The main pillar Miranda Miller planned to stand on in the North American Enduro Tour's (NAET) first stop of the year was wiped out last minute.
But it wasn't an issue for the Squamish rider who is more of a downhill specialist, as she still won the women's pro open division at the Whistler Spring Classic by roughly 68 seconds over runner-up Christina Chappetta. Whistler's Georgia Astle took third, just over two minutes back of Miller.
Snowy conditions in the Garbanzo Zone forced organizers to make a switch for Stage 3, and they opted to substitute in a second run of Stage 4's Golden Boner in lieu.
Miller had the most familiarity with the Garbanzo Zone trails, and though they were no longer on the menu in the May 29 event, she still took inspiration from the downhill race that's closest to an enduro.
"It's similar to the Garbanzo Crankworx events. No matter what happens, you can't really give up. The Garbo is a consistency race, not like a downhill race where it's raw speed," she said. "It's more so just being consistent throughout every stage."
Miller said the stage switch worked out for her, as riders were essentially allotted a do-over, and she took advantage, shaving 17 seconds from Stage 3 to Stage 4.
"Stage 3 was a refresher and Stage 4, I could push a lot harder," she said. "I kind of liked that. It was fun to have a second chance to correct all your mistakes.
"I didn't try to take it slow the first time. I didn't try to hold off, but I definitely made more mistakes because I was sort of winging it. It was satisfying to go do it again and correct one or two of the things you know you'd messed up the run before."
While Miller noted enduro riding requires more smoothness than downhill riding, something she took a day or two in the bike park to work out, she can still take some enduro skills back to her main discipline.
"Carrying your momentum on a trail bike in all those stages was really key. Being really efficient on your bike is going to help you on a downhill bike as well," she said.
On the men's side, Vancouver-via-Wollongong, Australia rider Josh Carlson scored a confidence-building win after some scuffles to start the Enduro World Series season.
Carlson held off Whistler's Jesse Melamed by about 10 seconds and Whistler resident Yoann Barelli by about 14 to score the victory.
"It means a lot. I've had a bit of an average start to the season," he said. "I had a race riddled with mechanicals in Ireland, so to come back here to kind of my home, living in Vancouver, it feels really good to put in a good performance here. Everyone was riding well. Jesse was riding well. Barelli was riding well, and Remi (Gauvin), so I really had to work hard to make it happen so I'm super stoked to get the win and win a couple of stages.
"Whistler's been good to me."
With the challenges organizers faced, Carlson was pleased with the conditions overall, though the Stage 2 provided difficulties to even the most experienced riders.
"Hey Bud was real gnarly. It was slippery because of the rain, but because it was so chewed up, it was pretty spicy and really hard to get through clean and not make any mistakes," he said. "Racing Golden Boner twice was pretty cool. I think that was actually really good. The sun came out, so it was actually faster than it is in the (all-day) sun.
"The bridges were terrifying. The bridges were the scariest thing all day, but the trails turned out pretty good. I think they lucked out with the weather."
Carlson sat third after Stage 1, but subsequently wrested the lead from Melamed with wins in the next two stages, missing a third mini-win in the final stage by only two-tenths of a second.
"Jesse put a fair bit of time into me in the first stage and then Hey Bud was good, I had a really good stage. I knew that those two, I really had to focus and put the effort in to make it happen and luckily enough I did and it worked out. It worked out sweet," Carlson said.
Other men's winners included: Whistler's Benjamin Brownlie (13-14), Whistler's Tristan Sanders (15-16), Max Leyen (17-20), Cesar Gairin (21-39) and Matthew Patterson (40-plus). As for the women, Garibaldi Highlands' Mikayla Martin took the 17-20 division and Gloria Addario of Pemberton notched the 21-plus triumph.
Complete results are available on www.naetmtb.com.
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