Another year, another new record at the Red Bull 400.
In the first running of the uphill race at Whistler Olympic Park in 2015, Brandon Crichton posted a new mark, dashing up the 37-degree incline in three minutes and 53 seconds (3:53). A year later, on July 30, Crichton's accomplishment fell at the same venue, as 17-year-old Kieran Lumb bettered the mark by a full five seconds. Shaun Stephens-Whale took second once again, finishing six seconds back, while Critchton was third with a time of 4:04.
"I really had no expectations. I was hoping for a top-five finish and I was super satisfied with how it turned out," Lumb said.
The race, a relatively new phenomenon held worldwide where competitors dash up ski jumps, draws athletes from a variety of backgrounds. For his part, Lumb is primarily a cross-country skier who had never experienced anything quite like it.
"I'm feeling a lot better now. At the end of the race, it was probably the most pain I've ever felt after a race," he said afterwards. "(Toward the top), I was in a lot of pain. It's a really unique race, so it's definitely a painful one. Four minutes of hard effort."
In the final, Lumb dashed out to a lead running up the grassy portion of the hill. The stretch run is an inclined wooden dock and while he lost some ground early on, he dug deep and gave his all for the final few metres.
"You just try to go into the pain cave and try not to think about anything. You just grind it out for the last two minutes or so," he said. "I had a little slip and I heard the commentator saying he (Stephens-Whale) was gaining on me. It kind of propelled me forward a little bit more.
"I just tried to lock in and grind it out all the way to the top. You can't think too much in a four-minute race."
Lumb kept a bit of a low profile during qualifying, letting Crichton take the attention. The defending champion posted a time of 4:12, putting him 13 seconds up on the next-best competitors and 23 seconds ahead of Lumb, who qualified in fifth.
"For the heats, I tried to take it pretty conservative and with the crowd, it's kind of hard. You get caught up. But I managed to hold myself back," Lumb said. "For the final, I did the first 150 metres pretty hard, and then Brandon passed me. I just locked in right behind him and locked it out for the main climb. Over the crest, I accelerated a bit and overtook him."
Lumb said it was difficult to get ready for the race, as it's not easy to replicate the course, but opted for road-biking intervals and uphill running in other spots.
This winter, Lumb is set to begin his first season on the UBC cross-country team.
On the women's side, Vancouver triathlete Rachel McBride edged defending champion Zoe Dawson by a single second in qualifying and managed to open up a greater gap in the final, knocking off Chantelle Groenewoud by seven seconds and Dawson by 11 seconds when the dust had settled.
"That was one of the hardest things I had ever done in my life. I have never felt like that up at the top after a race," she said. "This was amazing. It was incredible to be pushed by some solid women on-course there."
While McBride took a boost from putting up the best time in the heats, she knew Dawson was in hot pursuit and the final would be a different story.
"Zoe was only a second behind me in qualifying. I knew I was easily going to make it into the final," she said. "I had a solid effort in the first half and then on the wood part, just kind of shut it down a little bit. I knew I had a little bit more left in the tank.
"It was definitely pretty nerve-wracking going into the final, but I was pretty excited to come out on top."
In the championship dash, McBride took a calm approach before stepping down on the gas and powering through to the finish.
"I tried to keep it nice and steady going into the first 200 metres, and I knew on the wood ramp, that's where things were really going to start to get tough," she said. "Sure enough, that last 50 metres was some of the hardest of my life. The announcers were like, 'Oh, they're coming up from behind.' I had one slip there on the wood and I just tried to stay focused, stay positive and go super hard to the finish."
McBride noted she was convinced to register for the race after completing the Grouse Grind with Crichton and some other friends.
Next up for McBride is the International Triathlon Union long-distance championships in Oklahoma in September and then Ironman Cozumel in November. While she's happy with the win, she doesn't think anything will transfer to those big events this autumn.
"My races are four-and-a-half hours long and this was five minutes long," she said.
In the relay division, Big Test Icicles captured the victory by just a single second over Whistler Core, while the WSL Team notched third.
Complete results are available at www.racedaytiming.ca.
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