Video: First-Timer Goes Pro, Slays Treacherous Canadian Open DH Course


Cooke flashes some steeze in this photo of the live race feed at the Canadian Open DH at Crankworx.

For most riders, rolling into the start gate for their first pro downhill race affirms years of progression through the amateur ranks and no small investment in equipment along the way.

Allan Cooke isn’t most riders.

He recently finished 75th in a field of 108 pro finishers at the Crankworx Canadian Open DH. While that may sound like an “also ran” result to some, when you consider it was his first downhill race ever, and done on a two year old Giant Glory he’d only had for a handful of days, the feat becomes more notable.

As you can see from Cooke’s POV video of his practice run, the Canadian Open course is not a beginner downhill by any measure–note the number of riders stopped on the course nervously scouting lines. The mix of rocky/rooty woods sections, combined with steep chutes and huge gap jumps make the the track a test when dry. Slicked-up with intermittent rain showers as it was for the Open, it’s nothing short of treacherous.

Video: Allan tries out his first real Pro DH Course.

“It was gnarly when wet, and super steep with off-camber ruts,” said Cooke. “Even the top pros said it was gnarly–I was stoked not to crash.”

To be fair, this is not exactly an “off the couch” story. While Cooke may be new to DH, his pedigree and earned hardware more than make up for it. The pedigree—former pro BMX street, park and dirt rider. The hardware—a truckload of rider accolades and awards, including an X Games gold medal for BMX Dirt in 2002 and an 2006 X Games bronze for BMX Big Air.

Cooke also got some top-notch coaching tips from downhill legend Mick Hannah who finished a heartbreaking second in the race to winner Stevie Smith by a mere .09 seconds. Hannah is one of several riders Cooke works with in his day job, sports marketing and events manager for Bell Helmets. The connections from his day job certainly came in handy too.

“Turns out a world cup-caliber track is hard on a bike…after my practice runs I needed new brakes, a fork rebuild with a stiffer spring, new tires and a shit load of wheel truing,” said Cooke. “Huge thanks to all the Sram guys, Travis Chipres and Giant Bikes, the Hutchinson United Ride guys for the fresh tires, Stik for the kits, and to Bell for letting me chase kid dreams while on the clock.”

One final advantage for Cooke–family. Obviously Allan possesses some innate athletic talent. His brother Aaron–director of the Athlete’s Recovery Fund–shreds on anything with two wheels, as does their father Jim, a former pro motocross racer. Both attended Crankworx, and Aaron posted this target=”blank”>video of Jim riding the Whistler bike park–not bad for a 63-year-old.

About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry that landed him at his current gig with Santa Cruz bicycles. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.

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