James Rennie reports from the Opening Round of the North American Enduro Tour in Whistler

The first round of the North American Enduro Tour kicked off in Whistler this past weekend with an event dubbed the ‘Spring Classic’. The North American Enduro Tour attracts riders from all across North America so it was a good chance to race against some world class talent.

Saturdays practice was held in miserable conditions with persistent rain in Whistler village turning into dumping snow as riders ventured further up the mountain. The aim of the day was to just stay warm! I rode all four stages, including stage 3 which was under a considerable amount of snow by the time I got there! Things went well, with all the stages riding well in the wet conditions.

Race day dawned and the rain and snow had finally cleared, except on stage three which still had a decent dumping of the white stuff. The organizers made the decision to remove the stage from the race and run two runs on stage four, a relief to all riders.

The first stage of the day was a classic route down the Whistler Bike Park, starting with B Line before linking into Ninja Cougar, Samurai Pizza Cats and Ho Chi Min. I got in the groove early and was riding well, linking corners together nicely while taking it easy on the slick wooden bridges. I finished up 18th for the stage after taking a wrong turn at a trail intersection, a true brain fart on my part!

It was then on to stage two, the infamous ‘Hey Bud’ trail on Blackcomb Mountain. This trail was used at last year’s Enduro World Series race and with my mistake on stage one I was keen to make up some ground. Dropping in it was evident that the trail had changed a lot since practice the previous day, and the trail was running slow, taking a lot of energy to keep rolling. I pushed as hard as I could and just tried to keep the bike upright and moving forward, I ended up 12th. I move in the right direction.

The third and fourth stages were on ‘Golden Boner’ a track with a little bit of everything, from short rock slabs to tight turns and short climbs. Racing the stage twice meant it was a good opportunity to work on my race craft and try different approaches to the stage. I pushed hard on stage three down the trail, making a few mistakes and getting a little loose in sections ending up 13th for the stage. The second time down the trail for stage four I tried to carry more speed through the round sections and link together the turn’s smoother. I finished the stage tenth, nine seconds faster than the first run down the stage, even though I was noticeably more tired. This was a good learning exercise for me, something I will take into future races.

After all was said and done I finished the day in eleventh, a solid day on the bike and the first race in a while where I haven’t crashed. A step in the right direction.

Next race is the fourth round of the BC Enduro Series next weekend in Kamloops, this will be my 6th race weekend in a row so I am certainly looking forward to a bit of a break after that!