Yoann Barelli's attentions were admittedly divided in the offseason, but for good reason.
The French rider—who lives in Whistler and welcomed daughter Anna with partner Katrina Strand last November—said enjoying fatherhood cut into his preparations for the 2018 campaign.
You wouldn't necessarily know it, though, as Barelli posted top-20 finishes in the first two Enduro World Series (EWS) races in South America in late March and early April. He started with a 16th in Lo Barnechea, Chile and then took a 17th in Manizales, Colombia the following week.
"I didn't ride much, but I trained," he said. "I went to the gym and did a bunch of indoor training, but in terms of riding, I didn't ride much."
Both EWS events were at significant elevations with the Chilean event taking place at 2,500 metres and the Colombian event up at 2,000 m.
However, the course sets were otherwise different, with plenty of long, drawn-out stages in Chile compared with a number of quick hits in Colombia. Barelli said the season opener was a good warm-up for the year.
"(In Chile), the stages were super long, 15 minutes long," he said.
"On the first day, I was riding tight on my bike. There were sections where the speed was getting quick so I didn't put any pressure on myself until the feeling comes back. The next day, everything came back. I was 26th overall (after the first day) and came back to 16th."
Colombia, meanwhile, saw changing conditions between the first and second days as rain moved in to create slick courses that were no friend to Barelli.
"It was completely different, really, really muddy and super slippery. It was quite a wild one," he said.
The fan engagement at both races was excellent, he said, as both were closer than usual to urban centres and allowed spectators to truly engage with the riders.
"It was insane," he said. "It was quite impressive how many people showed up to watch the races.
"We felt like rock stars in Colombia."
The strong showings at the two events give Barelli plenty to smile about for the rest of 2018, saying both gave him confidence on which he can build.
Barelli plans to forego the next two Enduro World Series races in France and Slovenia in May and June, but he expects to be back in action for the fifth event of the year in Italy before challenging the sixth race right here in Whistler. He'll instead build his repetitions on the B.C. Enduro Tour and make plans to return to the world level strong in the second half of the season.
Barelli will take advantage of the less-strenuous schedule to get more time in the gym compared to those who are on the globetrotting grind to allow himself to finish the season strong.
"I think it's a good plan," he said.