KENTVILLE, N.S. – The Gorge is on the map as a Canadian cycling destination worthy of putting elite mountain bikers to the test.
Racers from throughout the country converged at the cross-country course for the Kentville Canada Cup Aug. 4-5.
“Any time we have this much activity in town it’s a good thing,” said Lindsay Young, community and economic development co-ordinator for the Town of Kentville.
“People are coming from all over Canada and getting to experience The Gorge, our trails, the event itself (and) the town.”
Roughly 140 racers signed on as of Saturday morning, with registration remaining open into the following day.
“We’re hearing really positive feedback about the course,” said Young, commending the design team at TrailFlow Outdoor Adventures for a job well done.
“Riders from all across the country are telling us that this is an awesome course. We’re really proud.”
Kentville is in line to host another Canada Cup event next year, and Young said the potential is there to make the event an annual occurrence as the course continues to gain exposure.
World Cup series racer Mackenzie Myatt, 20, participated in the Kentville Canada Cup to show support for the cycling scene in her home province. The Gorge was the only stop for the national series in Atlantic Canada this summer. Nova Scotia last hosted a Canada Cup Series race in 2002, according to Bicycle Nova Scotia.
International racers in attendance
World Cup series racer Mackenzie Myatt, originally from Musquodoboit Harbour, was happy to have a chance to return to The Gorge.
“I actually went to check it out last week and I’m really impressed with what Ryan at TrailFlow has done for the course. He’s done a lot of work,” the 20-year-old said in a brief phone interview.
Myatt, an aspiring Olympian who has qualified for the upcoming world championships in Switzerland in September, registered for the Kentville Canada Cup to show her support for the event and get some training in between series races.
“I’ve been racing world cups all season and I have a world cup the weekend after this. It’s definitely awesome to have a national series race in Nova Scotia,” she said.
“I think one of the reasons it’s so special to have a Canada Cup there is because that’s one of the courses I grew up racing on in Nova Scotia.”
Pro racer Andrew L’Esperance aims for podium in every race, and the Kentville Canada Cup was no different. The 27-year-old hailing from Halifax has more than ten years of national racing under his belt and five years of international racing.
“I’m looking forward to having a national series race, the Canada Cup, in my home province… and welcoming all of the competitors across the country,” he said in an interview prior to his race, the elite competition, held Aug. 5.
“I know the course well, and I know the terrain well, and I’ll have friends and family out cheering.”
The Gorge has a variety of technical features, drops, jumps, climbing and flowy sections to challenge riders of all skill levels, he added.
“Mountain biking is a pretty fun sport. It’s also a tough sport. When you’re having a good day during the race not a whole lot is going through your head, and you’re just sort of doing it, and it’s a good feeling.”
While the international circuit is his primary focus, L’Esperance was looking forward to showing visiting cyclists around and mixing with fellow mountain biking enthusiasts from Nova Scotia at the Kentville Canada Cup.
“That’s a big thing about the Canada Cup coming out east, it gives these young athletes a look at what a national level race is like, and to be able to do that pretty close to home is special.”
Locals racing with the pros
John VanLuxemborg, a member of the provincial high-performance youth team, was thrilled to have a chance to race amongst professional athletes in his hometown.
“There’s just so many people and they’re all incredibly good and talented,” he said.
“It’s really cool to be able to see how you compare to people who were placing Top 50 in the world.”
The 17-year-old Northeast Kings Education Centre student rode in his first national race in 2016, but generally has to travel 13-plus hours to compete in higher level events.
“It’s definitely a nice edge to have to be able to ride The Gorge whenever I want to. I’ve been there almost every day for the past week or so,” he said.
“It’s incredible. The course is the best it’s ever been.”
VanLuxemborg was proud to participate in the Kentville Canada Cup as a show of support for the cycling scene in Nova Scotia.
“It’s definitely something that we should keep going because it’s a privilege to be able to have one of these races so close to home.”