Riders taking part in the Red Bull 5000 Down mountain bike race woke up to heavy rain in the valley on Sunday and over 30 cm of wet snow in the high alpine where the start line awaited.
Riders were lined up 10 in a row according to their qualifying times the previous day and the start was nothing short of intense. Riders slid their way from the peak of Whistler Mountain down Matthew's Traverse, eventually coming to the short climb to the peak of Harmony where the bike race became a footrace. From there, the riders had a pair of tire tracks on Pika's Traverse to follow back down to the Roundhouse and the snow line.
Chris Kovarik, who divides his time between Whistler and Australia, took the early lead but got caught up in snow and was passed by Tyler Morland on the bike-run section.
"It was just me and him for probably 10 minutes, battling," said Kovarik. "Then I crashed on In Deep and he got away. I caught up a few minutes later."
Kovarik was working to get back into position to pass Morland when he overshot a jump and landed on an uphill berm, crashing a second time. He was literally run over by a surging Curtis Keene, who placed second on the day, just behind Morland.
Kovarik said the race was a good way to wrap up a mixed season where he's been on the World Cup podium one moment and sidelined by injuries the next. His factory team, Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense won the overall team title on the World Cup downhill circuit.
"I was hoping to finish here (Red Bull 5000 Down) with a win, but obviously that didn't happen today. Anything can happen, and today it was two feet of snow."
Morland says the mass start was civilized and clean, despite the opportunity for crashes as the riders vied for the hole shot - in this case the tire tracks in the snow.
"It was great, because everybody in the front row are friends, nobody was playing dirty out there," he said.
Morland also tried to focus on having a good run and after getting out front he didn't focus too much on what was happening behind him.
"The snow was just loose and people were fishtailing all over the place," he said. "I managed to get to the hill with everybody and jogged up the hill in first."
While the conditions deteriorated from the previous day, Morland switched to spiked tires the previous night for extra traction. Others riders did the same, or opted for aggressive mud racing tires.