Today was a funny day of racing. As the day started, it looked like things were tipping one way, then as the day reached its climax, they went back the other way again. In the early running, series leaders Richie Rude and Cecile Ravanel both suffered mechanical woes that appeared to derail their plans. Yet, there is a difference between winners and champions and both showed why they are set to take the titles this year. Both exceeded their early misfortunes, put all their energy into the remaining stages, and won all three of them. That is what you call a champion's performance. Behind them, Jesse Melamed capitalized on a two years of promising stage results at his home race to hold onto the hot seat until he was knocked off by Rude in the race’s final moment. In third, Josh Carlson finally showed what he has hinted he was capable of when we saw him at the first ever round of the EWS in 2013. In the women's race, Isabeau Courdurier bagged her best ever result, and Casey Brown now has podiumed twice in just three EWS races. Once more, Whistler served up one of the most exciting races of the season.
Whistler is not a bad place to be early in the morning.
Saturday was a late night for the mechanics getting the bikes ready for the big day.
A very early start to a very long day. Some were stoked and others were still half asleep on the way up to stage one.
Seb Claquin is still nursing an injury but was able to muscle his way through the day to salvage third amongst the young guns.
Jackson Frew was one of many downhill racers trying their hand at the EWS for the first time, and would finish the day 4th in the U-21 category. Quite a respectable result for a first timer.
Adrien Dailly ripping the bike park a new one on the first stage.
Almost 12 hours after they set out on track, the top U-21 riders finally got to climb on top of the podium.
Stage one could only really be classified as pure bike park. Lots of man-made berms and jumps with the occasional wooden wall ride thrown in for good measure. Needless to say it was not loved by many of the racers and definitely not a representation of enduro, or even mountain biking for that matter.
Matti Lehikoinen knows that when you ride a bike park track on stage one you have to bust out the bike park moves. Matti would finish the day in 15th, inching closer and closer to that elusive top ten.
Connor Fearon was saying before the race that he planned to do well on stage one as he didn't think he would have the fitness to hang with the series regulars as the day wore on. He was pretty much on the money, smashing his way to second place on stage one, then putting in less stellar times on the later stages. Rumor has it we'll be seeing more appearances by Connor on the EWS circuit.
Another downhiller who did well today was Vaea Verbeeck - ninth on her EWS debut.
Whistler is Sarah Leishman's home race and she put in a credible 12th on her home soil today.
The result we really care about is just seeing ACC here on track, but you can see she still has the pace, if not the fitness, getting third on the shorter fourth stage, but struggling on the more physical outings.
Anneke Beerten struggled a bit this weekend and is still trying to regain her form after a midseason illness. Sixth would be a great result for most people but for Anneke, it still leaves a lot to be desired.
So close to home you could almost call her a local, Miranda Miller added another top EWS result to her resume by grabbing fourth.
Rae Morrison had a string of bad luck today with mechanicals and crashes, but it would be the fifth and final stage that would really ruin here day. A broken pedal upon landing a jump would result in a trip to the hospital and a broken heel. Get well soon Rae.
Cecile Ravanel punctured on stages one and two. Word was that her rim was so damaged that she had to beat it back into shape with a rock to keep her going until she could get to the tech area.
Take a close look at that rear tire. Richie Rude flatted on stage two, finished 36 seconds off pace, and fought back over the next three stages to win by nearly seven seconds.
Richie Rude is a force of nature. Running with a rear flat near the bottom of stage two, the pace he was carrying was terrifying.
With no tech support, Richie popped in a tube at the bottom of the stage.
It wasn't just a flat tire that tried to ruin Richie Rude's day. He also managed to rip the sole out of his shoe, making things a bit awkward until he could get back to the pits for a replacement.
Curtis had pretty high hopes coming into Whistler but would eventually have to settle for ninth.
Sam Hill seems to be rather good at this enduro thing. In the three races he has competed in, he hasn't finished outside the top ten, and today was the only time hasn't finished in second spot.
Because Sam Hill. Who finished eighth, and destroyed corners.
Wyn TV took a day off of Crankworx to race the EWS.
What's in your pack? Anneke Beerten keeps her food wrappers ("it was a long day today so I've eaten almost all of my food"), tools, and a few fix it odds and ends stashed in the pockets of her bib shorts.
Ines Thoma's disappointing season continued today, finding herself back in eighth today - a long way from the podium.
Try as he may, it just wasn't Jerome Clementz's day.
For a while, we were thinking Isabeau might take her first EWS win here, but after the dust had settled, Courdurier ended up second.
Casey Brown was on fire today, finishing in third place. There's nothing so sweet as a podium on home soil.
The scuffs and marks of a good day on the bike for Casey Brown.
Josh Carlson blowing smoke on stage five, getting a bit of redemption for a flat tire last year, landing himself on the podium in front of friends and family.
It all went wrong for Flo Nicolai on stage four. A crash on the big chute spelled an end to his race.
Sometimes you bite the beast, other days the beast bites you.
Matt Stuttard once again got people talking today - apparently he was visibly faster than anyone else through the unforgiving chute on stage four, which claimed some of the world's best. Unfortunately, he then dropped it a couple of corners later on a relatively easy section.
One man has so much power that his pants can't withstand it.
Fifth place finisher Martin Maes didn't seem to care that there was a lower line option here that was entirely less risky.
Tenth for Justin Leov after a long absence from racing and a lingering illness that kept him sidelined and unable to train for most of this season. It's good to have you back Justin.
Miranda Miller was certainly comfortable on her trail bike by race day, as she smashed her way to fourth.
Anita Gehrig couldn't repeat her podium of two weeks ago, but still managed decent fifth place.
Sam Blenkinsop had a great start to the day and was even leading the overall for through the early stages - eventually ending up seventh on his big-wheeled Norco.
Jerome Clementz leaves a trail of dust in his wake as he makes his way down the steep and loose stage four.
Jesse Melamed obliterated the death chute on stage 4, pretty much jumping the entire thing and landing in this catch berm. How he kept it upright in one of life's great mysteries.
Nico Lau powering his way to second place on stage four.
A race that started an near sunrise for some, ended at sunset for others, on what would be a very long guessing game played out on the slopes of Whistler Mountain.
Graves and Carlson wait for their starts on stage five.
Jared Graves suffered another round of mishaps on stage one, which would effectively end his day before it really even began. That didn't stop him from carrying on and having a bit of fun on stage five's Top of the World trail.
While some of those close to Oton in the points struggled with crashes and mechanicals, he would keep it steady and consistent to end the day in 6th.
Jesse Melamed wanted it badly, he could barely stand at the finish line.
It was an emotional affair for the Melamed clan to see Jesse stake his claim for a place among the fastest racers in the world.
Richie hit the top of stage five so fast it looked like he had a motor on his bike. It's amazing to see Richie ride at 100-percent when on a mission to pull back big chunks of time.
Richie Rude never ceases to amaze. Injured shoulder and a flat? He's on another level.
Cecile Ravenel fought her way back to the top spot after a tough day at the office.
Last year Isabeau Courdurier got third here. Second this year. We have our fingers crossed for her for next year.
A frustrated Cecile is clearly a formidable one - after her early woes she thrashed her competition to reassert her dominance.
Jordy was pumped for Nico Lau. Can you feel the love?
Damion Smith congratulates Richie Rude on another stunning victory.
Family first for Josh Carlson, as he celebrated his first ever EWS podium.
All smiles from Casey Brown, finishing third and showing why she is one of the most talented riders out there.
The fastest men and women in Whistler.
That's one view we won't tire of.