Iles earns career-best fourth at Fort William 

Downhiller battled through after harrowing crash

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BARTOSZ WOLINSKI/RED BULL CONTENT POOL - FINE FORM Finn Iles cruised to a fourth-place finish at the UCI Downhill World Cup race in Fort William, Scotland on June 2.
  • Photo by Bartosz Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool
  • FINE FORM Finn Iles cruised to a fourth-place finish at the UCI Downhill World Cup race in Fort William, Scotland on June 2.

Lining up in the start gate for the second Mercedes-Benz UCI Downhill World Cup of the season in Fort William, Scotland on June 2, Finn Iles wasn't expecting to do much.

After all, he was only a day removed from one of the worst crashes he'd ever suffered, going down in the rock garden during qualifying and needing extensive attention from the physiotherapist just to get in a position to compete in the race.

However, on race day, the 19-year-old blazed down the course to a career-best fourth-place showing, finishing in four minutes, 35.781 seconds (4:35.781), 7.2 seconds back of winner Amaury Pierron of France, and 3.5 seconds off the podium.

"I had a big crash on Saturday that took a lot out of me. I went over the bars in the rock garden and then I had to do a lot of physio on Saturday night just to be able to race on Sunday. I didn't really think I was going to be able to do anything special on Sunday just because my hand was in so much pain, but everything seemed to work out in the end," he said. "I was pretty much held together by tape and a few painkillers that allowed me to push through that pain barrier.

"I was pretty lucky not to have broken anything just because of the speed—and the landing spot was a pile of rocks."

Fort William can be difficult to handle in wet conditions, as the course stays grippy on top, but the bottom has a slippery wood section that could wreak havoc on riders, Iles said.

"This weekend was really hard, just because weather was constantly changing. It was really cold, (with) a lot of rain and a lot of wind. It was hard to figure out what I was going to do on race day," he said. "We got pretty lucky with conditions, so we could gauge what to do with the bike."

Iles said he entered the 2019 campaign, his sophomore season on the elite circuit, feeling confident, but felt a bit of a blow after crashing in the first event in Maribor, Slovenia, in April.

"I knew I had the speed to do a podium or even get a win, (so) that was quite frustrating to say the least," he said. "After the last result, I'm confident in myself. I'm slowing down a little bit more in terms of my race-day process and my race-weekend process.

"Last year, I was focused too much on trying to win instead of just riding my bike."

Iles also recently got a head start on his post-secondary education, attending the University of Victoria for its fall semester. Though he took a buffet of courses to start, Iles is leaning towards pursuing economics in the future.

Iles also stayed on Vancouver Island to train during the winter with fellow Canadian rider Magnus Manson.

Also in Fort William, several Canadians hit the top 10 in the junior men's event. Patrick Laffey took third, 2.2 seconds back of winner Thibaut Daprela of France, while Pemberton's Lucas Cruz was fifth, Elliot Jamison was eighth and Squamish's Seth Sherlock took 10th. Whistler summer resident Ethan Shandro, meanwhile, took 16th.

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