Words: Aidan Bishop
Photos: Barbara Sztyk
Enduro World Series RD 5 Whistler, Canada 10-11 August 2013
When the Enduro World Series was launched at the start of the year, round five was scheduled for Whistler Mountain in British Columbia, Canada. I quickly targeted this race as one I had to do as I had been to Whistler once before and had absolutely loved it. I saw this as an ideal opportunity to go back there to race, ride and party once again as it really is one of the best places for mountain biking on earth.
My girlfriend and I hopped on a plane bound for a week in Whistler to race round five of the World Enduro Series and to stay on and do some riding and generally take in the atmosphere of Crankworx week, happy days! Having landed at Vancouver airport, we caught the Whistler shuttle coach and eventually arrived in town with time to go and sign on for the race ready for two days of practice before race day. That all went smoothly so I was prepared with race number, lift pass and course maps and made time for a spin around some of the nice XC trails around Lost Lake near town, before sampling a local brew or two.
Friday morning first thing was the mandatory race briefing, where some breakfast was laid on for those attending, which was a nice touch. Here we were given the full run through of the event and its rules, last minute changes, etc. I noticed a few faces missing here, namely Voulliouz and Barel. It later turned out that Nico had broken a bone* so wouldn’t be racing and then Fabien Barel received a five-minute penalty before the race had started for being shuttled in a car during practice (only to the start of the climbs, not up the hills I should point out), a point that was stated that if anyone was caught doing so would be penalised. I’m not completely aware of the actual events so can’t comment on what was right or wrong but I know that penalty ruled Barel out of a result before he’d started, which was news in itself.
Aidan's race video - it's a good watch!
To the enduro then, around 51km route with chairlift assistance included but it was being described as ‘a big mountain adventure’ and that is what it turned out to be! A gondola and chair ride took you to the top of the mountain and a few minutes riding the Top of the World trail got you to the start of the first timed stage. A big effort to race at around 10mins, finding some flow was important with lots of tight and twisty trail to navigate with short and very steep climbs thrown in, the biggest being near impossible to ride.
Stage two consisted of around six minutes of very loose sandy trail. This flowed nicely but was deceptively tight with some sharp climbs in it also that you had to balance yourself on to not over-exert and keep the rear tyre from losing grip on the sand. There was then a road crossing near the end and some steep rock slabs to ride down before finishing.
After these two stages you had ridden down the side of the mountain and away from Whistler village itself, and here the route took you over the opposite side of the valley for what I would call ‘back country’ riding. A long pedal was necessary first (hike if you were saving your legs or had high gearing!).
Stage three was cut short just before the race due to land ownership issues but was still over four minutes of tight and technical trail where keeping rhythm was key.
A technical trail descent out onto the road before the longest and steepest transition awaited, which left me thinking the start of stage four would never come! Here we were treated to nice views over the village and the surrounding lakes before finally arriving at the start. Stage four had everything: It was around eight minutes long, starting with a sprint before turning into flowing, dusty trail with rocky inside lines to hit. A steep climb midway before the stage dropped into more trail, with a steep chute to ride before the course flattened out a bit and opened up before the finish line.
Pedal around another lake and back into town and that was the most draining part of the day over with. Enough time was given for a bite to eat before we headed back up the gondola to the top of the mountain for stage five. This time it was from the start of the Top of the World trail back down to the village centre in one hit, around 25 minutes of some of the best mountain biking trails in existence. This started out on Top of the World, which is a flowing dust and rock trail on the open mountain side, then hit endless bermed switchback corners before a rolling straight connecting trail. In and out of the woods a couple of times with high speed connecting fireroads before dropping into singletrack trails called ‘Too Tight’ then Upper and Lower ‘Angry Pirate’. After these it was off and on an easy green trail before arriving in the arena at the bottom of the Whistler Bike Park. Although I really struggled to hold onto the bars after a while it really was an epic enduro race stage. All in all we were out on the mountain for over eight hours to complete the race, making it one of the biggest days I’ve had on a mountain bike, racing wise definitely.
To the race itself, Anne Caroline Chausson managed to get her first win of the series, after crashing out and injuring herself at the first round, ending Tracy Moseley’s winning streak. Chausson won four out of the five stages and put Tracy into second place, with Cecile Ravanel in third.
In the men’s Jerome Clementz was solid again, being fastest in stages 1, 2 and 4. Behind him Jared Graves was always close though along with Rene Wildhaber and Barel. Barel was fastest on the third stage but with that penalty included he ended up 49th, showing that you have to finish every stage without mechanicals or timely incidents if you want to finish highly in these events. Graves struck on the big final stage however, he was fastest here and in the process overturned all the time lost out to Clementz to take the win on the day. Wildhaber suffered some mechanical issues on the last stage meaning he dropped out of podium contention while a consistent day from Kiwi Jamie Nicoll saw him take third spot on the day. An exciting day all round and everyone who finished agreed it was a great race.
My race didn’t go to plan unfortunately, with a puncture a third of the way into stage one I opted to ride/run it out to try and limit time loss as much as possible. Along with a couple of crashes on stage two and another puncture towards the end of stage four it was a tough day’s racing for me, but I was determined to finish and I did. I ended up back in 78th position but satisfied that I hadn’t given up and had had the chance to ride some awesome trails and be part of a great race…I think I’ll be back!
Big thanks to Cannondale, Mavic, CrankBrothers, RRP, EVOC, GoPro and RRP for their support this season.
*Nico Vouilloz via Facebook on his injury: “Sooooooo, hard to admit, but my race season is over! Stupid crash like always, but broken scaphoide like result! Really disappointed of course, but like we say in France, c'est la vie! Sad to miss the upcoming races...Whistler seems amazing! Wish better luck to all the World Enduro Serie racers! Stay tuned and have fun!"