The men's final at the Red Bull 400 World Championships at Whistler Olympic Park on Saturday was truly a battle of B.C. against the world.
In the end, in the contest where racers clamber up the park's ski jumps up angles at times reaching 37 degrees, Squamish resident Alexandre Ricard held off Norway's Erik Resell to earn the title of world champion in his first crack at the race. Crossing the line in three minutes and 29 seconds (3:29), Ricard came in just one seconds ahead of Resell.
"[It feels] incredible," Ricard said in the start corral after the race. "I came here to try the race. [It's my] first time here. I train a lot in Squamish, with lots of hill training and climbing up the Chief."
In a clash of styles, Ricard remained upright in the final quarter of the course, a steep wooden ramp, while Resell and third-place finisher Jakob Mayer of Austria, made their way on all-fours.
"I was just thinking it must be painful for [Resell], too," said Ricard, who is originally from Quebec and had been in Squamish for roughly a year. "I just had to push forward and take the win."
Resell said as the course's end neared, he felt fatigued and while he made a valiant effort to keep pace with Ricard, it wasn't quite enough.
"I had some energy left, but the Canadian guy [Ricard] was really strong in the last metres. I was completely drained in the last metres," he said.
Resell explained that the Whistler course had some fairly significant differences from his home hill at Trondheim, Norway, with the biggest of those being that the major uphill climb in Whistler in on grass, while the Norwegian hill is on hard plastic.
The difference, Resell estimated, affected his time to the tune of about 20 seconds.
On the women's side, another first-timer took the crown as Maple Ridge's Madison Sands came out on top with a winning time of 4:18. The Grouse Grind women's record holder held off Brooke Spence by 12 seconds while defending champion Robyn Mildren rounded out the podium 23 seconds off the pace. All three podium finishers bested Mildren's course record of 4:45, set in 2018.
As a newcomer, Sands said she came in not expecting much.
"I didn't really know what to expect so I went out full force in the first round and I went full force again in the second," she said,
Full results are available online at www.startlinetiming.com.