Downhill mountain biker Anthony Evans spent most of 2016 roaring through rugged tracks that are mostly shaped by nature, but his season was topped off at a race through the steep city of Taxco, Mexico – a very dense urban centre.
“Like nothing else. It’s definitely a one-off kind of event,” he said of Down Hill Taxco, the invitational urban downhill race. “The exposures there are pretty high risk. It’s not a place you wanna crash. Falling usually means landing on cobblestone, glass or rebar – opposed to trees and dirt which are hard enough.”
Even in the context of downhill biking, the Taxco course is especially dangerous. So arranging for it to happen at the end of the season makes sense – Evans said riders probably wouldn’t be so willing to risk their good health if they didn’t have all winter to recover.
“If you get injured down there it’s not like the rest of the season is affected.”
Unfortunately, Evans was prone to those risks. He was unable to race in the event after getting injured during practice.
“I pushing my speed on a jump which was about 12 metres from lip to landing. It must have been my third time hitting this jump and I just pushed my speed too much.”
There was no hope in landing properly on the bike, so Evans bailed midair and landed hard, injuring his feet and ribs. He then felt a sense of disappointment upon realizing his GoPro wasn’t recording during the wipeout.
Evan’s health lasted longer than many of his comrades, however.
“Quite a few athletes were injured during Red Bull Rampage,” he said of a major free ride event in Utah.
Nevertheless he was still able to experience the course in Taxco. He spent three full days in the city and rode the track several times. In a full day of riding, athletes only have enough time to run through the giant course four to five times, he said.
“They have to take you up in trucks to get up to the top of city.”
The course takes riders right through the heart of Taxco, even directing traffic through a family home.
“Three years ago they blew out two walls in a house that goes through a young girl’s bedroom. Basically, the deal with the city is, they’ll pay for the renovations after the event is over.”
But while organizers put massive efforts into perfecting the course, Evans said they didn’t put much effort into smoothing out the descent for riders traveling .
“You’re just riding down random sets of stairs,” he said. “It’s not like our streets here – nothing is to code the way we’re used to.”
The course took Evans through narrow alleyways and had him jumping rooftop to rooftop, and the safety features weren’t very reassuring.
“The only thing that might break your fall would be hay bales that were up on a superimposed piece of pipe. They don’t try to kill us though.”
Before Taxco, Evans competed in more than a dozen races across the continent this year. He took part in both the BC Cup and Canada Cup, which saw him competing in courses at Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Blue Mountain in Ontario, and British Columbia’s Panorama Mountain Resort, Sun Peaks Resort and Whistler Blackcomb.
“It was a good season – I finished second overall in the B.C. series and fourth overall in the national series,” he said. “A nice way to end the season.”
Evans said his ultimate goal is to eventually qualify for a world cup, but qualifying has become more difficult in recent years and Canada already has a saturated talent pool.
But he’ll be practicing every chance he gets. And there’s still enough nice weather left in the season for more training.
“We’ve been getting some awesome weather in the Okanagan – as soon as I’m able to I’ll be on my bike until it starts snowing.”
The sport is the most psychically demanding activity he’s ever faced.
“To work up to the speed and skill you can handle and then go currying down a mountain, but not just a kamikaze run.”
He’s keeping his skills sharp by training five days a week.
“When things are going well I almost get tunnel vision riding down the mountain – it’s like I’m on autopilot. You know you’re having a good run when everything is happening almost effortlessly. When everything starts working and clicking, it’s an addictive feeling to take a risk and have it pay off.”
Evans has been a member of the Peachland Fire Dept. since 2008, and he’s thankful for the other members who have helped him ease the financial burden of his endeavours.