With stomping grounds now in the mountain biking mecca of Fernie, McHugh’s acceleration of success came quickly after the 24-year-old moved from Quebec and discovered her love of the sport.
Since childhood, McHugh has tried many sports. What kept her in the bike saddle wasn’t the wind through her hair or the high fives at the bottom, although these are all good perks.
“I like the risks, and (the) extreme, (I like to) push myself, you can find it everywhere on the bike,” she said.
Her first enduro race, part of the BC Enduro Series, was in the Crowsnest Pass three years ago. She placed third in the open category and immediately afterwards jumped straight to the pro category.
“There’s no lollygagging,” said her partner, JF DesLauriers. “Her exact words when I asked her what category she wanted to race in the following year, she said ‘well, we’ve got to make a living out of it, so we’re going pro’.”
“It got me addicted to racing, I just love racing since. It’s my favourite discipline,” said McHugh.
McHugh has now achieved a long sought after dream; to be a pro athlete. She is currently sponsored by GT, but has not yet secured a full factory deal.
Recently, when biking became more serious, McHugh decided to pack away her hammer and say goodbye to her previous work; carpentry.
“I like that there’s only one way to do it, to do things, to build. It’s a lot of thinking sometimes,” she said. “I don’t know how to describe it – I like actually building something.”
This season, McHugh took gold in the Canadian Enduro Championships, gold in the EWS (Enduro World Series) North American Continental Series, and finished second overall in the Enduro World Series. She also recently finished 5th at the US Open Downhill competition.
This weekend, McHugh will take on her biggest competition to day; the Trophy of Nations world championships, hosted in Finale Ligure.
For national teams, the top three riders from each country, according to EWS rankings, are selected to compete. McHugh is one of three selected for the Canadian women’s team. Each team will compete on the same stage at the same time, and the accumulative time of all three riders will count towards their overall race score.
This competition is the equivalent of the world championships, within the EWS, and is considered by many to be the largest mountain bike team event in the world.
This will serve as the second annual Trophy of Nations, but the first year athletes from the EWS have attended. In February of this year, the EWS was lifted onto the global stage when it joined forces with Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), integrating it into its Mountain Bike International Calendar.
Comprising eight rounds in as many countries, the 2019 Enduro World Series (EWS) started in March and finished at the end of September. One week after their final series race on September 21, the Trophy of Nations serves as the grand finale.
Teams will compete for the coveted UCI Rainbow Jersey, and DesLauriers says the Canadians have a good chance of winning.
McHugh was selected for the Canadian team alongside two of the best in the sport; Andreane Lanthier Nadeau (ALN) is ranked 3rd overall in the world, Miranda Miller is ranked 6th overall and McHugh is currently ranked 16th.
One of their toughest competitors will be team France, comprised of Isabeau Courdurier ranked 1st, Morgane Charre ranked 4th and Melanie Pugin ranked 12th.
This is in addition to team Great Britain, with Becky Cook ranked 7th, Bex Baraona ranked 10th and Ella Conolly ranked 13th.
“It’s going to be a really exciting race to follow I think,” said McHugh.
“I feel really lucky, it’s going to be the best experience I have ever had, since I start (riding) mountain bike,” she added.
The Trophy of Nations will be live Saturday, Sept. 28, through Sunday, Sept. 29.
Did you know: Jennifer’s favourite trail in Fernie is Dirt Diggler