Mountain bikers prepared at Hartland trail, ‘uncanny replica’ of Olympics course

An Island mountain bike trail greatly aided in the preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. It isn’t Bear Mountain, where the national team is centralized.

“The Hartland trail is an uncanny replica of the Tokyo course so we trained on it a lot,” said national team coach Dan Proulx.

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“I told all the young riders we met on Hartland that if you can ride here you can ride anywhere.”

The men’s Olympic race is today at 11 p.m. PT at Izu, 107 kilometres from Tokyo, with Peter Disera the Canadian entrant.

“A lot of people were wondering if we would ever see this day,” said Proulx.

“It’s been a long and difficult journey. The stuff of legend – a five-year quadrennial. We are isolated on a mountain top in Japan. But we would have done this in a parking lot if we had to.”

Disera would do well to match three-time Olympian Geoff Kabush of Courtenay, the University of Victoria mechanical engineering graduate, who had two top-10 Olympic finishes. Two-time world champion Roland Green of Victoria competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Canada has a stronger presence in the Tokyo Olympic women’s race, which will take place Monday at 11 p.m. PT, with 2016 Rio Olympics bronze-medallist Catharine Pendrel, who learned the sport on the Hartland trails, and Haley Smith, the Bear Mountain-based rider who is considered Pendrel’s successor.

Canada’s Olympic history on the women’s side includes Victoria rider Alison Sydor’s silver medal at Atlanta in 1996.

“That was the spark. We have such an incredible legacy in our sport,” said Proulx.

“Now Catharine [Pendrel] is a tremendous role model. And Haley will follow.”

Two-time world champion Pendrel said: “This will be a stepping stone for Haley to Paris 2024.”

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