With The Gryphon acting as the inaugural race of the brand-new Sea to Sky Enduro Series, perhaps it was fitting that a first-time enduro rider took down the pro women's title.
World Cup downhill shredder Miranda Miller won the five-stage series opener in Squamish on Saturday, May 3, while Whistler's Jesse Melamed claimed the pro men's victory as both riders topped deep and talented fields to kick off the circuit.
"Why not, really?" Miller said when asked why she decided to try her hand at enduro for a first time. "I had a bunch of friends come in for the race, and I figured I might as well join them.
"Downhill's still my main focus, but if there are (other races) that I'm around for, I will definitely do them. I'm kind of keen to do any kind of racing."
She might have been a rookie, but Miller didn't look out of place one bit, recording the quickest times on each of the first four stages and clocking in with a total of 18 minutes, 30.4 seconds. That put her 20 seconds clear of runner-up Vaea Verbeeck and 30 seconds ahead of Whistler's Katrina Strand.
"The last stage was definitely the most challenging and I definitely did not put down a good stage," said Miller. "But for the rest of it, I thought I rode fairly decently. I was just trying to stay smooth. It's kind of one of those things where you try to ride smooth and not crash.
"It's a little bit different than downhill, you can play around with strategy a bit more."
Angry Midget, Hybrid/Lowdown, Your Mom, Fool's Gold and Somewhere Over There were the trails used to make up the full course on Saturday.
Up against a pro men's field that boasted a few more World Cup downhill racers, Melamed found himself trailing Remi Gauvin by a few seconds, and tied with Matthew Beer, heading into the final stage. However, Melamed posted the fastest Stage 5 time of the day to secure the win, while Gauvin flatted and fell back to 23rd overall.
"Both him and Nick Geddes (who placed eighth) actually flatted on the last stage and it would have been tight if they both had a clean run," said Melamed, who finished with a total time of 15:23.3.
"It's kind of what I expected. The course was a little more downhill oriented. The first three stages I think were pretty downhill, and Remi was getting some time on me, but the last stage was pretty physical and I think I would have taken him anyways."
Beer settled for second, 10 seconds back, while Whistler's Jordan Hodder placed third, edging Dylan Wolsky by just one second for the final podium spot.
Pat Foster won the open men's race, beating out a field of more than 100 riders, while William Chadham placed second and Greg Grant finished third. In the open women's division, Elladee Brown earned the victory, followed by Simmone Lyons and Veronika Voracek.
The Gryphon drew more than 150 competitors for the debut of the series, which continues in Pemberton on May 17. Both Miller and Melamed said they were very impressed by the circuit's first race.
"The course was awesome, the organizers did a really good job and I think it went pretty perfectly," said Melamed.
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