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Samurais endure one of hardest races yet

Technical climbs take their toll on field of riders

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"I couldn’t find my rhythm – I had a pretty good crash on Thursday, and it really showed up today. I was on the ground a lot."

Hey Bud was the most technical riding of the day, but for sheer difficulty Hestler said he met his match on Comfortably Numb.

"Hey Bud was hard, but it didn’t have the constant, in-your-face challenge of Comfortably Numb. It was rough the whole way, it didn’t let up and I couldn’t get a flow going. It always felt like I was in the wrong gear."

Happy to put that behind him, he started to drop the hammer on Green Lake Loop, gaining five minutes on Grant. After making his pass he kept looking over his shoulder for the young rider, and didn’t relax until the hike-a-bike on Danimal – riders can pass you going uphill, he said, but everybody hike-a-bikes at the same speed.

Although he has been racing competitively for almost 15 years, Hestler is enjoying mountain biking more than ever. He still enters a lot of demanding races, like the Trans Alp Challenge, but he no longer races on the World Cup.

"The courses are boring, everyone is too serious, and there’s not enough singletrack," he said. "It’s great to go back to the fun events, like the Samurai and the Cheakamus Challenge."

Hestler has now won this month’s West Side Wheel Up and Samurai, and will be facing some of the top cross-country riders in Canada this weekend in the Cheakamus Challenge. If he is successful, and claims his third consecutive Cheakamus Challenge title, he will have won all of Whistler’s fall events.

Greg Grant crossed the finish line in 5:08. His wobbly tire didn’t affect him too much, "but it got a little sketchy on the fast sections, I didn’t know where I was going."

Matt Ryan was third, one minute back of Grant. At one point he was about five metres back on a hike-a-bike section in Danimal, but couldn’t catch Grant on the descent.

"I’m really happy with my race, everything went according to plan. I started out slow and coming into the Green Lake Loop I started to get serious. It was a little late I guess, and Grant didn’t blow up like I expected, so the best I could come was within a few seconds."

During the Comfortably Numb section, Ryan and Dave Burch "traded crashes" – one rider would pull ahead, crash, then the other rider would take the lead until they crashed.

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