On Sept. 1, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec hosted the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Mountain Bike World Championships. The competition was a downhill race of historic proportions for riders, the sport, and Quebec alike.
For the uninitiated, downhill mountain bike racing consists of athletes riding full-suspension mountain bikes down intense, three-to-five minute tracks that reach top speeds of 80 km/hr, includes over 40 foot jumps, 10-foot drops, and an assortment of roots, rocks, and other obstacles.
The Mont-Sainte-Anne track is one of the longest, fastest, and most challenging in the world, a far cry from where the sport first started in the region. The original Mont-Sainte-Anne course was little more than a dirt access road. 27 years later Mont-Sainte-Anne boasts a beautiful track and plays host to World Cup races, making it the oldest downhill racetrack on the professional circuit.
This year’s race marked the 30th World Championships and the first time the event has been held three times at the same venue. This is a prestigious honour that is indicative of the respect that riders, fans, and organizers alike hold for the course at Mont-Sainte-Anne.
While there are World Cup races throughout the summer racing season, there is only one World Championship race. This is because, for this single event, riders remove their sponsored team jerseys and instead wear the colours of their home country. National federations select riders to represent their country, which makes the World Championships especially competitive as does the honour of donning the World Championship rainbow-striped jersey in future races.
Entering the 2019 World Championships, many expected the women’s competition to be a contest between France’s Marine Cabirou and Australia’s Tracey Hannah, as the two have battled back and forth throughout the season. However, the pair only managed to come third and fourth, respectively. Instead, it was Myriam Nicole, another French rider, who unexpectedly came down the course ahead of her closest competition by a margin of 1.2 seconds. This marks Nicole’s first ever win on the world stage.
On the men’s side, French rider Loic Bruni was the favourite, with victories in three of the last four World Championship races, as well as six podium finishes already this season. For this race, he did not disappoint. Bruni crossed the finish line just 0.581 seconds ahead of Australian Troy Brosnan to complete the sweep for France, crushing the Australian’s hopes for a first World Championship win.
Despite Canada’s top riders placing only seventh and eighth respectively in the men’s and women’s competition, thanks to the valiant efforts of Finn Iles and Vaea Verbeeck, this year’s race in Mont-Sainte-Anne still held special significance for the host nation. The race honoured the memory of the first Canadian to ever win the World Cup overall championship, Stevie Smith, who passed away in 2016 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. In his honour, members of the Canadian team rode custom-painted bikes, and the course organizers made sure to feature the “Stevie Smith drop”—one of the track’s most eye-catching features—as a testament to the legendary rider.
With another successful competition completed, fans of mountain biking in Quebec can look forward to next season, when the Mont-Sainte-Anne race is all but certain to continue making history in its 28th year on the professional circuit. And, with young athletes like Verbeeck and Iles on the heels of the world’s best, Canadians may soon see their flag wave again from atop the podium.