A Whistler contingent performed well at the Subaru Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, Calif., over the weekend.
Leonie Picton of Arbutus Routes' grassroots team kicked off the event with a win in the enduro on April 16, using a blazing first stage to set up a 19-second advantage for the remaining three stages, eventually winning by just over 17 seconds.
The 29 year old has battled injuries since 2011, but is feeling well on the road to recovery. She credited her intense winter training regimen with helping lift her to the win on a course that was quite sandy in warm conditions.
Picton noted the first stage was downhill, the next two were cross-country, and the closer was dual slalom.
"You are required to be more fit and the skill level is what we like here isn't what they have over there. There were no rocks or roots or really any technical sections of the trail, so it was basically pedalling from start to finish," she said. "Being at your fittest was an advantage."
Later in the competition, she captured the category 2 open women downhill, defeating 15-year-old Rocklin, Calif. rider Emily Harris by 10.65 seconds and fellow Whistlerite Jennifer McTavish by 13.74 seconds.
"I went to Sea Otter not knowing how I'd go. Everyone's like that at the start of the season. How much effort you've put in, you're not really sure until that first race," she said. "Having got the results that I did at Sea Otter, I'm confident I can work really hard toward some longer distances."
Picton's string of injuries started in 2011 with a shoulder separation that was misdiagnosed, setting back her recovery. She then suffered a pair of knee injuries, one of which required surgery. She competed last year, but felt like she wasn't quite able to give it 100 per cent.
"It's been a frustrating three years. I feel like it's been injury after injury. Once I recovered from my injuries last year, I really set my mind to training every week, focusing on getting healthy, getting strong and then getting fit," she said.
Big weekend Nina Arnold posted a pair of top 10 finishes, including a win in her debut downhill race, at the Subaru Sea Otter Classic on the weekend.
Picton inspired teammate Nina Arnold to try her first downhill race, and it was a successful one. Arnold took home gold in the category 3 open women race, edging out Aptos, Calif.'s Makenzie Kjaer by 0.58 seconds. To start the competition, she placed 10th in the enduro.
"The first stage of the enduro was the downhill course, so we had a good understanding of what it took and how long our race times were," Arnold said. "We went up with expectations of 'I just want to beat my time from the enduro stage.'
"We got down to race day and we're just trying to stay upright and there's a ton of people there, hundreds of people on the course. I went down and I was a second slower than my enduro time."
Arnold noted she decided to do the downhill with the formation of the Arbutus Routes squad, as she's looking to try a number of new things this season.
"I'm trying to diversify my riding as much as possible this summer. Being on the team, I want to get as many different experiences as possible. We're going to do some big road rides and try a bunch of different disciplines," she said.
Both Picton and Arnold anticipate competing only within the province this year, but note they'll consider travel opportunities that arise.
Several other Whistler and Pemberton residents went down to compete.
McTavish also competed in enduro, placing 14th in the pro women's division.
Fellow enduro rider Yoann Barelli placed fourth in the pro men's category, 10.8 seconds behind winner Josh Carlson. He was later 10th in the pro downhill.
In downhill, Ian Milley took silver in the junior boys 13 and 14 division. Bennie De Vall was fourth in the junior boys' 10 and under while Landon De Vall was eighth. Milley also placed 13th in the mountain bike cross country category 3 junior boys 13 and 14 division.
As well, Chloe Cross was 23rd in the mountain bike short track professional women category and 27th in the cross-country race.
In the dual slalom, Claire Buchar placed third in the pro women's category while Jaime Hill placed fifth. Buchar was later fourth in the pro women's downhill event while Hill was seventh and Maria Darquier was 10th.
Lastly, Austin Reith placed 35th in the mountain bike cross-country category 1 men's 17 and 18 division.