Amateur mountain bike enduro racer Sophia Ervington won the recent under-21 women’s Norco Canadian enduro series race at Panorama Mountain Resort, near Invermere.
When her times in the August 30 three-stage race are compared to the women’s professional racers, the 16-year-old from the qathet region was only seven seconds behind the winner, placing Ervington with the second fastest time of all women competitors in the race.
“I was overall pretty happy with my runs,” said Ervington, who is in her first year of enduro racing. “There were a few line choices that I made that were probably not the best, but overall, I was pretty satisfied.”
Ervington said she takes racing very seriously. She has been mountain biking for about four years and two years ago she started riding downhill at top speed. Enduro racing, however, is more than the downhill portion of the race, which is timed. Riders also have to ride their bikes uphill to the downhill stages.
Ervington said she spends a lot of time on her bike, trying to get out and ride every day.
“It’s my life; everything I do revolves around biking,” said Ervington. “I train off the bike, too, going to the gym to do strength training. I want to have overall strength when I’m on my bike so I’m more stable and strong.”
When she’s out on her bike, Ervington spends a lot of time on local trails, which she classed as “surprisingly amazing.”
“We’re blessed to have these trails here,” said Ervington. “They are well maintained and really nice.”
In terms of racing downhill at top speed, Ervington said it can be a scary prospect, and she sometimes thinks about the consequences of what could happen if she crashed.
“I’ve had some pretty bad crashes at high speeds, and when you are going that fast down a hill, there’s definitely risk involved, but when I’m ready in a race to go in a stage, I’m just focused on getting down as fast as I can and I’m not really thinking about what would happen if I crashed. I’m just focusing on what’s ahead of me.
“Most of the time when I crash is when I’m not focused on the trail.”
However, she tries not to overthink her races and her strategy this year is to treat each race like a really solid ride.
“I find when I race and try to make myself go much faster, I end up riding out of control and not as fast as I want to be riding,” said Ervington. “When I’m racing, I focus intensely on what I am doing, and I just try to ride my best.”
Ervington said right now, she has one bike she races and rides on. It’s a 2021 Norco and it’s really good for what she is doing, she added.
Next year, she’s hoping for sponsorship, so then she’d be provided with another bike by a bicycle brand and that would be her race bike. She’s hoping for something with a carbon-fibre frame, wheels and everything to make it light.
The end goal for Ervington is to turn professional. She said at the Panorama race, because she’s 16, she raced in the under-21 category, which she won, but her time was good enough for second in the professional women category, which features the elite, sponsored riders.
“If I’m sponsored and continue racing, which as of right now I’m planning on doing, I definitely want to enter the professional category,” said Ervington. “My goal is next year or the year after, to go to Europe and race the enduro world series.
“In October, I’m going up to Whistler for a race and if I win that, I would be the Norco Canadian under-21 champion for enduro racing. It’s a pretty big deal. That’s my goal for this season.”
Another local resident is also involved in the enduro series. Brooke Hanson is the events manager for the Norco Canadian enduro series.
“We were really impressed with Sophia,” said Hanson. “I was excited to see her at the race. She’s the only Powell River rider we’ve seen in the series and that was very exciting for me. She finished first place in her category. She’s doing amazing and she’s impressed a lot of people.”
Hanson said that in enduro, racers have to pedal uphill for their timed downhill stages and in a race weekend, there are typically three to five stages. A racer’s time is the combined total of the downhill stages.
While COVID-19 has had an impact on the race series, with a race at Sun Peaks Resort (near Kamloops) having just been cancelled because of Interior BC health restrictions, Hanson said the plan next year is to expand across Canada. The series has been running for seven years now, she added.
“We have high-level athletes who come and compete, and as they do well, they move onto the world circuit,” said Hanson. “It’s a stepping stone to the upper echelon.”
Hanson said she works from Powell River as a contractor with the racing series as the events manager. She used to work as an events manager at Sun Peaks and the former owner of the enduro series, who had previously worked with Hanson, asked her to be part of the series.
“It was a great opportunity for me to be working from home,” said Hanson.
She said the qathet area is amazing because there is such a great setup with the bike park in the city, so it’s a great place for riders to learn skills, and there are also many great trails.
“It’s beautiful,” said Hanson. “We’re so fortunate here.”
For more information on the series, go to canadianenduro.com.