Note: Times in the men's open category are accurate but placings in the original online story don't take into account Fabien Barel's five-minute penalty, applied after the fact. Most riders, including Jesse Melamed, finished one spot ahead of their rankings as a result, with Melamed finishing sixth rather than seventh. The corrected version will be printed on Thursday.
Before it had even started, riders from around the world were already saying the course for SRAM Canadian Open Enduro presented by Specialized was the toughest in the world.
The one-day race format, the selection of white knuckle descents and the overall length of the five race stages -- almost 50 minutes of racing, compared to 32 minutes for the race at Crankworx Les 2 Alpes -- made the Crankworx race one to remember.
One race computer put the total riding distance at around 60km, including transitions and one gondola ride. Total vertical was well over 3,000 metres, both gained and lost.
The men's category was a battle all day, but it was Jerome Clementz of France, the current Enduro World Series leader, who had a slight edge on the competition from the start. He won the first stage (Khyber Pass) and the second stage (It's Business Time to AMPM), was second on stage three (Pura Vida and Baby Snakes) and then won stage four (Billy's Epic and Bob's ReBob).
But everything changed on the fifth stage, a descent from the peak of Whistler Mountain including Top of the World. Despite having a 20 second lead on Australian Jared Graves, it was Graves who persevered on the long final descent to take the win.
"(Graves) was really strong, he beat me by 40 seconds on this stage and he deserved it," said Clementz. "I played it a little bit safe, but not 40 seconds safe."
Graves had the opposite strategy, riding a little more conservatively on the other stages to avoid mechanicals and crashes, and then opening up on the last stage.
"Really, 20 seconds -- I didn't think I'd take that on Jerome," he said. "I thought I'd win the stage, but 20 seconds? I couldn't be happier."
For Graves, winning an Enduro World Series event was special, but to win this particular race was even better.
"Crankworx is the one (event) everyone has been talking about all year, it's the one everyone wants to win. It's tough, it's technical. it's a real man's course, and if you can win here you can win anywhere."
Fabien Barel of France actually placed third overall, but once a time penalty of five minutes was applied -- the result of him accepting a ride during training in an event where riders are supposed to be self-supported -- third place went to Jamie Nicoll of Australia.
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