It’s been a hot start to the season for some of the Sea to Sky’s best young mountain bikers. While Squamish’s Jackson Goldstone continues the stellar pace he set last season with another handful of gold and silver medals already this year, other local riders like Pemberton’s Tegan Cruz and Whistler’s Wei Tien Ho have been quietly putting up strong seasons.
Following a couple top-10 and top-15 performances earlier in the season, Cruz finally cracked the Junior World Cup podium at the most recent race in Vallnord, Andorra, where he finished third.
“It was definitely pretty awesome to have my first World Cup podium in Andorra. I just really liked the track and felt confident on my bike all week and had amazing support from my team,” he said. “Just really happy with that result and to keep building moving forward.”
Coming off his worst performance of the season one weekend prior in Lenzerheide, where he finished 13th—eight spots behind Ho in his first Junior World Cup of the season—Cruz said it was just a matter of refocusing and piecing all the little things together that got him back to where he knows he can be.
“I definitely struggled a bit in Lenzerheide. I quite enjoyed the track and felt like I was riding decent, just didn’t really piece it all together in time for race day. But I learned from my mistakes there, went to Andorra the next weekend, and it definitely all pieced together,” said Cruz.
“I more just focused on myself and what I needed throughout the whole weekend, just took the time to really focus on the track and make sure everything was going well on-track. So it’s kind of just all the little things pieced together. Turned out to be a good weekend.”
On the flip side, Ho, in just the second World Cup of his career in Lenzerheide, managed to secure his best-ever finish, coming in sixth and accomplishing the top-10 goal he set out for himself before the race.
Despite some nerves about where he matches up against the best young bikers in the world heading into the race, it was the experience he gained from his first World Cup race in 2021 that gave Ho the confidence to go out there and show he belongs with the other top riders.
“I was super happy to qualify in fifth. It was unexpected, the run wasn’t perfect, but it’s just nice to see where I match up. I always doubt myself and I’m always nervous to see where my pace is, especially against these guys who are the best in the world at our age,” he said.
“But I felt like I just handled the process well and then coming down it was really nice to see that my pace was there.”
Unfortunately, Ho wasn’t able to replicate that result the next week in Andorra. After once again qualifying in the top-10, a popped tire led to Ho slipping down the rankings and finishing the race in 23rd.
But while the Andorra race didn’t finish quite the way he wanted, the experience Ho gained in his time in Europe has given him some good takeaways to build off of for the rest of the season. And being able to watch his longtime friend Cruz land on the podium was as good a consolation prize as he could get.
“I’d rather go out that way than have a lap that I’m just not happy with and I know I didn’t leave it all out there. So I’d rather go like that. And at the end of the day I’m healthy and I’m ready to go to the next races. So I’m happy with that and just knowing that the pace is there,” Ho said.
“We were all stoked to see the Canadians do well. There’s definitely that part, which I’m obviously super happy for them, but it’s a little bittersweet, because I’d like to share that experience. But for now I’ll just live vicariously through them, I guess. But it was super exciting to watch them come down.”
While Cruz and Ho ended up with opposite results across the last two races, their goals moving forward remain the same: to build off of the success they had in Europe when they hit the slopes in Kicking Horse this weekend for the Downhill National Championships.
But with incredibly stiff competition set to be there, like four of the top five finishers at the Vallnord World Cup, including Goldstone, Cruz, Bodhi Kuhn (fourth) and Tristan Lemire (fifth), as well as other skilled local riders like Coen Skrypnek and Marcus Goguen, Ho is looking to put down a run he’s happy with and hopefully challenge for a top spot, while Cruz has got his eyes set solely on the podium.
“I would definitely like to continue as the Canadian national champ. So really looking forward to this weekend and fighting with the rest of the Canadians for that top spot,” said Cruz. “I’m definitely going into nationals a little different than my normal routine in the World Cup just not being with the team and everything, but just need to stay focused, work on my riding and piece things together for race day.”
On the men’s side, Whistler’s Finn Iles also hit the podium in Andorra, finishing third behind France’s Loris Vergier and Loic Bruni in first and second, respectively (Iles wasn’t available for comment before Pique’s deadline).