Sarah Leishman knows just how lucky she is.
Most riders around these parts need to scrimp and save to try to get an Enduro World Series (EWS) race or two in per year. However, through her membership on Team Juliana, Leishman is set to take part in all eight stops on the EWS tour this season.
"Most people save up all winter long for the chance to do a couple races. It's a real gift to do all of them. The experience I get from them is incredibly valuable," she said.
She's already completed her first two, placing 14th at the season opener in Corral, Chile at the end of March before jumping up a spot to take 13th a week later in Cerro Catedral, Argentina.
While she's not ecstatic about the results, Leishman acknowledged she was still settling into a groove and finding her way after offseason shoulder surgery.
"That's really the caveat," she said. "I'm not super happy with how I performed. It's hard to go all the way out there and not reach result goals, but at the same time, I am coming off a year of being injured. I feel way better than I felt at any races last year, but I'm still working up to speed. It was a good starting point, but it's definitely not satisfying yet."
With a couple more weeks of riding under her belt, and three left to go before the third EWS event in County Wicklow, Ireland next month, Leishman said she's starting to feel like herself again after some admittedly conservative riding early on.
"At this stage of the game, (the South American trip) was an experiment to see what my new shoulder could take and where my fitness was at," she said. "Now we know that my fitness is there and my shoulder is great. Now the last piece of it is the mental side, getting comfortable racing at speed and having confidence in my own abilities. There was a lot of holding back that went on in South America, which kept me safe, but I have to evolve from that in the next round."
What should help Leishman along, ironically, is a wipeout she had at her most recent race, the Subaru Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, Calif.
"I crashed at Sea Otter and that took me out of the game, but it wasn't a big deal. Everything's fine. I'm OK," she said. "Now we go into threshold intervals and training at speed with people who are faster than me and getting used to that level of intensity.
"Before Chile, I was taking it really, really easy on my bike because I'd only been back on my bike for three or four weeks and now that we know what I can take — I can fall off my bike really violently and walk away — I'm planning to dial it in and tidy it all up."
At Sea Otter, fellow Whistlerite Claire Buchar took second in the pro women's downhill while Bracken Camilleri was 69th in the men's race.
Other locals in California were Ian Milley, who took ninth in the 18-and-under men dual slalom event while Lucas Cruz was 13th. Milley also placed 20th in his age group in the enduro.