When you ask Martin Chabot what the best thing about downhill riding in Fernie is, the response is characteristic Chabot; unrehearsed, full of positive energy, and lightening fast.
“Everything!” he says with a huge smile. “My favorite spots are probably at Fernie Alpine Resort – but there is such great riding everywhere in Fernie, on any given day, so many of the trails are good.”
Chabot would know. An experienced local rider (he’s been in Fernie for ten years now), Chabot has competed avidly in mountain biking since he made the move from the Eastern townships of Quebec to the Canadian Rockies almost a decade ago.
Since he started in the sport, Chabot has consistently proven himself as a strong and versatile rider. He began by racing cross-country in Banff and Canmore (back in the days of hard-tail prominence), just doing races “for fun.” Then, as he says with a grin, “I just started winning.”
After making the move to Fernie, renown for its mountain biking terrain, Chabot concentrated on downhill riding. His record speaks for itself; after entering in the Sport (amateur) class and earning two first place finishes, he then moved to the Expert category, again garnering three firsts in his first year of competition, and five consecutive first place finishes in his second.
After this string of successes, Chabot moved on to the Pro Elite Downhill category summer – one step below World Cup competition – and his focus now is on making it to the big show. To do that, he needs a mere 6 more points in the Pro Elite category. A freak flat tire at the Canada Cup in July was a disappointment, especially since Chabot had finished in the top 3 in the qualifying round. Chabot, however, shrugs it off with typical good humour.
“I am still feeling pretty confident,” he says. “I had a good qualifier in at the Canada Cup, and I’m focused on earning points in my next race – I’m pretty excited.”
Chabot, who “loves traveling”, had a second Canada Cup race in Calgary this month where he finished 12th, missing his personal goal of a top 10 finish. The field was extremely tight with eight riders finishing within 3 seconds of each other. He will compete in his final major competition of the season, the BC Cup finals, at Hemlock Valley Resort on August 24th. A podium finish there could help move him into the World Cup category next season.
Asked how he sees the season ending up, Chabot observes that despite his successes, he never takes anything for granted.
“We are always very close in competitions in my category, and everyone is always pushing it hard,” he says.
Like so many other athletes, to reach his goal of the top level of competition, Chabot needs to garner sponsorships to assist with finances. A goal for his 2004 riding season is to ensure his expenses are met so that he can attend North American World Cup competitions in California, other areas in the U.S., and at Mont Ste Anne. So far, he’s had good support from the Fernie community.
Elk Valley Chiropractic in Fernie is one of Chabot’s key sponsors.
“Elk Valley Family Chiropractic is proud to assist Martin Chabot in keeping fit, healthy and free of injuries,” says Dr. Mike Rumpel. “We enable him to function to the best of his abilities and help prepare him to be as fast a possible.”
Unlike some riders who simply focus on the next race, Chabot sees his success in mountain biking evolving, to help others learn from his experience. His ultimate goal is to move into professional instruction.
“I am really interested in teaching clinics for kids,” says Chabot, who sees himself running camps for youth, to help them learn the technical ropes as well as competitive racing skills. “I would like to see 16, 17 and 18 year-olds competing with me at the same time as they are learning.”
After a look at Chabot’s record of success, you get the sense that he will likely accomplish whatever goals he sets his mind to.