After a packed season of racing in the Whistler Bike Park, most riders are simply enjoying the un-crowded trails in the final weeks of operation.
But for 32 enthusiastic racers, one more descent down Top of the World — which has been shut since Sept. 21 — was too good to pass up. The Phat Weekend Enduro gave competitors exclusive access to the trail from the peak of Whistler Mountain before transitioning to No Joke and Little Alder and finally Duffman to Golden Triangle for the three-stage course. Shane Gayton won the Male Open category with a combined time of 19 minutes 9 seconds, more than two minutes ahead of runner up William Biname (21:43). James Sear rounded out the podium with a time of 21:52.
“I knew the course pretty well because it was in the Crankworx Enduro, so the runs felt pretty good,” said Gayton at the post-race awards. “It was pretty slick actually. I didn’t expect it to be that slippery. The third stage down Duffman had been closed for the last week with all the rain so it had a slimy layer on top. I think most people in the valley have forgotten how to ride on wet stuff because we haven’t had those conditions all summer.”
The second fastest time of the day went to Craig Wilson in the Masters Male category with a time of 20:27, followed by Richard Bedford (21:12) and John Rowan (22:54). The Female Open and Junior Male categories were relatively small with only three racers in each. Simmone Lyons (26:07) and Bradley Jansen (23:18) won those categories respectively.
The lack of female participation in Enduro races is something that the Whistler Blackcomb events department has been addressing by promoting the events to women at both Phat Wednesday downhill and WORCA Toonie races.
“At a B-Line, Ninja Cougar or other ‘blue’ races at Phat Wednesday we’ll see 30 to 40 women,” said Colleen Ikona, events lead hand at Whistler Blackcomb.
“In Phat Wednesdays we definitely get a feed from the women’s nights, a lot of women who feel comfortable on the lower level courses. We try to encourage people doing the enduro races to show that you can ride park on a smaller bike and you don’t need the whole eight inches of travel and a triple-crown fork. If you’re more of an all-mountain rider in Whistler, the park is still there for you. That’s one of the big goals of the enduro, to showcase the park to a different clientele.”
The female cross-country riders in Whistler are also a group that Ikona said they want to attract. The Wonder Woman stage race hosted by WORCA in July saw 111 women sign up, the kind of attendance that Whistler Blackcomb hopes to see at future enduro events.
“The concept of enduro is a little less intimidating than pure downhill racing,” said Ikona. “Next year, now that we’ve started these, I think it will start to grow through word of mouth.”