Getting to combine two of his passions into one race is what James McSkimming loves about the Crud 2 Mud downhill. Winning Sunday's (May 29) race was a nice bonus.
In Whistler Blackcomb's last on-snow competition of the season and first in the bike park, McSkimming had the fastest overall solo time in the combined ski/snowboard and bike race. The local resident completed the course stretching from Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain to the bottom of Ho Chi Min in nine minutes and 1.2 seconds.
"I thought I was going to be up there because I didn't make any huge errors," said McSkimming. "It's a great race for me because it combines skiing and biking, and that's pretty much all I do.
"This is the time when a lot of people in Whistler are doing both sports, especially in the same day. One of my favourite things to do is ski the morning and ride the afternoon. It's the best of both worlds."
Last year's overall champ Robin Courcelles (9:25.9) was next-best behind McSkimming overall and in the ski male 19 to 39 division.
Third overall was Trennon Paynter, who repeated as winner of the men's masters category (40-plus). The Canadian halfpipe ski team coach bailed off his bike partway through the race but still finished in 9:30.7.
"If I'm a little bit faster next year and can stay on the bike, maybe I'll have a shot at the whole thing," said Paynter. "It felt like summer and it was just a perfect day for the race."
Other solo division winners were Ross Dunlop (9:38.5, snowboard male 19 to 39), Jack Iles (10:00.9, ski male junior), Julie Mountifield (10:35.4, ski female), Wendy Robinson (11:09.5, snowboard female) and Adam Julian (12:01.9, male snowboard masters)
The on-snow course set by Rob Boyd was straight and fast, competitors said, and although conditions were soft and slow, snow coverage was still great thanks to the snowy winter season.
"It's pretty tiring, especially the skiing part. Halfway through, you're just exhausted," said Steve Anstett, who finished in 12:24.9. "I haven't skied in two or three weeks and your muscles start screaming at you."
Jake Allison and Alexander Geddes combined for the quickest team time of the day, with Allison skiing and Geddes on the bike. They clocked in at 8:28.1 to win the open junior team category and be the fastest overall duo by 20 seconds.
"I was cheering Jake on as he came down and he just said to go for it, so I went for it," said Geddes. "The trail crew did a great job. It was a bit mucky in there from the runoff but it was really fun."
The next fastest team was Ken Pedersen and Joel Jacques, who edged Jeremy McCall and Mason Fulton by less than three seconds in the open men's category.
Sarah Hogg and Jim Montrose had the quickest mixed team (9:14.5) and Maria Darquier and Laure Vailly won the women's division (10:25.8).
As in past editions of the Crud 2 Mud, solo competitors had to come up with inventive ways to make the transition as seamless as possible from snow to bike at the top of the Fitzsimmons Express. For many, that meant biking in snowboard boots, while McSkimming said he had a plastic shoehorn handy that helped him stay on a quick pace.
Others like Paul Lambert, competing in the race for the first time, had different strategies.
"I had a killer transition," said Lambert, who finished in 11:14.8. "I had my shoes as tear-aways under my arms, so I ripped 'em off and must have had one of the best transitions. People around there were loving it."
Event director Seb Fremont gave thanks to the Whistler Mountain Ski Club for helping with the on-snow portion of the race for the more than 110 solo entrants or teams that took part in Sunday's race. Full results can be found at www.whistlerbike.com.