ORO-MEDONTE TWP. — The top mountain bikers in the country descended on Hardwood Ski and Bike on Saturday for a chance to be one of the best in the nation.
The 2019 XCO MTB Canadian Championships is being held at Hardwood all weekend with the premier cross-country mountain bikers vying for the national championship.
Event organizer Glenn Meeuwisse told BarrieToday that approximately 600 riders are competing at Oro-Medonte’s outdoor track and hoping to win prize money, but more importantly the national title.
“The best Canadians are here hoping for a national title as well as some of the best from around the world here as well,” said Meeuwisse. “It’s a hard track with many hills that we’ve become famous for and everyone who rides here really praises what Hardwood provides.”
Saturday was the championship category for the top riders and Sunday is reserved for the challenge category, which is held for the more up-and-coming competitors.
Both events bring in huge numbers for tourism, which is another win for the event.
“We’ll have about 2,000 spectators here just (Saturday) because of the tons of promotion that was put out,” said Meeuwisse.
“The people who know and love mountain biking know this is their chance to see the people you usually only watch on TV," he added. "The athletes are super fan-friendly and love to meet the people who support the competition.”
This weekend’s competition is crucial for the standings, but next year has added pressure for the cyclists as it could mean representing the nation at the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
“We have these championships here this year and next year this is one of the selections and qualification races for the Olympics, so top racers here next year could be the ones you’re cheering at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games,” Meeuwisse said. “It is definitely a big deal to the athletes and their supporters.”
Jeremie La Grenade came from Quebec to compete in the under-19 junior expert division. The 16-year-old placed seventh out of 35 riders and will be part of a relay event Sunday.
“I have been racing for about five years, three years more competitively," he said. “I enjoy it, it is very competitive, and I love the downhill’s the best, more exciting. I do try to go as fast as I can on the climbs uphill, so I can hit the downhill with more speed.
"You have to enjoy going fast in this sport.”
Kevin Trimbeau came from Petawawa, Ont., to see the competition and told BarrieToday he doesn’t miss a race if he can help it.
"I never raced in these competitions, but I’ve been cycling forever and I have so much respect for the athletes that do this,” Trimbeau said. “I watch them on TV when they are on and it really is like seeing your favourite hockey or baseball player in real life when you come to these events.”
The event continues Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hardwood Ski and Bike, which is located at 402 Old Barrie Rd. W., between Barrie and Orillia.