The sun shone brightly on a pair of Whistler-based enduro riders at the fourth BC Enduro tour stop in Vernon over the weekend (June 27 and 28).
In baking temperatures in the neighbourhood of 40 degrees Celsius, Yoann Barelli and Leonie Picton beat the heat to celebrate wins in the provincial interior.
Barelli put up a two-day time of 45 minutes and 55 seconds (45:55) to finish exactly a minute up on Jamie Biluk. James Rennie, meanwhile, was 20 seconds off Biluk's pace.
Barelli, riding with Katrina Strand for most of the day, said he took a free and easy attitude to the day.
"For me, that's the most important thing — to ride well is to have fun on the bike," he said. "We were riding all together and having fun on the trail. I was starting to have a good flow on the bike and everything went well."
Barelli explained the heat led to some dusty conditions on the course, and he was forced to scale back his aggressive approach in an attempt to avoid a wipeout.
"The first stage on Saturday was really flat and physical and long. It was really hard to start the race like that and then all the rest of the race was really steep, rocky, gnarly, technical stuff," he said. "It was pretty interesting to see. We couldn't ride 100 per cent all the time. My technique was to ride a little bit under 100 per cent, to be a little conservative. Don't make any mistakes or crash. It paid off."
Barelli, a native of France, is in his first season in Whistler after having moved last fall. His tenure in Whistler got off to a less-than-ideal start, as he crashed early in his first Enduro World Series stop of the year at Crankworx Rotorua. Barelli toughed it through over half the race before he was in too much pain to continue.
"I was a little bit disappointed in the beginning when I got injured in New Zealand," he said. "There was a little bit of recovery and now I'm doing good and riding well."
Barelli views the BC Enduro races as training for the higher-level races, but he's happy to take a win where he can get one. His next two events will be in his homeland, including the next Enduro World Series stop as part of Crankworx in Samoens on July 18 and 19. After that, the two North American races are back to back in Crested Butte, Colorado and then here in Whistler for the final Crankworx event on Aug. 9.
"There's a big pack of races coming right now, so it's good to be strong and confident," he said.
In his first season with a North American base, Barelli has already noticed his riding getting better as he's presented with more challenges, even with oddly consistent weather in the Sea to Sky so far this summer.
"Before, I was living in the south of France and we don't have a lot of rain," he said. "For me, moving here with wet conditions, it improved my riding, for sure."
On the women's side, Picton continued her stellar season with her third victory in four outings to lead the overall standings.
In Vernon, Picton posted a two-day time of 55 minutes and two seconds (55:02) to place her 2:33 up on fellow Whistler resident Katrina Strand. Amy Pryse-Phillips was just three seconds off Strand's pace to place third.
Picton had a monstrous lead of nearly two minutes entering the second day, but said the gap didn't even cross her mind.
"I didn't put two and two together, but I probably should have," she said. "Having a two-minute lead was a good thing, but I didn't actually think about it."
Though the sun beat down on competitors for much of the weekend, Picton said there was about an hour reprieve in Day 1 action. Staying hydrated became a chief concern among riders, though it's not always easy.
"It's no fun if you go super hard and then crash because you're not keeping up with your liquids or you're trying too hard," she said. "You definitely have to have a different approach. You have to be smart about it.
"Push when you need to push, but take it easy when you can."
Picton found the course technical, but not too much different from what she's used to riding here in Whistler.
In terms of local youth riders, Ruben Guilbert carried the day, winning the 15-and-under category while Felix Abraham also hit the podium in third. In the 19-and-under category, Carter Krasny placed third.
As well, Quentin Emeriau placed second in open men.
Melamed injured, likely to miss Crankworx
One of Barelli's Whistler compatriots on the Enduro World Series circuit appears to be out for at least the next three races.
In an Instagram post on June 29, Jesse Melamed revealed he suffered a broken ankle while filming for Dirt Diaries. In an interview on June 30, Melamed said the early estimate is he will be out for six to eight weeks if he doesn't require surgery, or eight to 10 weeks if he does. He is set to find out if he needs surgery this weekend.
The most optimistic of timelines would place Melamed back into action for Crankworx Whistler, but is resigned to coming back for the seventh race in Spain in late September.
"(The quickest return) would be just around Crankworx, so that's kind of the goal, but it's kind of pushing it in terms of being ready for that," he said. "At this point in my life and my career, there's no point in compromising my healing.
"I can come back quicker, but I might not have a full range of motion."
Melamed said the injury occurred while riding on June 25, and said the landing that hurt him was more awkward than violent.
"It wasn't even a crash. I was doing a bit of a jump, got off-line, and it was a big compression. My pedal just hit the bit and I crunched my foot in there," he said. "I thought I could have just sprained it. That's what I was hoping for."
Melamed was in the midst of a strong season at the time of the injury, sitting 14th in the overall standings. He posted his first top-10 finish away from home in the second race of the year when he placed ninth in Ireland.
In terms of his Dirt Diaries entry, Melamed is still pondering his options, saying he's proud of the story line, and he may ask a friend to take over for him.
Melamed said he was appreciative of the support he's received from fans who have reached out to wish him well.