Whistler riders excel at MTB nationals 

Plethora of Sea-to-Sky locals shine at enduro, downhill nationals

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - TOP OF THE PODIUM Julia Long (centre) celebrates her U21 division win in the Norco Canadian Enduro Championships at Panorama Mountain Resort.
  • Photo submitted
  • TOP OF THE PODIUM Julia Long (centre) celebrates her U21 division win in the Norco Canadian Enduro Championships at Panorama Mountain Resort.

Local riders made an impression at the 2019 Canadian DH and Enduro Nationals at Panorama Mountain Resort on July 27 and 28.

For starters, Whistler's Julia Long came away with the U21 women's win in the Norco Canadian Enduro Championships, topping runner-up Emmy Lan of Comox by 26.56 seconds.

However, Long felt the race was set to be more of a battle between her and friend Lucy Schick of Gibsons, who had a crash in the first stage and placed third over a minute back. Long also went down later on, but recovered to take the win.

"Everyone crashed at least once. I had a pretty bad crash on Stage 4 but seemed to pull it out," she said. "[After the crash], I wasn't riding to my full ability. I just wanted to make sure to keep it safe since I was in the downhill the next day, too [placing sixth among elite women]. I just wanted to stay in one piece and survive the weekend.

"I managed to stay on my bike. I wasn't as fast as I knew I could ride, but just wanted to make it down and survive the day."

The race started in the Panorama alpine, with Long describing riders ascending a pair of chairlifts before a 90-minute hike and bike session just to get to the start.

"It was amazing to be so high up. We don't usually get to experience riding in the alpine that high up. Right off the bat, the first few minutes of the stage was wide open, going over a ridge and I got distracted by the views," she said. "I was trying to stay smooth and not crash.

"If you crashed, you'd be going pretty far down."

Long has been racing less this year, focusing more on enduro than splitting time between that and cross-country. She is set to enter the Canadian Open Enduro race here in Whistler as part of the Enduro World Series (EWS) before heading to Northstar, Calif. for the next EWS, and for her first race on the circuit outside of Whistler.

Another local winner on the weekend was Spencer Wight, who topped the expert men category. Wight was thrilled to return to Panorama, where he enjoys riding.

"Last year, we were out there and it was one of my favourite races of the year, so I was just really excited to be back there and to be racing again," he said. "It was officially national championships this year, so there was a bit of extra excitement going on."

Wight won three of the day's five stages and nicked runner-up Marty Schaffer of Revelstoke by 2.16 seconds. He said the course was fairly similar to the 2018 race, though the opening alpine stage underwent a bit of a change.

"This year, it started even higher so we were hiking and biking for about an hour and a half up to the start point," he said. "I had a good result on that stage. I felt good on the stage and was excited for the rest of the day. It was definitely a good way to start out, feeling good on the bike and not making too many mistakes, especially on a stage as long as it is."

Wight explained that he raced in the expert category to attain enough points to qualify for the full EWS race here in Whistler, a feat he accomplished with the win. As such, he was focused more on his overall time, which would have placed him comfortably in ninth in the elite division.

"I was happy with that. I was more looking at how I would compare in my overall result rather than just in expert men. I'm obviously happy to take the win in that but being top-10-ranked in Canada is a really cool thing," he said.

Other locals who excelled in the enduro included: Jacob Tremblay (first in 21-to-29 men); Stefanie Lachance (second in open women); and Guillaume Racine (third in 40-plus men).

As for the downhill championships, Finn Iles edged Kirk McDowall by 0.73 seconds in the UCI elite men's event while Georgia Astle took second in the elite women's event. Meanwhile, Fish Nelson placed second in the U17 sport men category, Tegan Cruz took second among U15 men, and Amy Ertel was third among junior women.

Full results are online at www.zone 4.ca.

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