Sun Peaks Dual Slalom wraps three weeks of head-to-head action in the CLIF Crankworx Summer Series, and crowns men’s overall champ.
The top qualifiers in today’s Sun Peaks Dual Slalom, while tired after 2.5 weeks of racing, came to win today. And win they did.
Vaea Verbeeck was the fastest among the Elite Women, making it a clean sweep of Dual Slalom across the series, having won in SilverStar and in Kicking Horse. The rider who calls Coldstream, B.C. home said the win was “definitely welcome” heading into the final two days of competition.
“It’s definitely getting to the points where we’re so tired, it’s a bit of a weird thing to process now,” said Verbeeck. The racers involved in the series have now completed 10 races in the past 16 days. “It’s not something I’ve dealt with before. This kind of tiredness. Usually I try not to stress mentally and just flow with it for fun, and now I’m so tired and beat that I just stress about that too.”
And as the series nears it’s close, the focus on the overall title has heightened. The athlete who secures the most points over the course of the series will earn the title of CLIF Crankworx Summer Series Champion, and an additional $10,000 prize.
“That’s something I’d usually like to have out of my mind,” added Verbeeck, who currently leads the overall by 70 points. “I’m stoked to race each race with those girls, and I’m stoked to see them perform really well. So usually I try not to think about it and it just turns out how it turns out but, right now, I don’t know why, I’m just so tired, I keep stressing about losing that edge that I have. I think today’s win might help me a bit to go back to my usual ways of just going with it and hoping for a good end to the week.”
Coming in a close second to Verbeeck was Whistler’s Georgia Astle. Heading into their first finals matchup, Astle seemed to have a slight lead, but Verbeeck surged in the last few corners. In their second matchup, Astle blew a gate. Verbeeck would take the win by an overall margin of 1.51 seconds.
“I think you can easily see improvements because we’ve had back-to-back weeks,” said Astle, who also took second in last week’s Psychosis DH in Golden. “My gates...every week, just a little bit more confidence, and getting more snap, which is very cool...I’m really happy with the overall skill development over the couple weeks. It’s been super fun.”
On the men’s side, Bas van Steenbergen gets his second of the series, fighting his way back up from his fourth place finish in last week’s Dual Slalom in Kicking Horse.
“Stoked,” said van Steenbergen, who beat out Finn Iles by a narrow margin of 0.34 after two. “It was good redemption from last week where I felt like I made some dumb mistakes. I felt a little more on it today.”
And while he was clearly riding strong, the win certainly didn’t come easy. Fighting for a place in the finals against Kasper Woolley, van Steenbergen went down at the last flag.
“A flag got stuck in my tire, so he thought he won, and we ended up having to do a re-run,” he said of his battle with Woolley. “That’s kind of a shitty one for him. But yeah, it’s tight racing.”
“It’s just a bit frustrating,” said Woolley, who ended his day in third. “I threw down my best lap, but it didn’t count for anything, but that’s the way it is. Out of my control.”
Despite the frustration, Woolley said he was stoked with his third place finish, which came against Mark Wallace. The two crossed the line dead even in their first matchup, with Woolley pulling ahead by only 0.09 in their second.
“I’m pretty stoked. I missed the Slalom last week, and the first week I did horrible, so I’m pretty happy to come third.”
One up from Woolley, and just narrowly missing the top stop, Iles had plenty to be happy about today. The points he earned push him to the top of the Elite Men’s overall standings by a large enough margin that he clinches the overall CLIF Crankworx Summer Series Champion title.
“I felt confident that I could compete for the overall,” said Iles, who said this takes some of the pressure off, but he’ll still be bringing his game face to the DH tomorrow. “I wasn’t sure I could win or what I could do, but I’m happy to have come out and have done what I’ve done to clinch the overall. Proud of myself.”
The downhiller, who 2.5 weeks in to the series has won four golds, four silvers, and one bronze, said it was today’s discipline that surprised him the most.
“I’ve hardly raced Dual Slalom but it’s one of the most fun events you could do. I think the head-to-head really adds that extra flair to the event. I kind of surprised myself the first week and from there I had a different confidence going in to the event.”
The course that challenged racers today was a purpose built 40+ second track at the base of the Sun Peaks Bike Park. It started off fast and flowy, with big rollers and some doubles, moving into a long series of flat grass turns that van Steenbergen described as “make or break.”