Inspired by the memory of one of his idols, Finn Iles was a chainsaw through the junior men's division at Fort William.
Donning a replica of the helmet Stevie Smith — the "Canadian Chainsaw" — wore, Iles buzzed through the U.K. course in a time of four minutes, 52.075 seconds, over 3.5 seconds ahead of runner-up Gaëtan Vige and over five seconds up on Jackson Frew. The win was the 17-year-old's second of the 2016 UCI junior men's downhill season.
Iles said he went down as he was preparing for the June 5 race, but felt few ill effects and was ready to go come race day.
"It was definitely a good race for me over the weekend. I'm pretty happy with how I rode and how the bike was performing. I had one big crash in practice, but I felt like after that I was more focused and could push a little bit more. My run was quite good, and coming across and seeing my time made me quite happy," he said in a Facebook message.
With muddier, slicker courses often the order of the day in and around Whistler, "Fort Bill" didn't necessarily line up with Iles' comforts and he downplayed his expectations. But once he got going, he realized he could be slick even in those conditions.
"The course was very, very dry and quite loose... and a little bit sketchy. It wasn't really like anything that I have ridden at home, so it was quite a new feeling. I wasn't expecting it to be one of my best courses, but I enjoyed riding it, and for me that is the one of main parts of being able to ride with speed," he said.
Apart from being a tough course to ride, it was a challenging one on an emotional level as the race was the first since Smith's stunning passing last month. The UCI held a memorial run in Smith's honour as part of the weekend while Iles was able to ride downhill reminiscent of his hero in more ways than one.
"The weekend was definitely difficult for all of the riders. Stevie was such a big part of the riding community, so the tributes to Stevie were an amazing thing to see. Having an entire sport come together to respect and remember Stevie was amazing. For me being able to wear Stevie's name on my helmet was an honour. So I gave it 100 per cent in my race as he would have," Iles said.
The win certainly provided another boost to Iles' season, as he'll have the opportunity to make it back-to-back victories when he gets set to pedal in Austria this weekend.
"I feel like I have a lot of confidence coming into Leogang. I really enjoy the track and I am really excited for practice on Friday," he said.
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