Before this year’s downhill mountain biking season had even begun, St. John’s native Matt Beer was thinking about scaling back on his race schedule for 2013.
“I’m going on 26 now, and I’d like to finish up with school. I didn’t necessarily want to slow down, but maybe only do Canadian races next year,” Beer says,.
That was until he made history by posting the best time in the elite men’s category at the Canadian downhill mountain biking championships at Mont Sainte Anne, Que., this past weekend. That makes him the first Newfoundlander to be crowned a national champion in the sport.
“I knew I could do well, but it’s never a guarantee in downhill because you could get a flat, have a crash or have a small mistake and lose time in your final run,” Beer says of his championship effort, timed at four minutes and 30.267 seconds down a nearly three-kilometre course.
“At the top, I felt pretty confident. I knew who the competition was and I knew it would be a tight, but I just wanted to ride my bike and keep doing what I’ve been doing this year.”
What Beer has been doing this year is continually improving his stock on the international downhill scene with a number of good finishes at International Cycling Union (UCI) Mountain Bike World Cup events.
In June, he posted a career-best 27th at Val di Sole in Italy, finished 61st at the Fort William in Scotland, placed 37th at a third stop at Mont Sainte Anne and had a 44th-place finish at an event in Windham, N.Y. In each case, he was the second Canadian finisher behind veteran downhiller Steve Smith, who is ranked sixth internationally.
Beer is ranked 85th internationally and 45th on the World Cup tour.
“Inside the top 50 is great,” he says. “I’d be pretty happy with that at the end of the season if I can maintain it, but a top 40 would be great, too.”
The higher the ranking, the better the chance Beer has of making his way on to a UCI trade team next season. Being on a trade team essentially pays a rider to train and race full-time while being supported by coaches and bike mechanics.
“Being national champ does show you’re at the top of your game in the country, but Canada and the U.S. are not on the same level as Europe in terms of cycling,” he notes.
“To make a UCI trade team, they’re looking (at rankings) from all the World Cups.”
Rather than compete in the final stop of the Canadian downhill tour at Panorama, B.C., Beer will head back Europe the end of July to compete in his fifth World Tour event, this one Val d'Isèr, France. After that, he’ll join the Canadian national team at the world championships in Austria in early September.
“I guess the results have shown that with the support of everyone, friends and family who keep saying to go on, I can’t slow down at this point,” Beer says.