Michael Robinson came into Saturday's inaugural Sp'akw'us 50 knowing he needed a win.
With Justin Mark hot on his heels in the men's 40-to-44 age division entering the final cross-country marathon race of the year, only a victory would help him claim the overall title.
In the end, Robinson crossed the finish line four minutes and 59 seconds (4:59) ahead of Mark to claim top spot in the division in both the race and the series. In the 45-to-49 age group was Squamish's Dwayne Kress, who Robinson also rivalled during the season. Kress, also the race organizer, was just under three minutes behind Robinson.
"All three of us were riding together for about the first hour-and-a-half of the race. We were fighting tooth and nail for every inch we could get and it was a real dogfight. It was a lot of fun," he said.
The Sp'akw'us 50 also served as the provincial championships, and though Robinson won the race, he was not eligible for the title as he is a permanent resident, not a citizen. However, Robinson said Mark displayed a sign of true sportsmanship after accepting the provincial title with some bafflement.
"I'm not eligible (to win) despite living here for 16 years now," Robinson said. "Afterward, (Mark) and I were chatting and he said 'How did that happen? Why did you not get it?' I told him and he's like 'No way, that's crazy.' He gave me the jersey, which I thought was an unbelievable gesture and showed his character.
"He didn't have to do that and there were a lot of people out there who wouldn't do that and he didn't even think about it. He said 'You won that fair and square, that's your jersey.'"
The race was started to fill the void left by the Test of Metal and Robinson admittedly welcomed the change.
"It was a more modern cross-country race," he said. "You want a taste of what Squamish is all about, just do that race and you'll get a taste of everything.
"This is a true mountain-bike racer's course. If you don't have a good skill set, you're not going to do very well."
The Sp'akw'us sold out, limiting its size to just over 400 racers. Though the Test of Metal had longer road elements to it instead of focusing as heavily on trails as the Sp'akw'us, Robinson felt a little nostalgic for the size and scope of the race, which ran for over 20 years.
"There's nothing quite like standing in a start corral with 1,000 people," he said.
Robinson noted even in as the race's first year, it felt like an established event. Several of the organizational brass had helped organize events like Test of Metal and it showed, as there was a bike valet to ensure all steeds were out of the way and secure as the riders swapped stories after crossing the finish line.
"It went off smoothly. Everything was great," he said. "There weren't 500 bikes lying around, potentially getting stolen."
Other Whistlerites who medalled in their respective divisions included Austin Reith (second in the men's 19-to-29 category), Robin O'Neill (first in the women's 40-to-44 category) and Marissa Szajcz (third in the women's 35-to-39 category).
The elite medallists were Craig Richie, Ricky Federau and Greg Day for the men and Carey Mark, Mical Dyck and Zoe Dawson for the women.
Complete results are available at www.racedaytiming.ca.