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Gutierrez great in Garbanzo DH once again

Colombian rider repeats as champ for fourth straight top-two finish in long-distance Crankworx race

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It just wouldn't be a Garbanzo DH without Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas on the podium, and the Colombian rider found the top step again on Tuesday, Aug. 12, winning the first downhill race of Crankworx Whistler for the second year in a row.

Gutierrez Villegas was pegged by most as the pro men's favourite heading into Tuesday's race, and with good reason — the 24-year-old was also the runner-up in both 2011 and 2012.

But the Giant rider didn't just win, he dominated, finishing in 12 minutes, 24.65 seconds, blowing the field away by nearly 20 full seconds.

So what is it about the gruelling race, which drops 3,400 vertical feet and covers seven kilometres of trail, that Gutierrez Villegas seems to have figured out?

"When you like a track — and I love this track — it makes you enjoy it more when you're riding it," he said. "I kind of feel that (the riding is) kind of like at home — tight track, tight corners."

Switzerland's Nick Beer (12:43.30) was the second-last rider to start, and briefly held the lead when he reached the finish. But he wasn't at all surprised to see Gutierrez Villegas come up behind him with a faster time, bumping Beer to the silver-medal spot.

"The track fits him really good, he's a strong rider," said Beer. "I just tried to ride as good as I can with a few practice runs. I arrived pretty late from the World Cup (at Windham, N.Y. on Aug. 9) and just tried to do my best, and this is the hardest race to do, for sure.

"I'm pretty stoked."

B.C.'s own Mark Wallace finished in third place, and said he couldn't really tell while he was riding the lengthy course if he'd factor into the results.

"As you're going down, it feels like you're not doing well and seems like you're taking forever. But now that I look back on it, it was pretty good," said Wallace, who added that he was pumped to hit the podium with family and friends on hand to support him.

Australia's Josh Carlson, just two days removed from racing the SRAM Canadian Open Enduro, posted an impressive fourth-place finish, clocking in four seconds off the podium, while Remi Gauvin was fifth.

With the physically taxing Garbo DH coming just 72 hours after the race at Windham, there wasn't a huge contingent of World Cup competitors on hand Tuesday, but Gutierrez Villegas said there's no way he'd miss coming to Crankworx.

"This is one of those weeks that I wait for during the season. I enjoy coming to this event. You come here and have fun," he said. "It's a lot of travelling, but it's worth it."

Amateur category winners on Tuesday were Jack Iles (men's 16-18), Joshua Humphreys (men's 19-29), Craig Wilson (men's 30-plus), Finn Iles (men's 13-15), Lina Skoglund (women's 19-plus) and Georgia Astle (women's 13-18). Visit www.crankworx.com to see full results.

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