CANMORE – Canmore's a front-runner to host an international-level mountain bike race with all parties seemingly on-board after preliminary discussions.
Cycling Canada and the Alberta Mountain Bike Race Association (AMBRA) are working on locking in the mountain town to host a Continental Cup event in 2023 that will tentatively feature a six-race series in Canada and the United States with Canmore capping off the circuit in June of that year, said Ron Sadesky, president of AMBRA.
“What we’ve said to [Cycling Canada] is ‘yes, we’ll run an HC category race,’ which is one level below World Cup, so any racer that isn’t in the World Cup circuit and in North America would come to our race,” said Sadesky.
“Bringing an international race to Canmore – we get the cross-country ski, [alpine, and biathlon] stuff, but I’m pretty excited for an international bike race here.”
Cycling Canada confirmed there have been discussions with AMBRA to apply in March 2022 for the high-calibre race, which would attract elite riders – perhaps even from the World Cup depending on scheduling – due to its importance in world rankings.
In 1999, the mountain bike world cup came to Canmore during what was a rainy, muddy and freakishly cold competition in early July. The competitive international racing scene has since been absent.
Sadesky said continuing to bring in high-level of competition to Canmore, such as the upcoming Canada Cup from Oct. 1-3 at the Canmore Nordic Centre, is necessary to grow and get exposure opportunities to local and provincial riders.
One concern Alberta’s mountain biking community is seeing, especially on a local level, are athletes dropping out of the sport in their teen years.
“You see that drop off in 16 to 17 year olds and part of it is kids get other interests and part of it is costs,” said Sadesky. “It seems that some clubs [throughout the province] aren’t focusing on training and putting on these races.”
To help counteract the drop off, local club Rundle Mountain Cycling Club recently started Bike HerO, a program focused on exposing young girls to a wider varieties of biking such as enduro, cross-country, track and cyclo-cross.
At AMBRA, the local group started a youth scholarship where riders apply for funding to help with costs of travel and equipment. This past year, $8,000 was handed out to seven Alberta riders, including locals Logan Sadesky, Jack Menzies, Jacob Baggot and Eric Oulette.
Sidney McGill, Ella Myers and Ryder Knoll also were recipients.
“We decided this was an important thing,” said Sadesky. “When you look at across the country and Ontario and Quebec have so many athletes and there are so many athletes at all the races and we don’t have the same kind of funding here in Alberta.”
The local race schedule in Canmore this summer and fall includes the Ziggy Gnarly from Aug. 28-29; the Drie Zussen Super Prestige from Sept. 25-26; and the Canada Cup XCO and XCC from Oct. 1-3.