non-mountain resort that exists in Alberta. Correction, Canyon Ski Resort is the best non-mountain ski resort for downhill mountain biking.

“It’s pretty similar as far as vertical to Grande Prairie but I think that’s the only non-mountain resort that even rivals what Canyon has for vertical.”

Vertical? Yes. The course drops 517 ft. vertically with the length of the trail approximately 3,000 ft. The key thing to remember with downhill mountain biking is keep your balance. Yeah, that’s a no brainer but there’s more to it than that.

“Our bikes are angled so the front end sticks out quite a bit more than the normal bike would. A cross country bike would have a lot steeper head angle,” said Coish. “For someone to be going down a 50 -60 degree angle on a bike is not that uncommon.”

To put that into perspective, a 70 degree drop is the angle of the Superman Bizarro rollercoaster at Six Flags. In the middle of this course there’s a drop that’s 5 ft.

“You’re suspended in the air for about 30 feet on your bike, you land and keep going.”

The way the competition works is one participant goes down at a time. There is a one-minute interval between starts. At any given time it’s possible to have three people on the course.

So you may be asking yourself. ‘Self? Why would you bike downhill?’ Great question. The person that downhill mountain bikes is thrill seeker. “It’s definitely adrenaline filled. It’s an all gravity-assisted sport. The faster you go the better.”

The provincial champion was crowned on Sunday. In the Elite Men’s division (19+) Tyler Paksi won with a time of one minute, 53 seconds. Behind him was Nick Quinn who went down in a time of two minutes even. And finally in third place went to Mitchel Thornton.

Moving to the Junior Men’s Expert division, Cody Ratte was the fastest coming in at one minute, and 51 seconds. Daniel Banks came in at one minute and 53 seconds and Cameron Starcheski reached the bottom of the hill at two minutes and two seconds.

With this type of sport you’d expect a lot of pain – lots of crashes and a busy emergency room at Red Deer Regional Hospital. In reality it was the opposite, a relatively crash free day. It was a perfect day to send yourself hurling down the side of a hill on a mountain bike at speeds of up to 50 kms.

If that sounds right to you, then you might want to consider the next downhill mountain bike event. There’s always a beginner division.

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