Of all the ailments that would hamper a racer on course, Leonie Picton battled through a bit of an unexpected one.
"I had my wisdom teeth come through a couple days prior and I wasn't able to eat very well because my teeth had been giving me a lot of trouble," she said. "I didn't really eat anything, so I was pretty lucky to have enough energy to finish the race.
"I was pretty tired (upon finishing) but with the race, we got the free appy and I just chowed down on some chips."
While Picton noshed, she was also waiting to head up on the podium and claim her gold medal after edging Laura Battista by 2.3 seconds while third-place finisher Christina Chappetta was about 42 seconds off the pace.
Picton created a comfy 17-second buffer by the race's midway point, but Battista made a valiant effort to come back, cutting much of the time, but remaining unable to reel Picton in.
"Having the familiarity with Top of the World was, I think, one of the key points of getting a good lead at the start of the day," she said. "We did race Top of the World and the Garbo Zone for EWS (Enduro World Series) so it was almost the exact same trails but broken up into two parts. That's where I got my lead on Laura and then she closed up the gap on the last three stages, which we hadn't ridden before."
Picton, the defending B.C. Enduro Series champion, has enjoyed two strong seasons where she's dominated the competition. However, she feels the two women who joined her on the podium have grown by leaps and bounds this season and will present stiff competition in 2017 and beyond.
"It's not an easy feat winning against them anymore. It's nice that they've improved so much over the season and I can only hope these wins are even harder and they're probably going to take one from me sooner rather than later," she said.
Picton also captured the Squamish-based Gryphon race earlier this year, giving her two wins in as many attempts to put her in second in the overall standings. "It's pretty awesome being able to get a large amount of prize money. That definitely helps through the season," she said.
The win jumped her to second place in the overall NAET standings, holding 500 points to Porsha Murdock's 860. With four riders within 100 points of her, however, Picton is pondering heading to the season's last race in Moscato, Mexico to secure a finish among the top riders.
As for the men, Vancouver resident Chris Johnston took the victory in a rebound performance. In his first major race since suffering a mechanical at the Enduro World Series' SRAM Canadian Open during Crankworx Whistler, Johnston finished roughly 14 seconds up on Evan Guthrie and Sheng Shan Chang.
"It was great to get the result I did after getting a mechanical in Crankworx. It was definitely what I was hoping for and it was great to pull through and accomplish it," he said.
Though the course was less wet than the Sept. 10 training runs, Johnston explained there were still latent hazards throughout that he needed to keep in mind.
"It was a beautiful day but the track was still quite slippery from the previous rain," he said. "It was a lot different conditions than Crankworx. There were slick roots and rocks that made it a lot more technical and challenging.
"I think my approach was just to keep to my lines and ride clean.
"Slip-ups can happen a lot easier and are very time-consuming."
Johnston was proud of how he kept his riding consistent throughout the day, winning the first three stages and staying on his bike when the course seemed to want him to do otherwise.
"In particular, Stage 3, Boyd's Trail," he said. "That was the slickest, most technical stage of the day.
"It was really tough to stay on your lines and I know a lot of people were having problems with it. I had a good clean run and smashed it."
Johnston noted the race was a good boost of confidence before heading off to Enduro World Series race in France this weekend.
Other winners from the weekend included: Shane Kroeger (master men), Joel Harwood (amateur men), Max Leyen (U21 men), Ian Milley (youth men), Michaela Pacakova (amateur women) and Julia Long (U21 women). Full results are available at www.naetmtb.com.
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