Sechelt mountain biker wins nationals

Fourteen-year-old Gracey Hemstreet of Sechelt won the national downhill mountain biking championships in her age category on July 28, capping off a blowout rookie season.

Gracey won the Under 17 championship, held at Panorama Mountain Resort in Invermere, with a time of 04:12:39.

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Pro racer Magnus Manson of Sechelt finished second in the Elite Men’s category at nationals, missing first place by seven-tenths of a second. Gibsons racer Forrest Riesco, also a professional rider, placed fourth, 1.4 seconds shy of the lead.

Although this was Gracey’s first national competition, it is far from her first title.

This year she won the Under 18 B.C. provincials in Kelowna, setting the fastest women’s time of the day in any category. She is also leading the BC Cup Series in the Under 18 women’s category. With one more race left at Mount Washington in September, the youngster is so far ahead in points that she is expected to finish first even if she doesn’t compete in the last race.

“It’s her first year doing it and it’s been really successful,” said her mother, Danielle Hemstreet. “She’s really happy at her placing. She was kind of wondering where she would fit.”

Gracey has been riding since she was nine and is not associated with a team, nor does she have a coach.

The season hasn’t come without its challenges, however. She hit a tree and injured her knee while racing at a Canada Cup event near Vernon the second weekend of July, forcing her to scale back training in the weeks prior to nationals.

Her knee continues to heal as she heads into Crankworx at Whistler, an annual cycling festival. Gracey won her first race there at the age of nine. This year, she plans to compete in five events from Aug. 9 to 18.

While Gracey is one of the few elite female racers on the Sunshine Coast, her mother notes that cycling does run in the family. Her father, Darren Hemstreet, helped develop Coast Gravity Park, a mountain biking park located outside of Sechelt.

That’s where Gracey rides every weekend, said her mother, including with professionals such as Riesco. “She is on her bike all the time.”

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