National Mountain Bike Champion Robin Horsfield persisted against adversity to finish 16th at the Canada Cup held in Whistler, BC.
The race, which is 'qualification only', featured top Canadian and US riders. The course on Blackcomb Mountain was a 4 km loop that included a 6 foot drop off, difficult descents, and over 4500' total of climbing in hot and dusty conditions. Multiple riders quit the race early due to the difficulty, with Peter Disera, pro mountain biker and former Canadian National Champion taking the win.
The field also included Michael van den Ham, Canadian Cyclocross Champion (given special permission to compete, eventually finishing 7th) and Robbie Day, who finished second at the 2021 USA National Championships, finishing 3rd.
Horsfield was crashed into after the drop on the first descent of the day, hitting the ground and bending his derailleur. This forced him 2 minutes back into the Junior World Series field, where he was again crashed in to by race leaders. "By the time Horsfield came back up the start finish area, half way into the first lap of six, he was already three minutes back," recalls Horsfield's long-time coach Mark Brown.
"While groups do not draft each other as they do in road biking it is critical to maintain contact with other riders to keep yourself riding fast and strong. Being three minutes back off the start and having to work through the junior field is an incredibly demoralizing feeling.
Frankly, many riders would quit their event at this point. Horsfield has proven, time and time again, that he is not a quitter and he showed that again today."
The impact of the slow start was seen in Horsfield's lap times, which, normally consistent, showed more than 19 minutes in the first lap, a 17 minute second lap as he worked with top junior riders, 18 minute third and fourth laps as he worked through a 'no man's land' alone, and then back to sub-seventeen and seventeen minute laps once he re-gained the men's field and passed multiple riders.
Two snapped chains at an event in Quebec in May, resulting in a forced DNF, caused Horsfield to change the look of his season. "That DNF means that I do not have the opportunity to rank in the top 20 at the Canada Cup series this year, which was a major seasonal goal. Due to flights and logistics we had already booked the western swing so I've used this race as a training race and chance to ride among North America's best again before I return to Ontario, where I am seeking to rank in the top 3 in the province" said Horsfield.
Horsfield will shift his focus to Ontario based events for the remainder of the season.
Brown adds, “Horsfield has a unique level of persistence that is seen in his continual improvement at the provincial and national level in mountain biking. There are, quite literally, hundreds of races where Horsfield could podium and win but he recognizes that continued development requires racing among those who are, as of now, stronger than him. We took this approach in the Fat Tire Massive series when he was a child - never letting him win more than once before moving him up categories until he spent over a year in the men's category working his way to the front.
This year he is certainly among the top 5 riders in Ontario, a province of 14 million people, and has proven that he can place in the top 20 in Canada. His persistence, shown acutely in this one race and over the years is what makes him a champion.
While we recognize Bermuda does not get to see him compete as often as we would all like I believe he will, if he continues this journey for another three to four years, put tiny Bermuda on the map in the sport of mountain biking - not just at a Caribbean level, but at a truly international level.
If Horsfield's sponsors could have stood with me on the mountain to see his determination they would know that their faith is well placed."