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Long earns Squamish Gryphon win

XC rider enjoys enduro change of pace

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Julia Long usually focuses on the cross-country grind.

But last weekend in Squamish, the Whistlerite opted for an enduro competition in The Gryphon and didn't disappoint.

Long held off Ainhoa Ijurco's challenge to win the junior girls category by just under 12 seconds, though Ijurco won three of the five stages.

Long acknowledged she had to change her mindset a bit to be successful in a different kind of bike race.

"I wasn't really expecting to come in and win. It was a fun thing for me because I'm more of an XC racer. I wasn't really expecting anything," she said. "For me, it was important to pace myself because I'm used to going hard uphill. I needed to rest so I could put all my effort into the stages. That was something I focused on that might have helped."

However, Long said she enjoys switching it up every so often, as cross-country tends to be a slog while enduro, though usually covering a long distance (in this case, about 30 kilometres), has only small segments that are timed and end up counting for a competitor's result.

"It was a really fun day for me because in cross-country, you have to stay focused throughout the race but this one, you can take it chill and in between the stages, you can chat with your friends. It was more like a ride for me just to have fun, get out there and ride," she said.

Long appreciated the whole course, but some of the most enjoyable moments came early in the day.

"(The stages) were all pretty fun, but the second — Angry Midget — was my favourite because it was really flowy and you could go really fast in some sections. I think it was pretty much everyone's favourite," Long said. "A few of the stages were quite pedally so I think my cross-country background helped a bit. I gained a bit of time on those short little punchy climbs in the stages."

Long's next event will be the Canada Cup cross-country race here in Whistler on June 24 as she focuses primarily on that discipline until season's end. She'll also take part in next month's Canadian Championships.

"(I might do more enduro) in the fall, when the cross-country season lays off a bit, but we'll see. I'll try to get a few in," she said.

Other locals performed well, with Leonie Picton and Jesse Melamed winning their respective pro divisions while local Cesar Gairin also podiumed with a third-place showing in the masters men event.

Full results are available online at www.squamishenduro.com.

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