Though his last race wasn't the cleanest he's had this season, Whistler's Jack Iles closed the book on a tremendous season of downhill racing with another solid result at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships last weekend.
Despite a crash on his run in the junior men's final on Sunday, Sept. 7, Iles raced to a 14th-place finish at Hafjell, Norway, the top result by a Canadian rider.
"It was amazing," Iles said of his trip to Europe, which included a race at the World Cup finals in France two weeks before world championships.
"I had a crash in the first part of my run, so 14th is still pretty good with a crash. I was going for a podium, but I think a lot of other guys did the same thing, because about 80 per cent of the top 10 riders all crashed out."
Iles said he bounced off a few rocks at high speed and ended up flipping over the bars, but had a soft landing on an anthill and managed to get himself back on course quickly. He ended up crossing the line 13 seconds back of gold medallist Loris Vergier of France.
Among other riders well known to the Sea to Sky competing at Hafjell, Vaea Verbeeck was sixth in the elite women's race, while B.C. riders Micayla Gatto and Casey Brown were 11th and 12th. Pemberton resident Kyle Sangers finished 34th in the elite men's event.
The courses at both Hafjell and the final World Cup at Meribel were both tough tracks, and Iles said that Meribel was probably "the gnarliest one of the year." But he still managed another top-10 finish in that race, which helped him end the campaign ranked fifth in the World Cup standings.
"I was pretty stoked with that," the 18-year-old said of his final standing, which came after he placed in the top 10 four times in five starts. "Consistency is always good.
"It's been an awesome season. I'm pretty happy with all my results and the whole summer's been good."
With his season over, Iles will now start getting ready for 2015, when he'll no longer be a junior competitor.
"I'm pretty excited. It would be nice to do a few more junior races, but I'm excited to race pro," he said. "I'm not too stressed out about it so far."
VERNER IMPRESSIVE IN junior cross-country race
Squamish's Rhys Verner also headed to Norway for the world championships, where he posted a 41st-place finish in the junior men's cross-country race at Lillehammer. Upon returning home Tuesday, the 17-year-old said his first experience racing overseas was excellent.
"It was awesome," said Verner, who raced on Thursday, Sept. 4. "The whole trip just worked super well and it was tons of fun."
Verner finished a five-lap course totalling 21 kilometres in one hour, 17 minutes, 58 seconds, which put him in the top half of the field — about nine minutes off the winning pace clocked by Denmark's Simon Andreassen.
"It was super hard to know what to expect going over there," said Verner. "But I think it was pretty good. It was pretty hard and I felt kind of out of my league over there, but I think it went pretty well and I was the second Canadian. That's where I wanted to be."
Verner still has a year of junior eligibility left and said he hopes to get a chance to go back to the world championships and compete in the category again in 2015.
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