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This article was published 27/8/2021 (313 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A local teen is making a name for himself in the national mountain biking scene.
Ethan Vandenberg, who will be starting Grade 11 at Calvin Christian Collegiate this fall, recently finished among the top riders in the Canada Cup races in Dieppe, N.B. in late August.
The 16 year-old from North Kildonan finished seventh in a combined U17/U19 XCC race on Aug. 19, then finished fifth in the U17 XCO race on Aug. 21, before taking first place in the New Brunswick XCO Cup race on Aug. 22.
"I was happy with result," Vandenberg told The Herald in a phone interview from Canmore, Alta., where he was training with Team Manitoba in preparation for an upcoming Canada Cup race in the mountain town. "I felt controlled, well composed. They were good races for me, no mechanical issues, no crashes."
In competitive cross-country mountain biking, XCC races typically last between 45 minutes and an hour, Vandenberg explained, with riders cycling a route as many times as possible within the given time frame. XCO races, also known as short-track, see the riders cycling shorter tracks, about one kilometre, in about 25 minutes. While Vandenberg has done well in both events, he feels more drawn to the short-track races.
"They’re super fast," he said. "They’re not a real long slog. Short track, spectators can see a lot of the race, too, and the riders are coming around flying, keeping that high pace for the whole race."
When Vandenberg was young, he discovered mountain bike racing by way of the Kids of Mud program. Friends of his were racing with the local Bikes and Beyond group, which was full at the time, so Vandenberg signed up with a group out of Olympia Cycle.
"That was my first experience with local, structured rides," Vandenberg recalled. "They introduced Wednesday night races, little local ones. I did that and kind of stayed with it. As I got older, I joined Team Manitoba and they introduced me to more racing. I trained with them and it was just went from there."
A multi-sport athlete, Vandenberg has something of a need for speed. When mountain bike racing season winds up in the fall, it isn’t long before he’s lacing up speed skates.
At the last Canadian Youth Long Track Championships, which were held in Red Deer, Alta. on Feb. 8, 2020, Vandenberg won three gold medals and one silver. Shortly thereafter, the pandemic shut everything down.
"Over the pandemic, I continued training, there weren’t too many races, but the Speed Skating Association from Manitoba was able to put on some events, time trial events," he said. "Mainly, I just trained throughout the season."
While he gives himself a couple weeks between seasons to unwind, Vandenberg said that training for the one sport provides benefits for the other.
"Skating has helped me a lot with managing emotions and not getting worries about things coming up," he said. "That’s showed me how to keep myself well composed and focused on the task at hand."
In the weeks ahead, Vandenberg hopes to hit the podium at the upcoming Canmore Canada Cup events, and place nationally.
"I’ll try to put together the best races I can and go from there," he said.
Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7112