Like he did last season, Finn Iles wrapped his downhill season with a street race in Taxco, Mexico.
But unlike last year, he wasn't just happy to be there.
In a far less tentative showing than his street-race debut, Iles finished in 11th place, just over seven seconds back of winner Bernardo Cruz after posting a best run of one minute, 53.66 seconds (1:53.66).
"Mexico was pretty cool. It was only my second street race ever, so it was definitely cool to go back there this year. I was going a bit faster and I've improved a lot over the year," he said, noting he shaved 11 seconds off his differential from last year.
Iles recorded the race on his GoPro and posted the run to his Facebook page. In addition to the usual hazards of a downhill race, Iles had to handle obstacles like stairs and, occasionally, people.
"It's definitely tricky. You never know when there's going to be a dog stepping out in front of you — or even a person or a child," he said. "In training, I almost hit a few dogs. You've got to be really aware and on it or else you might run into a person or a dog."
Getting set for the race can be a challenge, as Whistler doesn't have much of the infrastructure Taxco, located roughly 180 kilometres southwest of Mexico City, makes the most of in the race.
"There aren't really any tight alleyways or anywhere you can train or ride your bike," the 16-year-old said. "When you get there, you do your training runs and you just get a feel for the course. You can't really train for it because it's such a unique event."
As evidenced in Iles' video, the fans get into the racing spirit south of the border as well, so much so that he drew comparisons to Crankworx.
"There were almost more spectators than there were at Joyride this year. It's pretty insane. When you run into the main square, there's a big drop. I looked at my photos off my GoPro and it's just like a crowd that you don't see the end of," he said. "Everyone is so passionate and they just really love watching the race."
Iles' season was bookended by injury issues, as he suffered a thumb injury early before a spiral fracture in his hand caused him to miss Crankworx here in Whistler.
"It was a shame (to miss Crankworx) but I got most of the stuff done that I wanted to, which was pretty awesome," he said.
Competitively, Iles said the standout part of the season was his performance at what turned out to be the last Crankworx at Les Deux Alpes, where he won his age category for the downhill and placed second in the whip-off.
"That was definitely one of the best times for me," the 2014 Whip-Off World Champion said.
From a joyful riding standpoint, Iles said the highlight of the summer was riding in Schladming, Austria, where he particularly enjoyed the terrain.
"My race wasn't really as good as I wanted it to be, but riding there was really awesome," he said. "The tracks were well-built and the dirt was so good. It's nothing you can really compare to around here. The dirt here is so good, but it's so hard from everyone riding it in the bike park."
In the offseason, the Team Lapierre International rider will keep on pedalling in the hopes of achieving greater glory in 2016.
"I'm going to be working on getting stronger, going to the gym, riding my trail bike a lot and overall just having fun on my bike. That'll probably be the best thing for me," he said.
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