Local mountain bike racer heads to world championships for Team Canada


He’s not yet 18, but local mountain biker Cole Punchard has laid out trails in his sport that propelled him to the 2021 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships later this month.

His success on Canadian soil has earned him an invitation to join Team Canada at the event, which will be held August 25-29 in Val di Sole, Italy.

“It’s been a long journey over the past two and a half years,” says Punchard. “I trained really hard, I worked to get there, and it’s an honor to ride for Team Canada at the world championships, to represent them well.

Most of the races he has competed in to date have been part of a series, where points accumulate over time, but the world championships are one race. “Everything counts for a day, a race,” he explains. “So all of your training and focus should be focused on a specific time. “

However, he’s no stranger to the kind of pressure that comes with international competition.

Earlier this year, he competed in five races in Arkansas, then four in Europe. As European runners use different racing tactics to those encountered by Punchard in Canada, the latter “has been a great learning experience, and something I can bring to the world championships where it’s a different racing experience. “. He will also travel to Europe early to participate in a Swiss Cup event.

Punchard developed his racing roots in Muskoka, starting with the Port Sydney Kids’ Tri when he was about nine years old. “I didn’t really like the running part, I didn’t really like the swimming part, but I liked the bike, so I got into cycling.” He started participating in a series of races on Thursday night at the Buckwallow Cycling Center near Gravenhurst a few years later, “and I fell in love with it”.

He started serious training at the age of 15 and in just a few short years, and despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, he has risen to the top of his age group. When the Canada Cup series resumed this year, Punchard was first in the standings after two races. He will have to give up the two remaining races in the series to be in Europe, but he will be back in time for the nationals at the end of September.

This fall, he will study commerce at Brevard College in North Carolina, a school he chose for his NCAA Division 1 cycling team and close to excellent cycling grounds in the Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge mountains.

His goal is to ride for the Canadian Olympic team, as well as to be part of a professional team “so that I can do my job.” He hopes his business degree will help him manage this career.

No athlete reaches a high level without support. Punchard thanks his parents, Christine Frith and Derek Punchard and his grandparents, Lucille and Trevor Frith, in particular for all the help they have given, as well as the support “and the very warm welcome” he has. received from the cycling community. He admires Olympian Peter Disera and his brother Quinton, with whom he recently rode at training camp. And he thanked his sponsors, Scott Sports, Ecclestone Cycle and Angry Johnny’s Racing.

For those looking to get into the sport, he recommends “just having fun” on the nearby trails and getting involved in a series of local races. “Don’t start training right away, don’t take shopping seriously, go out and have fun with your friends and have fun on two wheels.”

Punchard is raising funds to help cover travel costs for the World Championships. Those wishing to contribute can find out more about GoFundMe here.

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