Talk about making a good first impression.
Competing in his first-ever world championship event – and only his second international competition of any kind – South Surrey mountain biker Elliot Jamieson found his way onto the podium, placing third in the junior downhill competition at 2018 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships last weekend in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
“I’m so happy. It was crazy – I was just super happy to have the opportunity to go, and then to finish third, I was over the moon,” the 17-year-old Earl Marriott Secondary student told Peace Arch News Friday.
“All the other competitors – even the other Canadian downhillers – hadn’t really heard of me before because I hadn’t done many of the races, so it was cool to surprise people a little bit.”
Prior to his world championship performance, Jamieson was third at Canadian national championships – a showing that earned him his invite to worlds in the first place – and he also had a sixth place finish at a World Cup event last month in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que.
Though he is an avid mountain biker – competing in cross-country and other types of races – the downhill event is not one he has always focused on, having competed in the discipline only a handful of times prior to this summer.
“I’ve done a bit here and there, but mostly raced other events. They’re all sort of unique and different from each other, but really, if you have the skills in one discipline, it can transfer to another,” he said.
“But there were a lot of guys there with a lot more experience, and a lot of them have pretty amazing support, where bike companies sponsor them and pay them to race around the world on the full World Cup circuit. I didn’t really expect this result, but it’s totally given me a boost of confidence.”
His bronze medal in Switzerland was more impressive considering he didn’t even have any of his own gear in the days leading up to Sunday’s race, and instead had to rely on the kindness of fellow competitors in order to suit up for practice runs down the track.
“I’d lost my bag with all my riding gear in it. It didn’t arrive in Switzerland, so for the first few days, I had to borrow gear from people. It was pretty much everything – my shoes, my pads, all my clothes. All I had was my helmet and goggles, and the bike itself,” he explained.
“Thankfully it showed up about a day-and-a-bit before (Sunday’s race), but I was nervous, not knowing if it was going to show up.
“Just a bit of adversity… keeps you on your toes, I guess.”
Heading into the competition, Jamieson said his goal was to finish in the top 10, but knew the competition would be fierce. Because he had less World Cup points than many of his fellow riders, he was the 38th racer to compete out of 75, with all the higher-ranked riders still to follow.
After his run, he found himself in first place, and his top placing lasted until the final five competitors – “They’re the fastest guys in the world,” Jamieson said – were set to drop into the course.
Two of the final five beat Jamieson’s time, but two did not – including the fourth-place finisher, who had five World Cup victories in 2018 under his belt – leaving Peninsula teen in third spot.
Watching and waiting was harder than actually racing, Jamieson said.
“Before my run, I was really calm. I just wanted to put down the best run I could, but once you do it, and you’re down there sitting in the hot seat waiting, you start to get a bit antsy,” he said.
“You know you’ve done your best, but now you just watch… I was definitely more nervous at the bottom (of the hill) than I was at the top, which is probably the opposite of most people.”
Now, the next step for Jamieson – once he graduates high school at the end of the current winter semester – is to join the World Cup circuit on a more consistent basis. He paid for the Switzerland journey through a GoFundMe campaign, but hopes his success will lead to sponsorship opportunities as is the case for many of the circuit’s top racers.
“That’s the next step, for sure. My goal next year is to get to that level… it’s really motivated me this offseason to train really hard and come super prepared for next year so I can get some more podiums.”