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Coast-raised downhill biker returns to racing after cancer diagnosis

Magnus Manson earns a silver medal at Pan American Championships in Costa Rica

Magnus Manson is back on the racing track, and has some new hardware to show for it. 

In February, the Sandy Hook-raised, Victoria-based downhill mountain bike racer returned to competitions for the first time since a cancer diagnosis last year. 

“This was kind of the first couple of races where I was actually starting to feel like myself again,” he told Coast Reporter.

On Feb. 13, Manson came in sixth place among the downhill elite men during the 2022 Costa Rican Open, with a time of 00:02:57.581. 

The next weekend, he rose to second place in the Pan American championships, bringing the silver medal home. He was one second behind first place, an outcome Manson said was exciting, especially considering he had finished six months of chemotherapy only a month and a half before the race. 

“I was more just happy to be down there racing. But I was pretty happy that on the day, with my best run, I was able to get a result that was competitive again,” Manson said. 

“I'm sure I could have gone a little bit faster, but I think I was more focused on doing a perfect run, and having fun with it. Just kind of getting back into the flow,” he said. “Given the past few months, I was over the moon.” 

Following a 2020 training accident that shattered his femur and fractured his pelvis, Manson pushed through to compete in the early 2021 season. Although he raced in June of that year, in July Manson was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 23 years old at the time.

As he underwent six months of chemotherapy, Manson remained on his bike – riding to and from each appointment. Halfway through his treatment, Manson launched a fundraising campaign “Conquer your challenge” to raise money for the Steve Smith Legacy Foundation. In just six hours last November, Manson set and completed his own goal to bag a triple crown ride: biking up and down three mountains in one day with no motorized transport in between. The campaign raised nearly double his goal of $10,000, ending with a total of $19,168 in just three days. 

“I was always trying to be as active as I could and doing as much as I could throughout. I think that helps me, because otherwise you kind of mentally get pretty burnt out from all the negatives, so to speak. Having the ability to go do something I like to do, despite everything, gave me a lot of happiness and energy,” he said. 

Manson also wanted to give back as a way to thank everyone who supported him. 

The Steve Smith Legacy Foundation is a Canadian group that provides financial assistance and facilities for mountain biking to kids who want to get into racing. The Foundation helped Manson as a kid, he said, and he wanted to encourage others to set a fun challenge for themselves.

For Manson, who won the 2018 Canadian Downhill Championships, the competition in Costa Rica brought him to new turf. He said the tracks were drier than those in B.C., but somewhat similar to the conditions of local runs in the summer months. 

It was “crazy to go somewhere new like that,” he said. “I think a lot of the races I go to nowadays, I've been there a number of times. So to go somewhere new and race is really exciting and more of a pretty fun trip, all in all. After having done so much chemo and kind of being stuck in one place for so long, it was nice to get back into the normal swing of things.” 

Now, Manson is looking forward to return to Lourdes, France, where he will compete in the downhill UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. He’s been able to return to full training, and has more energy for his riding. 

“I feel more and more ready for it every week, every day.”