Looking Into the Eyes of the Storm
They smile for the camera — or not. Either way, the chances are good that there are a thousand random thoughts bouncing off of every corner of their brains. They deal with it the best way they can — they smile, laugh, fiddle with something on their bike. If they’re lucky enough to be having the day of their life, confidence keeps those extra nerves in check, and they’ll actually breathe deeply and easily and actually enjoy the astonishing views on Whistler’s Top of the World. But for most riders, the outward appearance is simply a mask to cover up the anticipation of what’s to come.
Top of the World marked the start of the second stage in Enduro World Series round number six. All of the riders knew that this would be the longest and most brutal stage of the day, with sections of terrain that could turn some of the best mountain bikers in the world into nothing but unwitting passengers.
The fastest time required 15 minutes and 15 seconds of perfect concentration and go-for-broke riding. And that means everyone else had to endure at least a little bit more torture.
At the bottom, after more than a quarter-hour of flat-out charging, the masks hiding pre-race nervous energy are gone — they’ve been beaten into submission by the track and a will to win. Beneath the full-face and goggles, there’s nothing left but the true signs of the effort just unfolded. And for a few seconds at least, the world’s best racers show us how hard their sport really is.
For most riders, that 15 minutes is likely among the longest of their lives.