Whistler’s Julia Long is a Canada Summer Games bronze medallist.
The cross-country mountain biker beat out several of the best amateur cyclists in the country to earn the hardware in the women’s cross-country relay on Aug. 1 in Winnipeg, alongside two other team B.C. riders.
Long, Whistler’s sole female representative at the Games, and her teammates, Gibsons’ Lucy Schick and Emily Unterberger of Revelstoke, managed to secure third place, behind Quebec and Ontario, respectively.
“It was really exciting,” Long said.
Long also posted strong performances in the individual events, despite facing several challenges along the Bison Butte Mountain Bike Course. The 17-year-old finished 10th in the first cross-country race, before suffering a series of crashes and a mechanical issue that led her to place 12th overall during the final cross-country eliminator event on Aug. 3.
“In the first round I dropped a chain but was able to qualify for the next round, then in the half final I crashed,” she explained.
However, she still managed to qualify for the consolation final — the race to determine the sixth-place finisher. “I tried to make a move and crashed, and ended up in the medical tent — so not the best way to end it,” she said with a laugh.
Thankfully, her injuries were limited to some deep bruising. “It’s sore still, but I’ll be fine in a couple of days,” she said on Sunday (Aug. 6).
In addition to the mechanical challenges, Long also had to adapt to a man-made course that was noticeably different from the West Coast single track she typically trains on, as well as some harsh weather conditions.
“It was really hard on the Sunday race, the XCO, because it was over 35 degrees (Celcius) and humidity was high and there no shade except for one section,” she said. “You also have to stay on the power and keep pedalling as opposed to having a bit of a rest on the descent, It was definitely a tough race.”
Challenges and all, Long said she’s pleased with her performance at the Games.
“I wasn’t expecting too much. It’s a bit different in terms of how they set it up, because I’m racing against people I’m not used to,” Long said, explaining that there were no age divisions aside from the under-22 limit — meaning that she was racing against some riders three years her senior.
“I wasn’t expecting to do super well, but one of my goals was to get top 10 in the XCO, which I was able to do,” she said. “In the XC eliminator, I wanted to come top five, but it didn’t end up very well. I think I would have had really good races, it was just really bad luck that I got caught up in crashes and mechanical. That’s just part of racing, but it’s a bit disappointing.”
While Long hopes to draw from these experiences as she continues her racing season with the Enduro World Series during the upcoming Crankworx festival, the athlete acknowledges the Canada Games experiences were not limited to the race courses.
“It was cool to meet all those people and to be at an event where you can see other athletes,” she said. “There were also a bunch of programs offered, like massage and mental training — a bunch of things we could do to help us as a team and also individually. It was a really neat experience.”