Three locals take national division crowns 

Strong showing for local athletes at Sun Peaks

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO BY ERIC MACKENZIE - cruising to gold Chris Kovarik, shown at last year's Canadian Open DH, won his division at the Sun Peaks Canadian Downhill Championships.
  • File photo by Eric MacKenzie
  • cruising to gold Chris Kovarik, shown at last year's Canadian Open DH, won his division at the Sun Peaks Canadian Downhill Championships.

Chris Kovarik is searching for benchmarks.

As a result of not competing on the World Cup circuit this year, the 37-year-old Whistler resident by way of Australia, looks up and down the charts to see where he ranked. Not just content with winning the two-competitor international elite men's category at the 2015 Sun Peaks Canadian Downhill Championships on July 12, Kovarik was pleased his time of three minutes, 47.91 seconds (3:47.91) placed him sixth overall. It was the top time outside of the UCI elite category.

All told, he was roughly two seconds behind top World Cup riders in Steve Smith and Mark Wallace, and nearly six seconds back of overall winner Matthew Beer.

"It pushed us a little bit," Kovarik said of comparing times. "Because I'm not on the full World Cup circuit these days, I always try to compare my times against those guys just for reference, just to see if I'm still up to speed or not."

He noted the juniors also take a similar approach, keeping an eye out for how they stack up to the best of the best.

"Trying to challenge their times was a novelty for everybody," he said.

Kovarik said he flubbed one turn in his run to add a few seconds to his time, but generally was able to do well on a course that suited his talents.

"This was one track that was fast (and) fine. It was dusty and loose," he said. "There's not many tracks you come across where you say it's fun to practice and it's fun to race, but this is one of those tracks."

With a dearth of rain leading into the competition, the course stood up during practice, but rain the night before race day changed conditions and forced riders to adjust.

"The next morning, we were greeted with nice, tacky dirt and no dust. It allowed people to follow each other," said Kovarik, opining it made for a "slightly quicker" race.

Another champion from Whistler, Craig Wilson, noted while he enjoyed the rain's effects, his times did not improve because of it. Wilson won the UCI 30 to 39 master men in a time of 4:07.07, about three seconds up on fellow Whistlerite Steve Storey.

"I think (the course) changed for the better. But in the time from practice Saturday to race day, the course got beat up a bit and it brought the times down," he said. "My practice times were faster than my race time."

Wilson said he hasn't been riding his downhill bike as much this year, compared to previous years, but he's been riding a little more enduro and has seen his fitness improve, which has been boon in all events.

"The age class that I'm competing in this year in all the events that I do is super competitive for a non-professional category," he said. "I know every time I ride that I have to leave everything behind me."

Wilson plans to compete in the Crankworx in downhill and enduro before heading to Europe to take part in the final two Enduro World Series races.

Georgia Astle, meanwhile, won the junior women's race over fellow Whistlerite Stephanie Denroche. Astle's 4:20.42 was the fourth best time of all women in the event and best outside the UCI elite category.

Jason Tarbet (UCI 40 to 49 master men) and Clare Buchar (UCI elite women) notched silver medals and Seth Sherlock (UCI U15 men) earned bronze. Meanwhile, Bracken Camilleri, Jack Iles, Travis Pollack, Maria Darquier, Ondrej Vana, Nick Knapton, Matthew Ogilvie-Turner, Ian Milley and Max Edwards all hit the top 10.

Full results are online at www.cyclingcanada.ca.

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