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Whistler's Astle defends Garbanzo DH title

Squamish's Ainhoa Ijurko won the junior female event
Mitch Ropelato and Georgia Astle (centre) celebrate their Garbanzo DH wins alongside Casey Brown and Adrien Loron (left) and Bas van Steenbergen and Vaea Verbeeck(right) on Aug. 9

Though the Garbanzo DH race presents riders with an absolute monster of a course, with a seven-kilometre descent, it may not have even been the most taxing thing pro women's winner Georgia Astle did all day on Aug. 9.

"It was a hectic morning because my boyfriend [Trevor Burke], we drove down to Vancouver to get his permanent residency card, made it back in time for practice," the Whistler rider said. "This morning, Trev and I had a bit of a sprint through downtown Vancouver to get his passport photos.

"My legs are a little sore from that-I'm not a runner," she said with a chuckle.

Upon making it back up the Sea to Sky, Astle said her practice attempts were admittedly "weird," but she still defended her 2018 crown by descending in 13 minutes, 57.59 seconds (13:57.59). That was nearly 13 seconds up on runner-up Casey Brown and in an all-Canadian podium, Vaea Verbeeck took third, 33.3 seconds back.

Astle felt she used the practice runs to reacclimatize herself to the course, so by the time it counted, she had it nailed down once again.

"[In practice], I was all over the place, too fast in spots. I was blowing out corners," she said. "And then in my race run, I slowed it down, hit all the corners, and then pedalled my butt off.

"I've been riding with Vaea, and I've seen how fast she is. Casey as well. So in the back of my mind, I knew that I had to put a really good one down ... but I do have the experience and the local knowledge, so it all came together in my favour."

Astle didn't feel there was a target on her back as the defending champion, but

"I guess that makes it a little pressure the next couple years that I do it, but maybe [gives me] a little more confidence as well," she said. "I love the Garbo race, so bring it on."

On the men's side, American Mitch Ropelato won the Garbo for the first time, completing the course in 12:36.68, roughly 12 seconds up on runner-up Adrien Loron of France and nearly 20 seconds ahead of the third-place finisher, Canadian Bas van Steenbergen.

"I'm stoked. I've never won this one before, so it's exciting to get one in," he said. "I was just flowing, riding good. I'm feeling strong right now.

"I got excited when I got to the crest of the hill. I knew I was on a good time. I didn't think I had that big of a gap, but I knew I was on a good one."

On making it down such a long course, Ropelato said mindset is everything.

"You just think positive thoughts all the way down. When you're feeling tired, you just pedal harder," he said.

There was some local flavour on the podium in the amateur divisions, as Pemberton's Tegan Cruz topped the youth men 13-to-14 category with more than a 28-second advantage over runner-up Dani Castellanos of Spain.

"I was really focusing on getting down and just to keep pedalling because it's a very long track," Cruz said. "I was just saying in my head, 'Keep going, you can do it.'"

Squamish's Ainhoa Ijurko, wearing Spain's colours, won the junior female 13-to-18 event by more than a minute over second-place finisher Emmy Lan of Canada.

As well, Wei Tien Ho came out on top in the youth 15-to-16 event with nearly a 15-second cushion on American Christopher Grice. Another Whistlerite, Jack Linnell, took third. Meanwhile, Whistler's Craig Wilson was third in the veteran amateur 40-plus division as Spain's Chus Castellanos earned the win, while Noelle Floyd was third in the senior amateur 19-plus female division as Stepanka Nestlerova of Czechia took the victory.

Other winners were: France's Vincent Pierrot (senior amateur 19-to-29 male); Brazil's Wallace Miranda (master amateur 30-to-39 male); and Australia's Luke Meier-Smith (junior 17-to-18 male).

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