Sixteen-year-old Stephanie Denroche had her breakout mountain biking season in 2014 after being selected for the BC High Performance Team for cross country and hit the road for an 11-day training camp in California.
During that camp she decided to race a downhill event at the Fontana City National on her cross-country bike, just to try it out. She finished in second place.
“I found that cross country was more difficult for me,” said Denroche. “There was so much endurance needed for not a lot of technical riding, and I really like technical stuff. So this year I moved over to downhill for racing and just did cross country events for fun.”
After a season of consistent downhill results in local, regional and national races, Denroche was awarded the Lumpy Leidal Memorial Award for outstanding junior racer in Whistler last week, a recognition she found surprising after only one full season of racing.
“I didn’t know until the day that I got it,” said Denroche. “I felt happy that I’d worked hard to achieve something this season.”
Having only ridden the Whistler Bike Park a handful of times on a hardtail cross-country bike, after her return from California it was time for Denroche to invest in a proper downhill bike. After working hard to save up for a used Rocky Mountain Flatline, the efforts paid off when she won in her category at the North West Cup in Port Angeles, Washington in May. But her relationship with that bike was short lived.
Shortly after her return from Port Angeles, the bike was stolen from outside her house with nothing left behind except a destroyed bike lock. Denroche was devastated, but she had already signed up for a full season of racing and scrambled to get back on track. Riding the weekly Phat Wednesday series on a borrowed bike, she started selling her own hand-crafted jewellery at Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA) races and received a number donations from family and friends.
With the help of C4 racing coach Cory Leclerc and local mountain bike outfitter Cross Country Connection she approached Norco and was granted an industry rate on new Aurum downhill racing bike. The bike arrived just in time for the Canadian Nationals DH race in Kamloops in July, where she rode the bike for the first time. She won the race.
“I didn’t think I would be able to get there, let alone place first,” said Denroche.
The next month at Crankworx, Denroche walked away with a win at the Canadian Open DH and a slew of other medals. With her age category sparsely populated, like most aspiring racers she has compared her time to that of the pro riders to benchmark her results.
“It would be nice to have more competition,” she said. “I want more girls to just come out and ride. Once or twice (this season) I was the only girl in my category, but I would compare my times (to
the Pro Women) and do pretty well.”
While Denroche has climbed a steep learning curve this season with little in the way of formal coaching, she has received substantial support, not only to help her back on her feet after her bike was stolen, but also from the female riding community. Pro level riders such as Katrina Strand helped convince Whistler Blackcomb to create an under 19 women’s category at the Phat Wednesday series and, in turn, Denroche was able to convince some of her friends to race with her.
“At Crankworx, Stephanie signed up for four events, which is a lot,” said Joan Denroche, Stephanie’s mother. “Just to have the community of women in the sport to support her, guide her along and give her tips was really amazing.”
Denroche will be officially presented with her national team jersey at the BC Cycling awards ceremony on Saturday (Oct. 4).