When “Munny” Duncan Munro came on board as the head coach of the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association’s (WORCA) first-ever youth dirt camps, the program offered two weeks of instruction.
“We had 10 kids. I was still racing full time so I couldn’t really do more than that, and then it slowly became this organic thing that kept developing and getting better,” he recalled. “We brought in some people really passionate about mountain biking, and just infected the kids with our love for the sport.”
In the 13 years since that first summer, the program has grown to offer nine five-day cross-country camp sessions and serve over 400 kids each year. Under Munro's leadership, the popular program has also produced some of the best young mountain bikers in the Sea to Sky.
Now, the longtime coach is saying goodbye to the dirt camps. “It was a hard decision, definitely, for me to make, but it was time,” Munro said.
His coaching skills cross over several disciplines: in addition to coaching biathlon, he works as a running coach with Sea to Sky Athletics’ track and field program and Opus Athletics. “I just needed a little bit more of a challenge. I’ve (been part of) this program for 13 years and I’ve coached a lot of amazing riders and kids,” he said.
The loss will certainly be felt, said Mark Hill, WORCA’s director of youth and skill development. “The dirt camps are Munny Munro and Munny Munro is the dirt camps, there’s no question about that in my mind. He’s not created a summer camp; he’s created a dedicated mountain bike program and the impact has just been amazing on all of our youth riders from different sectors.”
In addition to churning out strong riders, the program has also produced strong coaches, which, in turn, has led to the program’s success, Munro explained. “If you have bad coaches, the program is not going to go anywhere, but the amazing coaches; we’ve got them. It’s been amazing to see their coaching development,” he said.
Some started off as participants, while others have been coaching with the program for over a decade.
“The community is really lucky to have coaches who not only help (the kids) with their biking and inspiring them to bike, but also teaching them the respect about biking: respecting the trails and respecting the bike culture,” Munro explained.
Despite the technical skills riders possess after a week spent training and riding with Munro, he’s given his participants much more than the ability to win a race.
“The biggest thing I’ve tried to instill is that it’s not about racing, it’s about putting on your helmet and going for a bike ride, no matter what your ability is,” he said. “Finding that pure love and freedom a bike gives you, whether it’s the Valley Trail or Lord of the Squirrels.”
Fostering that enthusiasm has, from time-to-time, been accompanied by a fair share of trail shenanigans, Munro added, whether that meant depositing a few rocks in backpacks or rewarding riders with broccoli or hot sauce after a difficult hill climb. “I thank all the kids that put up with my tomfoolery,” he said with a laugh.
As much of an impact as Munro has on dirt camp athletes, that impact goes both ways. “It’s a huge honour and I cannot thank the kids enough,” he said. “I honestly owe it all to them—that’s the reason I kept coming back year after year, because when I saw that they made that connection (to the sport) and that spark, it was just magical for me. It’s just been absolutely amazing. If I could, I would ride with them every day of my life.”
Although they will no longer have Munro at the helm — though he anticipates making a few guest appearance on the trails — the dirt camps will continue. “In our opinion, it’s really our bread and butter; our grassroots,” Hill said. “That’s where we’re capturing our young riders and educating them in a way of being trail advocates.”
However, he added, “our feelers are out there for someone new that’s just as creative and as wacky as Munny. I think it’s fair to say he’s leaving some giant pedals that we’re going to have to fill.”
Editor's note: The original version of this article called Duncan Munro Munro Duncan. The Question apologizes for the error.