The natural and raw beauty of Whistler’s Creekside served as a fitting backdrop for an exhilarating showdown at the RockShox Canadian Open DH race. Packed with jumps, fresh roots, steep technical sections, and some good old-fashioned Canadian freeride moves, this heart-stopping event saw top international riders and skilled locals battling it out against the clock on one of Whistler’s newest and gnarliest tracks.
Named “1199” in honour of the late and legendary Canadian DH talent, Stevie Smith, (who earned 1199 points during his historic 2013 World Cup overall title) the course was a fitting tribute to his legacy. The track, designed by the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, offered a wild and white-knuckle experience for racers.
Featuring three massive drops, steep sections, and multiple line choices, the “1199” trail was a testament to Smith’s penchant for challenging and physically demanding tracks. Starting near the top of the Creekside gondola and spanning approximately 2.5 kilometers with a 500-meter descent, the course concluded just above the Creekside Village in an area known as the Timing Flats.
The race was filled with emotional moments as riders paid homage to Smith’s impact on Canadian downhill mountain biking. Second place finisher, Mark Wallace, expressed his joy in putting down a run he could be proud of on a track dedicated to Smith. He recalled how Stevie had been an inspiration and mentor to him during his early racing days, shaping his approach to the sport.
“I’m really happy to put down a run I can be proud of, on a track in his memory. And on a track that I think he would have been really excited to race. He preferred the more difficult tracks, more technically challenging that you really had to send it,” said Wallace.
Wallace paid homage to Stevie’s legacy, finding inspiration in what can be achieved from a fellow small town Vancouver Island native.
“I credit me being here, even still, largely to him. When I was 16, wanting to race, he kind of showed me the way. I’ve tried to remember the things that he taught me, because it obviously worked out well for him. He would be so excited to go send it down this track, I just gave it my best and tried to do something similar.”
Taking home the top spot, narrowly edging his fellow Canadian (Wallace), Jake Jewett spoke fondly of watching Stevie as a young kid and wanting to perform well in this race to honour the late Canadian DH icon. He acknowledged Stevie’s role in elevating Canadian riders’ skills and competitiveness in downhill mountain biking.
“I was lucky enough to meet him a handful of times when I was younger. I watched Stevie a lot as a young kid at Mont-Sainte-Anne and stuff, I really wanted to do good at this race. For me and my brother to both get first in our categories, can’t think of a much better day,” said Jewett.
The Squamish local reflected on what it means to be a part of a new wave of riders enjoying the fruits of Smith’s labour, riding a path forged by the late Canadian downhill legend.
“Not only me, but the next generation of Canadians coming up. You’re seeing that Canadians are really becoming a threat in downhill and I think it’s all because of him,” said Jewett.
Even Austrian Valentina Höll acknowledged the significance of being a part of the tribute event, despite not having met Stevie in person. She admired the impact he had on the Canadian mountain biking community and found the challenging “1199” trail a testament to his prowess as a rider.
“It’s an honour to be a part of this kind of stuff even though I didn’t get to meet Stevie in person,” said Höll,”
“To see the Canadians following in his footsteps and to see what he did for the Canadian kids is amazing! The track definitely shows you how gnarly Stevie Smith was as a rider, because it’s super full on, it’s so hard, but it’s also really Canadian.”
Despite navigating what is widely considered to be one of the most challenging downhill race tracks in Canada, Höll managed to pull together a historic run that saw the Austrian superstar dominate the women’s Elite field by over 20 seconds.