When the dust finally settled on Sunday afternoon after four days of mountain bike events, Whistler riders found themselves on top of almost every competition, using home-field advantage to hold off some of the best riders from B.C., Canada and the rest of the world.
The main events were the Air Downhill on Thursday, the Nissan Biker-X on Friday, the Garbanzo Downhill on Saturday, the Siemens Mobile Slopestyle on Saturday Night and the first B.C. Downhill Championships on Sunday.
More than $30,000 in cash and prizes went up for grabs, and with the exception of the invitation-only slopestyle, the events were open to all comers with pro and amateur categories.
The third annual Air Downhill took place on Whistlers famous A-Line run, a 3.8 km trail with more than 60 jumps, berms and obstacles from top to bottom. While most people who ride the park are familiar with the trail, racing it is a different proposition.
"Its a totally different style of riding," said Whistlers Brook Baker, who finished second overall behind local rider Claire Whiteman. Whiteman finished in four minutes, 49.48 seconds and Baker in 4:53.31.
"I know the run really well, but racing it is a lot different than riding it," added Baker. "Youre not jumping hard on all of the tables and trying to get huge air, youre trying to keep your wheels down and moving as fast as you can. The corners and the jumps come up a lot faster, so you have to think a couple of moves ahead and know your line pretty well," said Baker, who is in her first year with the Norco pro team.
Claire Buchar, another Whistler rider, finished the race in third with a time of 4:53.65, earning her first of three podiums on the weekend.
In the mens pro competition Nathan Rennie of Australia posted the fastest time of the day out of 35 starters, crossing the finish line in 4:15.40.
In the process he edged out French rider Cedric Gracia, a part-time Whistler resident and one of the most dominant downhill and biker cross riders in the world.
Third place went to another Australian, Jared Rando in 4:18.99.
Whistlers Adam Cook, riding with a broken wrist, was the closest local to the podium with his time of 4:21.03. In the process he edged out Californias Eric Carter, one of the top biker cross competitors in the world, and Whistler rider Tyler Morland, who would go on to finish second in the Garbanzo Downhill and first in the B.C. Downhill Championships over the course of the weekend.
Shannon Smith was the one and only rider in the junior womens race with a time of 5:42.68.
Ross Measures was the top junior male in 4:38.19. Connor MacLeod was less than a hundredth of a second back, Marcus Jaheny was in third by just six one-hundredths of a second. Whistlers Alex Prochazka, who is coming off a broken collarbone, was fourth.
In the amateur mens race the top time went to Will Spencer in 4:35.81, followed by Jeff Leigh in 4:36.59 and Mike Zgund in 4:38.38.
Kim Saprunoff was the top amateur woman with her time of 5:05.51. Marilyn Manso was second in 5:13.74 and Pascale Vaiani third in 5:15.78.
In the downhill chair category Stacey Kohut finished in 5:29.91, almost 20 seconds ahead of Johnny Therrien.
For the third year in a row Whistler hosted a pro bikercross event, and once again some of the top names in the world turned out to race thanks to the World Cup event in Calgary two weeks earlier and the Joyride Bikercross in Kamloops the previous week.
The Whistler course was newly rebuilt by local legend Richie Schley, who increased the size and difficulty level of the tables, adding a few step-ups and drops. He also added a few tough rhythm sections that ended the day for more than one rider.
Eric Carter of the U.S., who is currently ranked fourth in the World Cup 4X standings, says the course suited his style of riding.
"Its awesome, it was probably one of the best courses weve raced on all season, if not ever," he said. "Its high speed, theres a lot of really big, really quality jumps so, we were able to put on a good show to the bottom. It was really wide as well so you could go into that first turn with four riders, and the jumps were good and safe so you could just concentrate on pedalling."
Carter battled with Cedric Gracia and Brian Lopes for most of the day, and was neck and neck with both riders heading into the first turn of the finals. Carter was actually in a close third at one point before he pulled ahead coming out of the corner and never looked back, "because I knew they were right behind me pedalling like madmen," said Carter.
"Brian and I got pretty close in a couple of spots, and Cedric is just amazing, but when you get to the level were at, its hard to make a passing kind of course," he added. "If you get a lead youre probably going to hold onto it.
"The race was kind of one-lined because all of us only got a chance to practice for a little while and all of us were practicing the same line. If we had more time we would have opened up another line or couple of lines, so there would have been a bit more passing."
The faster the riders go out of the start the further back the hole shot gets, he added. These days its not unusual to be tied coming out of the first corner.
Carter says that competition is getting more intense on the World Cup circuit, which is pushing the established riders on the tour.
"In the past it was a handful of guys like me and Brian Lopes and sometimes Wade Bootes and sometimes Mike King, but its no longer that little foursome anymore. More people are coming to the head of being competitive, guys like Michal Prokop and Brian Schmith, my teammate, and theres a lot of young kids coming up from Europe and America who are really charging, which is great for our sport," said Carter.
"The more variation there is, the better it is for our sport."
Brian Lopes edged out Gracia to take second place while Brian Schmith, Carters teammate, was fourth.
In the womens race Sabrina Jonnier of France, the World Cup title winner and the favourite in the race, crashed hard in the finals while trying to overtake Jill Kinter of the U.S.
Kinter, went on to win the final heat, trailed closely by Whistlers Claire Buchar. Leana Gerrard of the U.S. was third.
In the junior mens race Taylor Sage took the win, followed by Cameron McCaul and Dan Csonkay. Whistlers James McSkimming was fourth.
In the amateur mens race, Mike Zgund made the podium once again, this time in first place. He was followed by Brian Gerrard, Joao Ludolf and Greg Nunnikhoven.
Stacey Kohut once again edged out Johnny Therrien in the Downhill Chair race.
The inaugural Garbanzo Downhill race attracted more than 115 riders on Saturday, double what the organizers were expecting for one of the worlds longest epic downhill races. From the top of the Garbanzo chair to the bottom of Whistler Mountain, the course is 3,400 vertical feet, and covers close to 10 km of technical trail.
Although it looked like nobody could budge Tyler Morland from the hot seat with his time of 15:24.38, Cedric Gracia, the second last rider of the day, punched through with a time of 15:17.54. The whole way down Gracia averaged 47.08 km an hour.
"The key was just to relax and not try to rush yourself too much," said Gracia. "I just tried to flow through the technical stuff without too much brakes, and just sat back for a lot of it. Theres nobody out there who can pedal all the way down for 15 minutes, its so tiring, so you have to save yourself for the open spots.
"It was long, but the top section was pretty good, but near the bottom you get into roots and loose stuff. Near the bottom I almost lost it on one section, but I maintained."
Morland, who crashed on the same loose stuff and might have the lost the race as a result, says he was just happy to have a good run.
"Thats racing, straight up," he said. "This event was really, really mellow. Up top everybody was hanging out with everyone, nobody was looking at the times. Its such a long race that anybody has a shot. You cant ride it perfectly, and even if you make three or four big mistakes out there you can still recover."
Morland says he likes the longer races for that reason, which is why he travels to Golden every year to compete in the Mount 7 Psychosis, a 10 km downhill. This year he was second in that race as well.
"I wish there were more longer downhill races out there," he said.
Australian Nathan Rennie was third with a time of 15:25.55.
The top woman was Katie Pruitt of California, who finished in 17:29.89. Not only was she 46 seconds faster than the second place finisher, fellow Californian Anka Martin, she was also fast enough to place sixth among the amateur males.
Whistlers Angela Teng was third in 18:40.69, followed by Claire Buchar in 18:54.91.
Kim Saprunoff was the top amateur woman in 20:13.81, followed by Megan Hoodspith in 20:35.10.
Micayla Gatto was the lone junior woman, finishing the course in 20:47.16.
In the amateur mens race, Garrick Anderson of California was the top rider in 16:26.10. Jerid Letchford was second, followed by German rider Daniel Schmider.
Tyler Gritt was the top junior in 17:14.21, followed by Marcus Jaheny in 17:24.19 and Jack Montgomery in 18:08.27. James McSkimming was the top Whistler rider in 18:37.60.
Following the Garbanzo Downhill, Cedric Gracia and Claire Buchar was crowned as King and Queen of the Mountain for the best overall results over the past three days.
Siemens Mobile Slopestyle
Although some of the top names in freeride mountain biking were on the prequalified list for this year, some of the best competition came from Fridays qualifier.
The course, which was also designed by Richie Schley, had a lot of everything for the riders to choose from huge gap jumps, drops, a road gap, a wall ride, a quarterpipe, a massive teeter-totter, and a step up onto some scaffolding.
Organizers estimate that the crowd was 10,000 strong for the main event, which got underway at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Riders got to make two runs in the first round, after which point judges would narrowed the field down to eight. After another round of eliminations the field narrowed down to two riders who were to compete for the top prize.
There were too many highlights to mention, but some memorable moments from the competition include Kirt Voreis crash and recovery on the teeter-totter, huge moves by Richie Schley and Cedric Gracia off the road gap, backflips over the big gaps by Kyle Ebbett and Cameron Zink, Kyle Straits backflip onto the scaffolding in the semi-finals, and Cameron McCaulss huge BMX tricks, backflips and quarterpipe moves.
Big points also have to go to:
Wade Simmons, who crashed on a 360 attempt on the top gap then rode the rest of the way down with no seat tempting fate by pulling a no-footer over one of the big gaps;
Gareth Dyer for the biggest wall ride of the day;
Cory Derpak, a late qualifier who pulled a huge tail whip on the massive road gap;
Ryder Kasprick, who landed his first ever backflip in a contest.
At the end of the evening there were just two riders left, Timo Pritzel, who was landing backflips and 360 combinations over the gaps, and 17-year-old Paul Basagoitia, who was one of the most entertaining riders of the day.
In the finals Basagoitia pulled a tailwhip off the boxes, landed a backflip over the gaps, did another tailwhip on the quarterpipe, and finished with a backflip onto the scaffolding. He lost control of the landing, but somehow managed to throw another tailwhip as he rode off the scaffolding onto the final transition.
Not to be outdone, Pritzel pulled a backflip up top, then gapped the entire box jump. He threw in a couple of BMX moves over the big gaps before he attempted to jump the entire scaffolding section, getting the biggest air of the day.
He was more than 25 feet over the transition when he realized he was going to clear the transition, and attempted to bail out. He crashed hard, breaking his ankle and his wrist.
Basagoitia won, but had to do another run to be crowned as the champion. Rather than take it easy, Basagoitia crashed while trying to pull a combination backflip and tailwhip at the top of the course. Further down the course he crashed on one of the gaps, bending his seatpost back so far it was touching his rear tire.
Basagoitia, a BMX rider from Nevada who had to qualify in order to compete, walked away with the title and a cheque for $3,000.
" It was awesome, it was only like my fifth time on a mountain bike, so I couldnt be happier," he said. "We all come from BMX backgrounds, so it was awesome to all the tricks out there. Its a new sport for me, and its a pretty cool format, so I hope they do a lot more of it."
On his final out-of-control tailwhip off the scaffolding, Basagoitia says the move probably saved him from a crash.
"I was a little off on my landing, and before I knew it I was at the edge of that thing and totally out of control, so from out of nowhere I just decided to throw the tail whip in there, which was the plan all along. Ive practiced that move a lot, and I caught the bike perfectly, so landing wasnt a problem. It actually helped me to get back under control," he said.
Third place when to Kyle Strait, followed by Cameron McCaul and Cameron Zink.
Richie Schley, who was the top Canadian and local rider, finished the day in sixth.
"I was really happy to be out there. I built the course, or helped build the course, and I was really excited to see what the other riders did with it. And I was surprised as well, a lot of these guys did things out there I couldnt even have imagined," said Schley.
"I think its obvious that the next wave of riders is coming up. For the older riders, guys like Wade (Simmons) and myself, weve still got the Red Bull Rampage, which is more our style. But we all want to be a part of this as well and be involved, even though the really technical tricks are coming or theyre already here.
"I think this is going to be a good format to get us into the X-Games, but I hope we always have this event as well and that the Rampage will still be there."
Schley said his best trick was a suicide no-hander off the road gap. "Im pretty proud of that, and I think thats what probably got me into the finals."
B.C. Downhill Championships
Whistler riders ruled on final day of the competition in the inaugural B.C. Downhill Championships, a new event created and sanctioned by Cycling B.C.
Brook Baker and Tyler Morland took the top spots in the pro elite category of the downhill race to win the first ever provincial titles, holding off some of the top riders in the province as well as a few World Cup competitors.
More than 110 riders took part in the event, taking on the windy, technical 3.8 km Whistler Downhill Course.
Bakers time of 4:12.55 and average speed of 54.17 km/h was almost 50 seconds faster than the next rider, Pip Parr, who finished in 4:59.96. Kristina Martinez was third in 5:03.76.
"Im just super stoked with my ride, it was a good effort for me," said Baker.
She spent the time before her ride staying cool in the shade, hanging out with her trainer, then tried to relax as much as possible on the course.
"I didnt really pedal that much, a bit at the beginning to get some speed in the trees, but after that I just rode it out. Knowing the course definitely helped out," she said.
In the mens pro elite race, Morland spent the last half of the race in the hot seat, waiting to see if any of the 28 riders in the race could better his time of 3:31.56 an average speed of 64.66 km/h.
Although a few riders with the national team, Brant Lyon and Kyle Guay came close with times of 3:32.48 and 3:35.96 respectively, Morland was still in the hot seat at the end of the race.
"It feels good to come out ahead," he said. "Ive raced against these guys all year, weve battled it out and sometimes theyve come out on top, so it was definitely good to win."
Morland said he rode conservatively because the course was pretty worked in by the time it was his turn to ride, and he knew a small mistake could cost him the provincial title.
Morland hopes to build on this win over the rest of the season, and hopes to kick it up a notch at the national level next year.
"August is a big month for racing, so hopefully I can keep it consistent and finish off the year with a few good rides," he said. "One year always leads to the next, so yeah, Im definitely looking at next year, being more active in Canada Cup and World Cup races. Im going to keep riding, keep trying to get better, and well see what happens."
There were more than a dozen different competitive categories in the B.C. Downhill Champsionships. Complete results are available at www.stat-timing.com.