Downhill divas dig deep 

Strand, Buchar and Baker looking for help to get to World Championships

Katrina Strand ~ Claire Buchar ~ Brook Baker
  • Katrina Strand ~ Claire Buchar ~ Brook Baker

It hasn’t been an easy path to qualify for the national downhill mountain bike team.

Whistler’s Brook Baker finished third in the national championships at Mont Ste. Anne, Quebec, despite a few good crashes in earlier Canada Cup races. The following week she suffered a concussion while training for a downhill World Cup.

Katrina Strand crashed four times in the infamous mud pits at the nationals, injuring her hand and giving herself a case of whiplash.

Claire Buchar was seventh in the nationals, separating her shoulder while also nursing several other early season injuries.

Despite their hardships, all three women are committed to representing Canada at the World Mountain Bike Championships in Livigno, Italy, Aug. 28-Sept. 4 – physically, mentally and financially.

Starting this year, the Canadian Cycling Association no longer provides funding for the top male and female downhillers to attend the World Championships, which means all of Canada’s national downhill athletes – including national champion Tyler Morland – are on the hook for airfare, accommodation, food and other travel expenses. The CCA will provide some technical support, such as a mechanic, and will fund a training camp for the athletes, but can’t provide any further support because downhill is not an Olympic discipline.

"It’s a really expensive trip… but we’re on the national team and we definitely want to go there and represent," said Strand. "We’ve already bought our plane tickets – they’re sitting on my Visa right now."

To help cover costs Strand, Buchar and Baker are hosting a fundraiser at the GLC on Tuesday, Aug. 2. Led Zepplin cover band Whole Lotta Led will be playing the show, while the girls’ sponsors are donating prizes for the raffle and silent auction. There’s a good chance that a bike, or at least a bike frame, will be up for grabs. Tickets are $15 in advance, available at Evolution, or $20 at the door, and all proceeds will go to help Whistler’s downhillers get to Italy.

Meanwhile Strand, Buchar and Baker are training together in the Bike Park, hoping to overcome their injuries and be competitive at Livigno.

"It’s good because we do work together. We actually have quite a presence at the races because, even at the World Cup event in Quebec, we went down and worked together and trained together, and motivated each other," said Strand.

As for the CCA’s declining support for downhill, Strand said she’s a little concerned. "The funding before was for the national champion only and it was pretty minimal, but still you would like to see things go in the other direction with more funding rather than cutting that support completely," she said. "It was a bit of a kick in the face, but it’s not going to stop us. We’ve all worked really hard and we’re going to keep going, keep pushing each other, and riding and racing."

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