Photo Epic presented by ODI
Any hopes of the standard dry and dusty Whistler EWS went right out the window following Saturday evening's first stage down from Top of The World. The rain came in for the last 20 or so riders and did not let up through the night and into Sunday morning. As racers set out for the opening stages temperatures dropped significantly and the winds picked up just enough to ensure a proper day of suffering was soon to come.
While racers had one battle on their hands against the cold, rain, and wind, there was an even more treacherous one lying in wait on the mountain and in the surrounding valley. Enough moisture had come down to saturate much of the dry and dusty Whistler dirt. There would be plenty of mud to add to the already slippery mix of big rock slabs and polished roots. Whistler in the dry is challenging enough with all its raw technical elements and weathered trails, but add a heavy dose of moisture to the equation and facing five muddy stages would not be for the faint of heart.
It would be a battle of attrition and nerves to keep bike and body in one piece, all while riding that fine line of aggressive and fast, without crashing or blowing off track. It would be unreasonable think anyone could have a clean race in conditions like this, so it would come down to minimizing mistakes and adapting on the fly to ever-changing conditions. Those big-time gaps built up by Richie Rude and Isabeau Courdurier on Stage one were certainly going to come in handy should anything go sideways over the five final stages.
Things would heat up right from the get-go as Sam Hill and Eddie Masters pulled themselves into podium positions on the first stage, and Andreane Lanthier Nadeau (ALN) took a win in the women's race to tighten the gap against Isabeau to just four seconds. And just like that, another tight and exciting race was right back on.
Richie would build his lead to over a minute and was then able to ride conservatively and safe for the last few stages. Behind him, a battle continued with Sam Hill and Eddie Masters, and Adrien Dailly even snuck in a stage win to keep everyone on their toes. Heading into the last stage, Sam pulled some time to hold down the second spot with Eddie in third and, barring disaster, there was little chance of the order changing on the final stage. There was drama in the women's race. Crashes by Isabeau and mistakes by ALN saw Noga Korem charge through into second position. Isabeau would head into the final stage with a strong lead, but it was by no means as safe as Richie Rude's in the men's ranks.
Stage six would see lots of crashes and mishaps, most notable from Isabeau who crossed the line and had to be helped out of the finish area. However, nothing was drastic enough to cause a shakeup in the overall. In the end, Richie and Isabeau would take the wins with Sam Hill and Noga in second, followed by Eddie Masters and local Canadian favorite Andreane Lanthier-Nadeau.