La Belle Province has been home-away-from-home for Courtenay downhill mountain biker Simon Garstin this summer.
Garstin is just back from Quebec, where for five consecutive weekends he was racing against the sport's creme de la creme. The hard-riding 19-year-old posted some impressive results and is now preparing for next month's world championships.
Garstin and his Lama Cycles teammates were in Bromont on July 4-5 for a Canada Cup race. “That first one didn't go very well. I just had a bad race and ended up 16th overall (in Elite Men),” Garstin said.
The next weekend was the third round of the Quebec Cup series at Mont Saint-Anne, where top riders such as two-time world champ Sam Hill were checking out the course in preparation for an upcoming World Cup race. “That kind of raised the competition racing against them,” said Garstin.
Despite spinning out in a tight corner and having to remount, Garstin finished fourth overall and was the top Canadian. “I was happy (with the result) because I was on pace (with the top riders),” said Garstin.
On July 16-19 the Lama team was up in the mountains at Massif du Sud for the Nationals, where Garstin posted a personal best second-place finish. “The course suited me. You left the start then just held on. It was really technical with lots of corners.
“I knew I could win, but it wouldn't be easy. That definitely made me ride better. I haven't wanted to win a race that badly,” said Garstin, who finished a mere second-and-a-half behind the winner. “That was a pretty good result. But the difference between first and second is, if you're first you're national champion; if you're second nobody remembers you.”
On July 25-26 Garstin was back at Mont Saint-Anne for his first World Cup race. “It was very competitive. Basically everybody's fast and at the same level. I ended up qualifying 71st (out of 170 riders, the top 80 qualify). Garstin figured a top-40 finish was “definitely doable” and was going “pretty good” on his final run until he hit a hole and the fork on his bike snapped. “That sucked,” Garstin said of the no-finish.
The World Cup series shifted to Bromont on Aug. 1-2, and Garstin said he had an average run in qualifying but ended up 86th and did not make it to the final. “That was kind of disappointing. Obviously I wanted to do well and get in the top 40, but I didn't have very good runs unfortunately. But it was definitely a good learning experience.”
Garstin said a friend who rides at the same level as himself, and whom he usually beats, finished 34th in Bromont. “So (top 40) is definitely within my capabilities.”
Now that he's back in the Valley, Garstin will be training on Mount Washington in preparation for a trip with the Canadian national team to the world championships, Sept. 1-6 in Canberra, Australia.
Garstin said a top-30 finish in Canberra would cap a solid season that so far has been highlighted by his performances at the Quebec Cup and Nationals. “I'd like to thank my team, Lama Cycles/Morewood, as well as the Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society, Brian McLean Chevrolet, Theme Gardens Landscaping, Comox Valley Fitness and Margot Rutherford Notary,” he added.