By Mackenzie Myatt
The Kentville Canada Cup on August 18th was a special race. It was the first time I have raced in Nova Scotia all year, so it was the only time my family and wonderfully supportive cycling community could see me in action. I spend so much time away racing with a very tight-knit support system that I forget how big racing is at home. There’s nothing like a home-crowd and I can’t stress that enough. It felt like everyone who watched me grow up racing was out cheering.
It takes a lot of work to prepare a national calibre event, thanks to the organizers TrailFlow NS and The Town of Kentville— it went off without a hitch. The importance of an event like this in Nova Scotia can’t be overstated— it gives up-and-coming riders a great training ground for skills development in it’s inclusion of man-made “features”, like jumps and drops. I had to learn these skills when I encountered them at big races away.
TrailFlow NS— a trail-building company— has done a beautiful job re-vamping a classic, natural cross-country race course into a trail that is easily on par with world-class tracks. It even held up to a surprise barrage of rain on race day, making for some treacherous conditions. Riders were covered head to toe in mud and drenched, but it didn’t slow them down much. People who came out to cheer were well-rewarded with a show. You could feel the energy thriving, whether the noise was a compliment for completing a feature or floating over a nasty root section. Sometimes the best cheers come from the recovery after a crash. It’s how many times you get up, no matter how many you fall, right? Right?
It was a smaller Elite Women’s field than usual because many of Canada’s top riders were just returning from Europe, but the competition was no joke. It was an honour to be on the line next to Haley Smith, native to Ontario and a professional rider for Norco Factory Team. She claimed her first Elite World Cup podium earlier this year in Czech Republic and is on the brink of selection for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It’s a real treat to be able to test yourself against someone you aspire to follow. Mountain bike races start with a sprint from standing off the line. Whoever is first off the line- leading that sprint- “wins” the hole shot. By no means do you win the race, but it is a source of pride for every rider. On Sunday, it was mine. It means I’m headed in the right direction.
My main competition was the other U23 rider, Marianne Théberge from Québec. We raced wheel to wheel for consecutive podium spots at Nationals in July and will both be representing Canada at World Championships on the last weekend of August.
Kentville Canada Cup was an important mental recharge and race tune-up for me. Some familiar faces are travelling to Quebec with their noise-makers to cheer on myself and fellow Nova Scotian, Andrew L’Esperance (Norco Factory Team) in Elite men. We definitely cherish the energy we find at home, and will be bringing the memory of Kentville to the biggest race of the year. How can you not? I’m just so grateful for the support I felt this past weekend. The more people you can bring into your dream to live it with you, the better.