The Sea to Sky area has long been a hotbed for mountain biking, home to established superstars like Finn Iles and Jesse Melamed as well as exciting up-and-comers like Wei Tien Ho and Cami Bragg. All four of them live in Whistler, but Pemberton too is well-represented by a pair of brothers: Lucas and Tegan Cruz.
“We’ve lived in Pemberton our whole lives, so that’s a pretty easy way to get into mountain biking,” explained Lucas. “Our parents were super into it, so it was just kind of the natural thing to do.”
Onward and upward
The Cruz brothers are indeed natural riders who have established themselves on the competitive scene. Both have travelled extensively on the World Cup circuit and feel like they’ve already seen a lot of the outside world.
“I always found it funny in high school, when everybody I grew up with was always so excited to leave [Pemberton] and get out to different places and go to the city. I was confused why they wanted to do that,” Lucas said. “But then, I realized it’s because I’ve had so much experience around the world. How lucky am I to be racing and riding and travelling all over the place?”
At 21 years of age, Lucas added two second-place finishes to his resume this summer at the BC Cup DH series and the Canadian DH National Championships. He also narrowly missed out on the podium at Crankworx Whistler last August, placing fourth in the Canadian Open DH to go with 12th in specialized dual slalom and 64th in Air DH.
Lucas was thrilled to showcase his skills at one of the world’s premier mountain bike festivals, which returned to Whistler after two years away.
“It was awesome to be racing in front of the home crowd,” he recalls. “My whole family was there. Even my principal from high school came out to watch. So yeah, I was really close to the podium on that one, and it was super tight racing between a lot of the top World Cup racers.”
Tegan added a nice haul of hardware to his trophy case last year as well. The 17-year-old sped to seven podium finishes, including four runner-up placings and two victories: one at the Canadian Junior DH Championships in July and another in September on the BC Cup circuit. He also showed out at Crankworx Whistler, coming second in the U19 age category of the Canadian Open DH.
Another one of Tegan’s season highlights was last September’s Norco Canadian Enduro Championship. Despite specializing in downhill, he managed to finish second on home soil behind Ho, Whistler’s favourite junior athlete, according to Pique’s 2022 Best of Whistler poll.
“Wei Tien’s one of my best buddies. We’ve grown up skiing and riding together,” Tegan said. “I was stoked to even be there, finishing second right behind him [at Enduro nationals].”
With his inaugural season of junior competition behind him, Tegan has a newfound perspective about the importance of hard work and focus, and can’t wait to bring his best in 2023.
A community affair
For Lucas and Tegan, life in a mountain bike mecca like the Sea to Sky is like living on Cloud 9. They get to sharpen their skills exploring breathtaking trails every day. It doesn’t hurt to have a bona fide star like Iles living five minutes away—Iles often rides with the boys and uses the gym at their house.
“The camaraderie and community is at the highest level,” said Lucas. “Everybody kind of sees mountain biking as a super friendly sport, and everybody’s just giving high fives on the trails, but that also carries through to racing World Cups, when you don’t speak the same language as those people, however famous they are.
“You always feel welcome, and everybody’s doing it for the same reason.”
Yet, above all else, it’s the family connection that matters most.
Not every group of siblings shares major interests. Fewer still pursue the same passion seriously. However, mountain biking is in the Cruz family’s blood, and it’s not just Lucas and Tegan and their parents. Their 11-year-old brother, Levi, has himself discovered a love of riding after being dragged around to many races as a younger child. Levi now keeps up with mountain bike contests throughout the year and gets to meet the sport’s superstars by travelling to World Cup events with his siblings.
“It’s cool to see that [passion] in him as well,” Lucas remarked.
As for the older Cruz brothers, they treasure the bond that has formed over practising the same sport at the highest possible level.
“I’ve grown up chasing after Lucas, for sure, starting with BMX racing and now here at the World Cup circuit,” said Tegan. “This coming year is my last year of junior, and then I’m in the elite field with him. Some fuel to the fire.”
For Lucas, the feeling is mutual. “It’s just a dream, really, because we can help each other out at the races, and we’re racing the same tracks now,” he said. “We can just support each other, like we always have, and keep enjoying it.”
After a holiday spent snowmobiling with their family, the Cruz brothers plan to head to California to get back on two wheels: mountain bikes, dirt bikes and road bikes. There is plenty of training ahead, and plenty of technical builds to test, before the next season kicks off in June. Each has a different bucket-list location that they would love to visit: Tegan has never been to New Zealand, home of Crankworx Rotorua, while Lucas hopes for the World Cup to return to Norway so he can visit Scandinavia for the first time.