Rossland native Keegan Fry thought competing in the ICU World Cup Downhill in Mont Ste. Anne, Que. earlier this month would be the highlight of his mountain biking year, but that was just a warm up.
Fry is headed to the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland Sept. 5-9, after being selected by Cycling Canada to race with Team Canada this week.
“We’re really excited about this year’s team,” Dan Proulx, Mountain Bike Head Coach at Cycling Canada, said in a release. “It’s a nice mix of rookies and experienced riders. We have a good team dynamic in this group already, which will certainly help us create an environment that is conducive to personal best performances. We hope to build off the momentum we had at last year’s World Championships in Australia.”
Fry won the Junior Expert Men BC Cup Downhill last year, and leads it again this year, after finishing fourth in Panorama at the Downhill Nationals July 29. Yet, he thought he had missed the cut when he didn’t hear from the national cycling organization on selection day.
“I was pretty excited about it because they (Cycling Canada) were suppose to send the email out on the Tuesday that week, and I didn’t get anything that day so I was feeling pretty upset about it,” explained Fry. “And then the next morning I got the email, so they were just one day late sending out the selection email.”
The Revolution Cycle sponsored rider has had another good year of racing and was selected to compete in the World Cup at Mont Ste. Anne earlier this month. Despite an up-and-down experience at the World Cup, where Keegan just missed the finals after crashing in his qualifying heat, his results over the season put him among the top Junior riders in Canada — and he considers the World Cup race a valuable learning experience.
“Looking back at the split times I started the run off at a pretty reasonable pace, and then I dialled it up too much,” said Keegan. “I felt like I wasn’t going fast enough, like I didn’t have the pace. So because I dialled the pace up too much, I crashed. Now I know my pace is fine, and I can compete with those guys without having to really push it.”
Forty-four of Canada’s top cross-country and downhill riders will attend the World Championships that will see over 700 competitors from over 50 countries compete. It’s Fry’s first trip to Switzerland and to the World Championships, so his expectations are understandably modest. He is one of seven DH Canadian Junior Men’s riders invited to race against the world’s best.
“Any country that has a national team sends a big team, so I just want to finish in the top 50 would be a great result for me,” said Keegan. “I just want to be really happy with my run, and if I’m happy with my run then it’s going to be a good result.”
The Lenzerheide downhill track’s STRAIGHT-line was planned and built by Trailworks, in collaboration with downhill legend Steve Peat. The 2.5-km track is fast with technical key points and spectacular jumps including spectator magnets like the Full Gas Jump, the ‘Motorex Plunge’ drop and the action-loaded finish line dubbed the Red Bull Drop of Fame.
It is also the first world championships within the qualifying period for the 2020 Olympics, so the stakes go beyond racing for the medals, as nations begin to collect valuable ranking points for athlete quotas. Unfortunately for Downhill, the Olympics only includes BMX, cross-country Mountain biking, and Road and Track – with DH not yet an Olympic event.
For Fry, who will graduate from Junior into Elite Men next year, he plans to compete in Europe next season and accumulate points for more World Cup events.
“The way it works in the Elite Men, to qualify for World Cups you have to get UCI points so the only time you can get UCI points in Canada is at the Canada Cups and even then you have to win a few of them to get enough points to race in the World Cups,” said Fry. “To race in the Elite Men category, it will be a big step up, and I’ll have to train a lot harder this winter.”
The World Championships start on Sept. 5 with Fry’s Junior Men’s Downhill Qualification run going on Sept. 7.
With little funding from Cycling Canada, Fry’s family and supporters have started a ‘Make a Champ Campaign.’ Anyone that would like to donate can find the link online at www.makeachamp.com/keeganfry.
To follow Keegan’s racing, check out his Instagram account: @keeganfrymtb.