The loss of Vancouver Island rider Stevie Smith will leave a void in the local mountain biking scene.
Smith, known as the Canadian Chainsaw, died last week after sustaining a massive brain injury in an enduro motorcycle crash near Nanaimo.
In response to a Pinkbike article last week reporting the 26-year-old's death, Whistler's Dom Wrapson proposed that international governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) "allow a ghost-lap in his honour," ideally in the spot allotted to the 12th-ranked rider, which is the spot Smith held at the time of his passing on May 10. As of May 18, the post had nearly 1,000 likes.
In his comment, Wrapson noted either the June event in Fort William, Great Britain or the next Canadian race in August at Mont Ste. Anne, Que. as the most appropriate times for the tribute. His thoughts were given further traction when big-name riders like Micayla Gatto and Rachel Throop shared screenshots of Wrapson's proposal through their respective Instagram pages.
"I'm sure that something will be done by the organization and the sponsors, but I vocalized my own thoughts and that's what came into my head at the time," Wrapson said.
Wrapson said he's already heard from the Mont Ste. Anne and Wyndham, N.Y. race organizers, though UCI has the final say. Attempts to reach UCI about their plans were unsuccessful.
"It's a little bit out of their hands," he said. "They were just trying to offer their support and say that they'd passed it along to people that they knew that may be able to make it happen."
Wrapson wasn't especially close with Smith on a personal level, though they had ridden and had beers together a handful of times over the years. However, Smith had played a role in Wrapson deciding to move to Canada from the United Kingdom and realized the news hit him harder than he expected.
"I met Stevie a few times... He's been around the bike park quite a bit. He comes up for Crankworx," Wrapson noted. "I really only started getting into mountain biking and following the downhill scene over the 2008, 2009 season when I was back in England. The season (highlight) movie was that pivotal moment for me where I became a lot more interested, a lot more involved in the sport... Stevie Smith was in that. Seeing him as a young racer and being able to connect with what he was saying (was key).
"That season's movie was really part of what made me move to Whistler."
Wrapson has helped organize a mega-train in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park during Crankworx the past few years and plans for this year's event to honour both Smith as well as New Zealand rider Kelly McGarry, who died suddenly in March.
There will also be an informal tribute train this Saturday, May 21 on A-Line in the bike park at 1 p.m. Check the Whistler Mountain Bike Park page on Facebook for more details.
Crankworx Events Inc. general manager Darren Kinnaird was in France doing a site visit for the upcoming Les Gets event when he received the news and was still processing the loss when reached by Pique via Skype on May 11.
"I was completely shocked. Obviously, it's very sad," he said. "I'm in complete, total shock.
"The weather wasn't great this morning but we went for a bike ride anyways because we were, 'Well, it seems like the appropriate thing to do.'"
Smith earned 10 medals at Crankworx over the course of his career, capturing the Jim Beam Air DH in 2006 when he was just 16 and topped the podium in the Fox Air DH last summer.
"He's one of the most decorated athletes in the history of Crankworx," Kinnaird said. "He's always been a big part of it and a fan favourite.
"Some years, when Stevie was injured, the vibe wasn't quite the same when it came to racing events but when he was racing, Whistler was electric. He had so many fans."
Kinnaird said the festival will reach out to Smith's family and find a meaningful way to remember him this season.
Smith's mother, Tiann, has helped to set up the Stevie Smith Legacy Fund to provide a boost for up-and-coming Vancouver Island athletes. The campaign had raised over $35,000 as of May 18.
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