Some big names in cyclocross returned to the resort for the third running of Cyclocross Whistler in Creekside.
Perennial champion Kevin Calhoun took the elite men's win on Saturday, Sept. 24 while Carey Mark walked home with the elite women's win. The next day, 15-year-old Conor Martin of Kelowna, who kept pace with Calhoun before suffering a plethora of mechanical issues, scored the win while last year's winner Sandra Walter scored the women's win in her lone race of the weekend. All winners received a boost as the B.C. Premier Cyclocross Series season kicked off with the doubleheader.
With the course continuing to incorporate a treacherous climb near the gondola before feeding riders toward Lake Placid Road, Walter took advantage by completing the ascent without dismounting on seven of nine laps to overcome Mark's challenge.
"The last two times I didn't have quite enough horsepower left to make it over the top," she said. "In the latter half of the race is where it really started to show that I was able to conserve some energy by not having to dismount and I was able to open a gap while she was having to run it every lap."
The layout, which was essentially a carbon copy of the 2015 course, was favourable to Walter, a World Cup cross-country racer. However, that doesn't mean there weren't other variables at play when riders hit the course.
"The conditions were a little bit different. Last year, it seemed to be a lot muddier and this year it was quite a bit drier. That's what made that climb more challenging," she said. "Last year, the climb was pretty hard, but it felt harder this year."
Walter noted she hopes to compete in more events on the circuit, but explained it's not as big a priority as her World Cup racing. She plans to attend the nationals in Sherbrooke, Que. in November after taking second last year.
"Cyclocross is just a fun way to stay fit during the offseason," Walter explained. "I really like the atmosphere of it and a lot of my friends do it so it's a fun way to get out on the bike and put in a fun effort on the weekend."
Calhoun, meanwhile, was kept busy right up until race day and had to shake off a little rust early on in his sole race of the weekend to take Saturday's win.
"I had gotten off the plane the night before from the Interbike trade show," he said. "I was trying to blow off some steam, blow out the cobwebs. It felt good to go out there and do the race after standing on my feet for the last week down in Vegas."
Calhoun explained the Whistler course is a little smaller than others on the circuit and so the feeling of someone breathing down his neck never fully goes away.
"It's straight up, straight down with no recovery so it doesn't allow for a lot of separation," he said. "You feel like your competitors are closer to you than what they are because the course is so compact. It makes for a stressful race at times. You have to try to manage how much time you have over your competitor.
"You feel 'Oh, I'm not that far ahead, I've got to push harder. I'm still not that far ahead. I've got to push harder.'"
Calhoun declined to race on the second day because of family commitments, but hopes to mount a challenge for the overall provincial title.
"It's the top level in the province. It's what I want to compete at and I want to be at all of them," he said. "It's definitely good for morale and it validates all the time you spend training and focusing on having a good result."