Chris Johnston counted his race as a well-earned redo Sunday, as he flew down many of the trails raced in the Enduro World Series crusher where he had a mechanical last month.
With all but one stage to his name at the end of the day, the Kitsilano, B.C. resident made the Whistler Fall Classic look like a walk in the park, but when The Top of the World is involved, this never the case. Just three weeks earlier, at the SRAM Canadian Open Enduro presented by Specialized, part of opening weekend at Crankworx, he had a mechanical on the iconic trail, leaving him out of contention for the win – though still Top 20.
“So that was pretty much the biggest home race of the year and it was really disappointing to get a flat tire on Stage 5. It was really cool for me to go out there today and ride, basically, some of the same trails that we did and this time of year, everything is slippery, a little bit of mud out there, so it’s a little bit more technical. I was loving it,” he said.
Johnston was followed by Evan Guthrie, in second, and Sheng Shan Chiang, third, and shared the top of the podium with Whistler’s Leonie Picton, who is having a tough, though successful, year.
Riding with a sore wisdom tooth, after a year of health issues, she was pleased to pick up the win—her second in a row, and sixth out of ten races this season.
“It was really cold this morning on Top of the World, but I rode all day today with my puffy jacket in my bag. So it was really good. Well prepared,” she said with a laugh. Asked about the hometown advantage, she noted she actually hasn’t been able to race in Whistler much this year.
“There’s only been three races in Whistler this season and I’ve only done two of them, so I mainly travel and race outside… I do like these trails – not that I ride them a lot – but they kind of feel familiar to me, whereas when you travel, like Revelstoke last weekend, that’s not the case,” she said.
Taking a step well outside her usual comfort zone, North American Enduro Tour leader Porsha Murdock was thrilled with the race. She pulled in a fifth place finish, adding to her substantial lead. While points have yet to be tabulated for the overall series, she is currently ahead of Lia Westermann by 250 points, 700 to 450, and Westermann did not race.
“The trails out here are really fun. Super rocky and rooty and technical, and fast and chunky. It’s got everything you could want out of a bike race,” she said.
Coming in from Bend, Oregon, an area typically characterized as flowy, she put in a 10-hour drive to ride the rougher trails and plans on doing the same for next weekend’s Kamikaze Bike Games in Mammoth, Mountain. One of the largest races going, at 600 people, it will be her sixth of seven NAET races.
“I like to follow a series. I think it’s really fun to race against the same people, or other people who are following the same series. Also, having the EWS qualifiers was a big thing for me; I wanted to get a few extra points, so that, hopefully, I can do a few more EWS races and get a little bit faster,” she said.
Five the NAET races are EWS qualifiers, meaning they offer points toward qualifying to race in the EWS next season.
In the men’s standing’s Josh Carlson has a 130 point lead over Chris Boice and 150 over Jubal Davis.
Standing from the Whistler Fall Classic:
1. Chris Johnston 24:27.19
2. Evan Guthrie 24:41.02
3. Sheng Shan Chiang 24:41.97
1. Leonie Picton 29:07.52
2. Laura Battista 29:09.91
3. Christina Chappetta 29:49.95