Two Rossland mountain bike riders will race against the world’s best after being selected to compete at the UCI World Cup Downhill Championships this weekend in Mont Sainte Anne, Que.
Keegan Fry and Logan Merringer clinched their qualification at the National Downhill Championship at Panorama last week and were selected by Cycling Canada on Monday to race for Team Canada.
“It was based heavily on the last race result, and both Logan and I made the cut so we’re going to race in the World Cup,” said Fry. “It’s going to be a good experience, being able to see the pace of all the pro guys.”
Fry finished fourth in Panorama, but leads the Junior Expert Men (17-18) category on the BC Downhill Cup circuit after finishing in the top four at the first five races, including a first-place finish at Sun Peaks last month, a second in Fernie, and third at Silver Star.
“It’s been a goal working towards the World Cup in Mont Ste. Anne since the start of the season,” said Fry. “I’ve been feeling pretty good, and it’s probably my most successful season to date.”
At 16, Merringer is one of the youngest riders in Junior Expert (17-18), but is not far behind Fry in points. Logan sits in third place overall after compiling top-six results in the five races this season, including a second place finish in Whistler to open the circuit.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Logan. “I didn’t really expect that I’d be going, at the beginning of the year, it wasn’t one of my goals. It’s just one of those things that kinda happened and when I found out I could go, I was like, ‘Alright let’s do it.’”
The two riders have competed in the BC Downhill Cup for three years with Fry winning the overall 2017 BC Cup Downhill title at Mt. Washington in UCI Jr. Expert Men (17-18) last year, and Merringer racing to first place at the 2017 Nationals in Panorama in U17 Sport category.
“I’m really happy the way the season has been going so far, and it’s all happening really fast, but I’m getting pretty excited for it,” added Logan. “I’m competing against 18 year olds, and I’m only 16 right now, and turning 17 later this year, so it’s not super common for a first year, Junior-Expert racer to get invited to a race like this.”
Fry’s and Merringer’s success is impressive, for when it comes to training for downhill events the Greater Trail riders are at a disadvantage. Unlike an increasing number of ski resorts, Red Mountain and White Water lack lift access for downhill tracks during the summer, giving riders from Whistler, the Okanagan and East Kootenay a distinct advantage over Greater Trail downhill racers.
Still, for Keegan and Logan, Rossland has no shortage of area trails to tackle and the two also spend a lot of time in the gym in order to compete.
“As far as actual bike riding preparation goes, it’s really just getting out there pretty much every day and whether it’s spending time at the pump track, or just riding enduro,” said Merringer. “It doesn’t have to be all downhill, any time on the bike is really good.”
Mont Sainte Anne is renowned as one of the top courses on the World Cup tour, and its most physically challenging. Competitors start at the top, and descend a 2.9-km course rife with tree roots, bumps, jumps, and a myriad of other natural obstacles, with an average speed of about 4o km/hr, and less than four minutes of downhill action – if you make it.
World Cup racers will complete training runs on Thursday and Friday morning, with the qualifying runs going Friday afternoon, followed by the finals on Saturday.
“We’re going to see a lot of fast guys,” said Keegan. “For example, they have I think 80 Juniors and only 20 make the cut to the finals. So not only do you have to qualify to get there, but to even race, you have to be in the fastest group.”
The World Cup will be the first for both riders, and for Keegan, his focus is firmly on the race and how to attack the precipitous course.
“From people I’ve talked to and have raced World Cup, you really have to push it in your qualifying, but the whole time you’re thinking about if you crash when you’re pushing it that hard, the whole thing is for nought,” said Keegan. “You want to push it, but not push it too hard where you’re riding the line and crashing.”
The World Cup race will take their respective games to another level, and also provide the riders with valuable experience. In addition to competing, Fry and Merringer will also have the opportunity to watch the top senior male and female riders in the world plummet down the Mont Sainte Anne track.
“I think it’s going to be really crazy, how the World Cup elite guys, my idols that I’ve watched since I was a little kid, are going to be there,” said Logan. “Yet, to see them in action and ride the same track as them, just feeding off them as well, watching what they’re doing and seeing how real professionals operate on a race weekend is going to be also super cool for me and important to my riding.”
And the World Cup, an experience they’ll want to repeat over and over again.
“It definitely would be good to go just to have the experience, but also I really want to qualify,” said Keegan. “Anytime you go into a race you want to be there to compete.”