The fourth Enduro World Series (EWS) race of the season in La Thuile, Italy was a grueling grind.
It's exactly what Josh Carlson wanted.
The rider, a staple in the Sea to Sky, ended up placing 12th at the race, held July 16 and 17. Whistler's Jesse Melamed placed just behind Carlson in 13th.
"It was pretty good. It was a pretty tough weekend. The stages were pretty full-on and it was back to being big, alpine, long mountain stages which we actually haven't had in a little while," Carlson said.
Carlson said several races have consisted of much shorter stages this year, so there was a bit of rust to kick off for most riders at some point. Winner Richie Rude and third-place finisher Damien Oton were the only ones who finished in the top 10 riders in every stage as all others had some difficulty at some point during the weekend.
"Because the stages are so long and there's so much going on, to piece it all together over the two days of racing, it's a lot of racing and a lot of riding. One of the biggest things that you need to do is limit your mistakes," he said. "If you make a lot of mistakes, they add up and cost you a lot of time. It came down to who can make the least amount of mistakes and ride the smoothest."
Carlson joked some of the trails were so steep that much of the weekend was "about survival just as much as about racing."
After suffering a mechanical in his last EWS race in Ireland, Carlson hoped to get back into the top 10 this time around. However, outside forces again turned against him and he just missed the goal.
"I got a little bit sick at the start of the first day of racing, so that was a little bit unfortunate, and... by the end of Sunday I was exhausted by the last stage..." he said. "It cost me some energy and a really good result, but overall, it was a good weekend of racing and I'm really happy with it."
Heading into the next two races, both on the Australian's new home continent, Carlson feels fit and confident and prepared to mount a challenge. Competing in Aspen later this month and here in Whistler in August are exciting propositions, he noted.
"It's not another huge flight to Europe and getting in a car and driving around. You're a little bit more used to the food and you're a little bit more used to the layout," he said. "It makes it a lot more relaxing and enjoyable."
Though the travel time is shorter, there will be additional challenges presented to Carlson and his compatriots as they line up in the Centennial State.
"The altitude in Colorado, that'll be one of the biggest things that affects a lot of people," he said. "Going to race in Aspen, we're looking at 10,000 to 12,000 feet. That's where we start racing from and go up from there. That's quite a shock to the body and a huge factor."
On the pro women's side, Squamish's Miranda Miller placed fifth and Whistler's Sarah Leishman wound up 19th.