Note: Times in the men's open category are accurate but placings in the original online story don't take into account Fabien Barel's five-minute penalty, applied after the fact. Most riders, including Jesse Melamed, finished one spot ahead of their rankings as a result, with Melamed finishing sixth rather than seventh. The corrected version will be printed on Thursday.
Before it had even started, riders from around the world were already saying the course for SRAM Canadian Open Enduro presented by Specialized was the toughest in the world.
The one-day race format, the selection of white knuckle descents and the overall length of the five race stages -- almost 50 minutes of racing, compared to 32 minutes for the race at Crankworx Les 2 Alpes -- made the Crankworx race one to remember.
One race computer put the total riding distance at around 60km, including transitions and one gondola ride. Total vertical was well over 3,000 metres, both gained and lost.
The men's category was a battle all day, but it was Jerome Clementz of France, the current Enduro World Series leader, who had a slight edge on the competition from the start. He won the first stage (Khyber Pass) and the second stage (It's Business Time to AMPM), was second on stage three (Pura Vida and Baby Snakes) and then won stage four (Billy's Epic and Bob's ReBob).
But everything changed on the fifth stage, a descent from the peak of Whistler Mountain including Top of the World. Despite having a 20 second lead on Australian Jared Graves, it was Graves who persevered on the long final descent to take the win.
"(Graves) was really strong, he beat me by 40 seconds on this stage and he deserved it," said Clementz. "I played it a little bit safe, but not 40 seconds safe."
Graves had the opposite strategy, riding a little more conservatively on the other stages to avoid mechanicals and crashes, and then opening up on the last stage.
"Really, 20 seconds -- I didn't think I'd take that on Jerome," he said. "I thought I'd win the stage, but 20 seconds? I couldn't be happier."
For Graves, winning an Enduro World Series event was special, but to win this particular race was even better.
"Crankworx is the one (event) everyone has been talking about all year, it's the one everyone wants to win. It's tough, it's technical. it's a real man's course, and if you can win here you can win anywhere."
Fabien Barel of France actually placed third overall, but once a time penalty of five minutes was applied -- the result of him accepting a ride during training in an event where riders are supposed to be self-supported -- third place went to Jamie Nicoll of Australia.
Graves official time was 47:57.18, with Clementz finish just over 12 seconds and Nicoll close to two minutes back.
Whistler had several riders in the race, led by Jesse Melamed in sixth place against some of the top riders in the world. Melamed was 16th on the first stage, moved up to 13th on the next stage and then placed an incredible third on stage three -- a stage he feels he could have won if he didn't ride off course on one section. He was fifth on stage four, but hasn't ridden the bike park much recently and placed 18th on the final stage.
Melamed has had a few good stages and races this year at North American Enduro Tour events, but has also had his share of frustration with mechanical issues. Racing in Whistler was a chance to lay a few demons to rest.
"I'm really happy to have five complete stages and finish," he said. "I would have never thought I'd be coming down with the fastest guys in the world. I thought it would take a couple of years at least (to be racing at that level) and to be doing that at this stage is great.
"I was hoping to be in the top 10, which I did, and I wanted to win a stage. Stage three was mine, but I gave it away at the bottom."
Other Whistler riders in the mix include Tyler Morland in 18th, Matt Ryan in 21st, Nick Geddes in 25th and Dylan Wolsky in 26th out of 95 finishers.
In the women's race, Anne Caroline Chausson of France said she tried to race every stage as smooth as she could.
"It was a long day, and the stages were really technical, really physical," she said. "I'm super happy to be back on top of the podium after crashing in the first race of the season and trying to come back."
Tracy Moseley of Great Britain had won every previous race on the tour, but got off to a slow start, giving Chausson an early lead she couldn't catch -- especially on the final stage where the French former World Downhill champion had a clear advantage and finished with over 24 seconds.
Chausson's total time was 55:24.14, followed by Moseley 1:04.67 later and French rider Cecile Ravanel 50 seconds after that.
Other notable Whistler results include Spencer Wight placing third in junior, Conrad Murdoch racing unopposed to win Boys 13 to 15, and Todd Hellinga placing third Master Male 30-plus. More results, video and interviews to come.
Crankworx Whistler continues on Tuesday, Aug. 13 with the Garbanzo DH. More at www.crankworx.com.