J.T. Bjarnason of Seven Summits Gravity Racers (SSGR) seized the day, as he raced to a podium finish at the BC Cup final event in Fernie last week to capture the overall title in the BC Cup Downhill mountain bike race’s U17 Sport category.
A small but committed group of three SSGR riders attended the event along with over 200 competitors from across BC and Alberta. Aiden Brummelhuis of Fruitvale also had his best performance of the season, finishing fifth in the race and 10th overall in the U17 Sport BC Cup circuit, while Keegan Frye came in 11th in U17 Expert after suffering a couple of scary spills during his race.
The 16-year-old Bjarnason flew down the Fernie ski hill in 3:52.55, in an almost mistake-free run, and was confident he had a good time when crossing the finish line just four seconds back of winner Steven Bobyn of Kelowna.
“It was fast, and really loose, and dusty, and dry, but it was a really fun course, probably one of my favourite courses all year,” said the Fruitvale native. “I felt like I had a good time. I had one little mess up at the top, but I felt pretty solid the whole way through.”
As the racers continued through the run, his time held up and Bjarnason grabbed his second podium finish of the season.
“I was just waiting and there was still a couple people going through, but when the category was over and it said I was in second, I was just super stoked and happy for the last race of the season.”
Unknowningly, Bjarnason was tied for third in the overall standings going into the sixth and final race on the BC Cup circuit, and found out the following day of the race that his second-place finish tied leader Jackson Hare of Kelowna, who finished fourth in Fernie.
“We were both tied with 670 points and because I got a better placing in the last race of the season, it just put me over him.”
Seven Summits Gravity Racers competed in six stops of the BC Cup Downhill circuit and the top-five results went towards the points tally for the overall title. Bjarnason improved steadily throughout the season. After opening with a 12th place finish at Race the Ranch in Kamloops, the second-year rider finished no lower than eighth in the remaining five races, and captured third place at the Canadian National Downhill Championship at Sun Peaks last month.
Coaching and training has been an important factor in SSGR team’s success, and support from the parents also goes a long way, says Bjarnason.
“I have been training a little more, being more focused, and not wiping out and having a clean run makes it a lot easier,” said Bjarnason. “But Ryan Kuhn is a great coach, and training with Andrew van der Ham at Elevate Fitness really helped a lot too.”
As for his dad, Shane Bjarnason, who acted as J.T.’s support crew and mechanic during the season, the experience was almost as thrilling.
“As a parent it was sure cool watching the boys continually progress their riding skills throughout the riding season and watching their confidence grow with each race,” said Shane.
SSGR’s Logan Merringer placed fifth overall in U17 Sport, and Frye came sixth overall in the U17 Expert category, while Rossland rider Isabelle Desmarais captured gold in Sunday’s race in the 30+ women’s category.
In Elite Men, Whistler’s Chris Kovarik claimed first and won the overall title edging out Kirk McDowall, while Claire Buchar claimed top spot in all around women’s Elite.
The SSGR team wants to thank Ryan Kuhn, Eric Goss, Ian and Natasha Lockey, Mountain Shuttles, Ian Finke, and sponsors Teck, Revolution Cycles and Service, Gerick Sports Trail, Kootenay Savings, Nelson and District Credit Union, Ferraro Foods, Interior Signs and to all others who helped make this a successful season.