A couple of weeks after an incredibly successful kickoff to the Sea to Sky Enduro Series in Squamish, the hangovers from the after party had subsided and it was Pemberton’s turn to show the region some of its best. In similar fashion to the EWS, each individual towns organizers can set the event how they see fit, resulting in more variety come race time. No matter where though, the goal is the same—a great day of riding bikes and pushing personal boundaries with friends, and Pemby did not disappoint.
We’ve had a reasonably dry May in the Sea to Sky and with Pemby typically drier than the rain forest of Squamish, it meant for some dusty conditions. Unfortunately the race was on the first long weekend of the summer and opening weekend of the bike park, which dipped into the field resulting in approximately 80 riders racing (Squamish saw ~170). It didn’t effect the event though, as Pemby proceeded to put on a blinder!
The trail selection for the days racing was released on Wednesday night, earlier than the previous event, and resulted in some whining over distances and elevation to be covered in total. I have to admit, when I was first made aware of the course, my initial thoughts were ‘jee buz’. In the end, it was a smaller day than round one, but likely saw a little more elevation gain. It was awesome to see the event utilize parts of two separate networks in Pemberton, One Mile and Mackenzie, and definitely made good use of some classics. The whole time shooting and riding stage to stage all I could think was ‘I wanna ride this!’
Stage 1—Lumpy’s to Murse Made to Pickle Surprise
The day started with a proverbial kick in the nuts. Riders had what was described as a ‘short punchy climb’ before the real fun, with a number of racers feeling the stage was two thirds climbing and a third descending. Whether it was or not, it certainly got the heart rates up early and split the field, with the majority of riders just gassed by the midpoint. After the climb the dust flew and the mozzies were blown through as riders pinned down to the finish line—which wasn’t where anyone expected… A couple hiccups, but thankfully organizers dropped this stage for Pro Men (those affected by the timing issue), evening out the field for the rest of the day.
All other categories were stuck with the most physical stage of the day, thanks to the timing issue being sorted out by the time they came through. Pro Women saw a tie for first with Kelli Emmett and Carrie Meltzer beating out third place by 4 seconds. Open Men was won by Squamish’s Joel Harwood, 30 seconds up on second place on a trail he had never ridden—the BC Bike Race training shining through on this physical stage.
Stage 2—Pioneer to Fizzy Pop to Dog Beach
Stage 2 was a lot more enjoyable for riders, with racers belting through the woods for a good two thirds of the stage before a little skid road ‘climb’ set them up for the final section. Open rock slabs and some tight entries back into the woods saw riders kicking up serious dust as they rallied their way to the bottom. One racer had the misfortune of completely destroying his drivetrain when getting on the gas after railing one of the many fun corners lower down, ending his day.
Jesse Melamed took out Pro Men for stage 2 and stamped his mark on the days racing, while in Pro Women, Emily Slaco put down the hammer as did Katrina Strand to tie for first place after two stages of racing. In Open Men, Joel Harwood continued his form from stage one, but local boy Brad Bethune clawed back a couple of seconds, seeing him place 26 seconds back after two stages of racing.
Open Women saw Deborah Motsch continue her lead, though Simmone Lyons moved up to second place after two stages of racing, bumping Julie Murray back to third. Master Men saw local boy, Ed Witwicki move into the lead with a blinder of a run after being in third on the first stage of racing. In Masters Women, Rena Warden held a convincing lead over the rest of her competition, a lead that held until late in the day.
Stage 3—Radio Tower to Mission Impossible 1 to Moose Jah
By the time stage three came around, riders had moved to the other side of the valley, a transition that saw some stop in town quickly, while others cruised out and began the fire road climb up to Radio Tower—a real shit of a climb on a good day. Jesse Melamed continued his lead over the Pro Men pack, a trend that stuck around all day, while Dylan Wolsky and Josh Carlson nipped away at his, and each others heals.
Slaco pushed out in front of Strand by the end of Stage 3, showing great consistency on her home trails, while in Open Women Simmone Lyons continued to be consistent and pushed out in front of Motsch. In Open Men Harwood’s consistency continued, while Bethune showed his consistency, clawing back more time, though still fourteen seconds back. Masters Men saw Craig Lyons tie it up with Ed Witwicki, setting the scene for a good couple of stages racing on the remaining stages.
Stage 4—Rusty Trombone to Overnight
The fourth stage of racing saw riders hit what was arguably the toughest part of the race. Probably the most physical stage in terms of trail features and all after a hefty climb to the start of the stage, Rusty and Overnight contained some fairly sustained, steep pitches and a couple of exposed sections to keep riders in check. This stage was exciting and saw a number of shake-ups in the standings.
In Open Men, Brad Bethune clawed back 14 seconds on Harwood, putting in an extra 2 seconds for good measure and took the lead for the first time of the day—consistency paying off. Pro Men times got tighter, with both Wolsky and Carlson edging up on Melamed, but Carlson putting in enough time to be tied second with Wolsky after 4 stages of racing.
Strand clawed back some time on Slaco, with the two now tied for first place going into the final stage of the day, while both Lyons and Wilson put more time into their competitors, setting themselves up for success provided they kept it steady on the final stage of the day. In Master Women competition switched up with Lisa Korthals putting in work and moving into first place, bumping Worden back to second for the first time in the day. The final stage was set to be a doozy and had there been live timing, no doubt nerves would have been high with how close competition was—perhaps a good thing it wasn’t.
Stage 5—Back Pains to Bob Gnarly to Lower Mackenzie
Claimed by more than a few as one of the most fun links of trails in the race (and in Pemberton in general), the final stage of the day was a doozy! The dust was still flying as racers attempted to make up for errors earlier in the day, with a number of them having mechanicals, or just plain riding beyond their bikes (or their own) limits in the dusty loose conditions.
Jesse Melamed ended the day how he begun, in first place. Jesse rode loose and possessed whenever I saw him and definitely put it on the line—a deserved win. Wolsky took a clear second, seeing Carlson drop back into third—the two dingos feeling right at home in the dust. Local gal, Emily Slaco pushed out in front of Strand and after a close day of racing between the two, took the win by four seconds.
Squamish’s Joel Harwood couldn’t claw back the time on the more technical trails and local, Brad Bethune rode away with the win, ending up 26 seconds ahead! The drop back from these two to third place was close to a full minute. In Open Women, Simmone Lyons stormed away with the win, putting close to a minute into second placed, Deborah Motsch and in Masters Men, Craig Wilson held onto the lead after grabbing onto it in the third stage of the day. Aaron Lyons sat in second, fifteen seconds back. Lisa Korthals took out Masters Women, more than one minute ahead of Lisa Ankeny while Kolt Hoyle took out the juniors after being in fourth place for the first three stages of the day.
Pemberton provided what we all love about the town; dry trails, a laid back scene and more good times on bikes among friends new and old. The race wasn’t without its problems, most of which related to timing, but for the most part all went well. The timing system used in Pemberton appears to have a personal vendetta with Jamie Levett, with not one time registered all day—his Four Kings event suffered a similar fate, nevertheless, he gets among it and throws down all in the name of fun. A number of riders are showing their versatility after the first two, quite different rounds and hopefully we will see a series standings board some time in the future.
This weekend the series moves to North Vancouver and yet another completely different type of riding. We’re also expecting rain for the next couple days, adding to the change in conditions and no doubt making things interesting as we move to the mid-point of the series.