Racing to the Finish with Adam Walker, Pro Mountain Biker & Canada Cup ChampionFebruary 24, 2017
This coming weekend, spectators, up-and-coming athletes, and Olympians will head to Bear Mountain for an epic weekend of competition and fun. From March 4-5, Bear Mountain will host the much-anticipated UCI Canada Cup XCO #1 and Bear Mountain Bike Festival presented by McDonald’s. This year’s event will be one to remember, especially for pro mountain biker and Canada Cup Champion, Adam Walker.
Adam is an eight-time Alberta and BC Provincial Champion in Road, Criterium, Time Trial, Hill Climb, XC, and MTB. Adam competed in the World Cup and has raced all across Europe and North America as a member of the National Mountain Bike Team. He also holds a national title in road racing in the 100 Kilometer Team Time Trial, and in 1998, he won the Canada Cup XCO Overall. As owner and Head Coach of The Cycling Co., Adam is busy coaching athletes of all ages in mountain biking camps and clinics at Bear Mountain.
We caught up with Adam to chat about his cycling career, the upcoming Canada Cup Race, and what it feels like to pass the torch to the next generation of athletes.
How did it feel to win the Canada Cup? What was going through your mind as you crossed the finish line?
I feel really proud of that accomplishment. Crossing the finish line first is always an incredible feeling, usually somewhere between elation and complete exhaustion. There were years of preparation leading up to that moment, and it was pretty surreal to see all that hard work pay off. Of course, I couldn’t have done it without the help of my coaches and other supporters. As they say, it takes a whole village.
Tell us about your cycling career. Why mountain biking?
I have a vague memory of my first ride without the training wheels on, where I bit the dirt pretty hard on the driveway. Jumping ahead a few years, I started riding through an athletic program at school. I got to do some really cool sports, like backcountry skiing, rock climbing, backpacking, and cycling. We did a ride every year from Jasper to Calgary, which was around 400 kilometers. That’s a pretty big trip, especially for a 12-year-old. I fell in love with the cycling component of the program. A few years later, I decided I wanted to take it to another level. That’s when I got serious about cycling.
How does it feel to pass the torch to the next generation of athletes?
After taking a break from competing, I realized how much the sport had shaped me. That’s when I decided that I wanted to start coaching. Coaching is really rewarding. My nephew came out to a mountain biking camp at Bear Mountain last summer, and it was amazing to see him nail his first log ride. I’ve been lucky enough to turn my love of cycling into a career, and I feel like it’s my duty to give back and share the sport that’s given me so much.
Whether someone cycles competitively or just for fun, biking is as much of a life skill as it is a sport. Cycling is a form of transportation and recreation. It’s great to see this generation get back into cycling. Once you have that skill, once you learn how to ride, you can do it forever.
Photo by Kevin Light
What’s it like to live and work at Bear Mountain?
I’m proud to see what’s happened over the last few years at Bear Mountain. We have the Canadian National Mountain Bike Team here right now, and it’s awesome to see the next generation of riders ripping around on the trails. In all my coaching programs, I try to do things in a controlled environment. That’s why Bear Mountain is so great. We have a jump park and lots of trails that were designed specifically for mountain biking.
Bear Mountain also has a recreation center with a pool and a lounge in the Westin Hotel. You can get a massage at Sante Spa, or relax on the patio and eat a burger after a day of riding. There’s also a bike shop on-site, so if you need repairs or gear, you’re covered. These amenities don’t exist at other cycling facilities.
Will we see you at the Canada Cup Race this year? Any competitors to keep an eye on?
Being a Canada Cup Champion and having Canada Cup in my backyard is so surreal to me. The start line is at the end of my street, which is literally 100 meters from my front door. You’ll definitely see me there. As far as competitors go, people should keep an eye on our male and female Olympians, who will be some of the race favourites.
Olympic Bronze Medallist Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team) will race as defending champion. On the men’s side, 2016 Olympian Raph Gagne (Cannondale 3Rox) and Multi-Time National Champion and Olympian Geoff Kabush (Scott) are two to watch. There are also some incredible up-and-coming riders, like Haley Smith (Norco), who trained here in Victoria. She’s certainly one to watch as well. On the junior men’s side, Max McCullough (Bear Mountain/Rumble/NOBL Wheels), is making a name for himself. Other big-name competitors include Pan Am Gold Medalist Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing-Redbull), Andrew L’esperance (Forward Racing-Norco), and Evan Guthrie (OTE-Pivot Cycles).
What’s new and exciting about this year’s race?
The Canada Cup XCO #1 happens alongside the Bear Mountain Bike Festival, which is a fantastic event. At the race on Saturday, people will get an up-close look at top athletes competing for the Cup. These are some of the best athletes in the country, and spectators will be incredibly close to them on the trail as they ride by. It’s really inspiring to see riders at that level. This is one of those rare events where you get to see Olympic athletes without paying an admission fee.
There are recreational cycling categories as well. Competitors will ride the same course as the Olympians, but fewer laps. On Sunday, there’s the Rocky Mountain Enduro corporate challenge, and that’s a fun format too. There’s also a Trek Tyke Bike Ride with Champions, where kids get to ride with our Olympians. There’s a lot going on next weekend. It’s going to be an exciting time at Bear Mountain between March 4-5.
Head to Bear Mountain this weekend for one of the most anticipated and exciting cycling events on Vancouver Island. If you wish to compete in one of the recreational categories, be sure to register by March 2, 2017. Day of registration will be available.