The first Canada Cup 2018 race will kick off at Bear Mountain this weekend.
It’s the third annual Bear Mountain Bike Fest and it’s also the third race Team Canada and Norco Factory Racing rider, Haley Smith, has competed in on the local mountain.
Smith, an Ontario native, has called Victoria home for about five months of the year since 2014. It was the first year she left Ontario to train with the national team, and she spent the first month training in Arizona and was supposed to complete the next two months in Utah, but their accommodations fell through.
The team had two options, to go back to their respective homes and train or stay together and find a new location. Dan Proulx, head coach of the Canadian Mountain Bike Team, suggested the team come to Victoria and train, so they did.
The West Shore is Smith’s favourite place to train, as she is able to be outside year round. She likes the fact that she can still train in Canada, which makes her feel at home.
“I spend a lot of time on MLS,” Smith said with a laugh, adding she sends her parents links for houses she would love to buy on the West Shore.
Her dad is a mountain biker and her older brother Tavis was on his high school team. Tavis noted there weren’t many girls racing and that the team would have a better shot at the championships if they had a girl on the team, so he told Smith – who was in Grade 7 – she could get a day off of school if she raced. He took her out riding a couple of times before the provincial championships and that was her introduction to the sport.
As far as she has come in the last five years as a mountain biker, she gives a lot of credit to Proulx, that he has empowered her and gave her confidence.
“I’m the rider I am because of Dan, he’s helped me in so many ways, apart from technical coaching, he has spent the last five years helping me cultivate belief in myself,” she said.
Technically, Proulx said Smith has had to improve on skill in her gap jumps, but that she’s got a world class engine, and what sets her apart is her work ethic and attention to detail.
Smith isn’t a stranger to challenges, she spent the summer of 2008 in the hospital after suffering from the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. She said sports helped her through that tough time and to this day believes she would feel lost if she didn’t have mountain biking. The sport teaches life lessons, she said, learning to overcome, setting goals, having purpose, all things important for mental health.
“Mountain biking has built me up over the last eight years,” Smith said. “I’m more optimistic, in that even when I’ve failed, I’ve been able to bounce back, I’m more resilient.”
For the upcoming Cup ride, she doesn’t necessarily feel like she has an advantage over her competitors across the country because the riders are so skilled that they are able to nail a course within a day or two, she said.
It’s a quick turnaround for Smith after the Cup race, she’s headed to her first Commonwealth Games in Australia, which starts April 4.