An almost 5,000 foot downhill course was daunting enough for Red Bull Exodus participants, but add some of the heaviest rains seen in months to the picture and the hardcore factor went through the roof.
Some 112 men and 14 women riders were at the start line beside the top of the Peak Chair on Saturday, with the women opting to join the ranks of male racers based on their times in Friday's qualifier.
Squamish's Shaums March, one of the top qualifiers, took an early lead and was first off Pika's Traverse to the Roundhouse, where the trail linked to the Garbanzo Zone. He kept his lead all the way to In Deep, where French rider Jerome Clementz saw his opportunity. March took a high line, the way he usually rides, while Clementz took the faster go-around and came out on top.
March caught up by World Cup Singletrack while Clementz was tiring, but couldn't find a place to pass as they headed to the finish.
"The only thing I'm bummed about is I didn't see (Clementz) behind me, or I would have blocked him out on that line, but it was a fair pass," said March, who finished just seconds behind Clementz after the longest race of his life.
"Things are always a little better in the rain than the day after a rain storm. The roots are clean so you have a fraction of a second of traction, you can clean your tires in the puddles - although some puddles were so deep it was like hitting the brakes hard.
"I really liked the format, I think everybody up there loved it. The mass start thing made it pretty exciting, and you knew the course was going to be long and challenging."
The route started down the back of Whistler Mountain on Matthew's Traverse before turning back towards the Roundhouse on Pika's Traverse. That section of course was entirely on access roads, but with riders starting in groups of 10.
From there the course dropped down onto the new trail that follows Upper Whiskey Jack to the top of the Garbanzo Zone. After that the sequence of trails was Original Sin, Blue Velvet, In Deep, Freight Train, Duffman, Side Track, Golden Triangle, World Cup Singletrack, Ho Chi Minh and Double Vision.
Clementz, who races in the Mega Avalanche downhill series, said the event was challenging.
"Basically we were sitting in our warmest clothes at the start for an hour waiting for it to start, I had on five pullovers," he said. "It was crazy to race from the peak. I told myself, I'm here on a holiday and I don't have to race when it's this terrible, but I'm glad I did it.
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