Cory Wallace acknowledged that his win at the 2016 Nimby 50 in Pemberton was, at least in part, weather-aided.
But this year, he knew he was the rider to beat going in, and that was nearly scuttled by some bad luck near the end.
Ultimately, the 33-year-old retained his title, holding off Sean Babcock to win the pro elite men's division by 9.5 seconds on a beautiful day after a chilly, rainy challenge last year.
"I don't think I was the strongest rider last year, but I just dealt with the cold better than other guys, so I think that played into my favour. This year, coming in, I think I was the strongest rider going in there," Wallace said.
"I tried to get the early lead and then stay out of trouble."
Wallace was pleased to see the sunshine, which helped keep the 50-kilometre course in great shape.
"It was just a great day out there. The trails were in mint condition. It was just a really enjoyable race this year. Last year was about survival. It was raining and cold and it was real slick out there," he said.
Wallace, now based out of Portland, Ore., went back and forth with friend and camping partner Babcock in the early going. The two broke away from Squamish's Greg Day before Wallace found himself alone.
"We broke away pretty early with Greg Day," Wallace said. "We dropped him going up the Nimby climb and I dropped Sean a little after that. I was on my own for the next hour and a half and it was just me and the bike. I was just enjoying the trails and having a blast."
However, after dropping onto the fire road about two kilometres from the finish, Wallace ran into some trouble.
"I thought I was off all the gnarly trails... I thought this was in the bag. I was looking up at Mount Currie and appreciating the day. Then my back tire must have caught a nail around the train track and it exploded the tire. All of a sudden, I went from being relaxed to being in full adrenaline mode," he said. "I knew I had about a two- or three-minute gap on Sean, and that's about how long it takes to change a flat.
"It's hard to ride because it's a fishtail, kind of going side to side. It was hard to control, so I just kept it steady."
Victoria's Mical Dyck, also a defending champion, kept her title on the women's side, besting Nanaimo's Carey Mark by just under five minutes. Zoe Dawson of Squamish ended up in third.
After winning in the muck and mire last year, Dyck said the weather was once again a factor.
"I don't think anyone was quite ready for the heat," she said. "We're used to about plus-12 right now, so for it to be in the mid-20s, it's a big change and shock to the system."
Dyck, acknowledging her conditioning is lagging behind last year's shape, said pacing herself was key.
Other division winners on the men's side were: Joe Davies (18 and under); Logan Tacoma (senior 19 to 29); Clay Ward (master 30 to 34); Drummond Lawson (master 35 to 39); Michael Robinson (master 40 to 44); Dwayne Kress (master 45 to 49) and Ted Russo (master 50 and over). The women's winners were: Mandy Rousseau (senior 19 to 29); Kyle Long (master 30 to 34); Sarah Olner (master 35 to 39); Tara Miller (master 40 to 44); Kaarin Tae (master 45 to 49) and Laurie Kalf (master 50 and over).
Full results are available online at www.webscorer.com.