When Finn Iles dropped in for his run at the World Cup Downhill event in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que. last weekend, taking the win seemed almost destined.
Racing in Canada, in front of his parents, one day before returning home to Whistler—where he will be competing in Crankworx and celebrating his 23rd birthday later in the week—how could he not win? Even Red Bull TV announcer Eliot Jackson had “a feeling about this run,” based on Iles extremely successful season to date.
With everything seemingly lining up perfectly, all that was left was to stomp the run and take the top spot on the podium. And Iles made no mistake.
With his time stamps coming up green on each of the checkpoints, Iles’ lead grew to more than a second before disaster nearly struck in the form of his chain falling off. Unable to pedal, Iles cruised down the final section of the course and managed to hold on for the win, just 0.238 seconds ahead of Great Britain’s Laurie Greenland.
Throwing his bike down and letting out a celebratory scream, Iles, with tears welling up in his eyes, had a barrage of friends and teammates rush him to share in the celebration, before finding his parents for a long and emotional embrace.
“I really can’t believe what just happened,” said Iles in his post-race interview with Red Bull TV. “I was halfway down and my chain fell off. I was like, ‘Oh no, I can’t pedal,’ so I just pushed the limit. This is the greatest day of my life. To do this nine years after Stevie [Smith] did it, to be able to win here as a Canadian, it means so much to me. I don’t know, I want to cry. This is amazing.”
On top of getting his first-ever World Cup win, Iles, who had won in Mont-Saint-Anne as a Junior back in 2017, became the first Canadian to win in the Elite category of any downhill World Cup since Smith did it in 2013.
Already a role model for Whistler’s young riders, Iles’ win is a big step towards taking on that role for young riders all across the country, the same way Smith was a mentor for the young Whistlerite and many others.
“All the Canadian Juniors, all the young Canadian riders coming into racing right now are inspired by Stevie and what he did nine years ago. And I’m just following in his footsteps and trying to blaze my own path, but look at this, I can’t believe it,” he told Red bull TV.
The year Smith finished first in Mont-Sainte-Anne, he also managed to take the win in the World Cup overall standings. He remains the only Canadian downhiller to ever claim that title.
While Iles is currently sitting second in the 2022 World Cup overall standings behind France’s Amaury Pierron, the odds are against him to become the second Canadian to take the overall crown. To complete the feat, Iles will need another win and for Pierron to not qualify for the final race in Val di Sole, Italy, which takes place on the first weekend in September.
However, even if Iles can’t take over first place in the overall, he still has a great chance to finish the season as the second-ever Canadian to podium in the World Cup standings, as long as he can manage another strong finish in Italy in just under a month’s time.