When Kasper Woolley has been on an Enduro World Series course so far in 2019, he's been a threat.
In his fourth completed race of the year, on Sept. 21 in Zermatt, Switzerland, the Squamish resident and Whistler regular took his third podium and best-ever finish with a second-place showing.
Woolley, competing in the U21 men's division, placed 26.46 seconds back of winner Antoine Vidal of France.
Even by enduro standards, Woolley said the day was tough, with the shortest stage of the day still clocking in at nearly six-and-a-half minutes. Not to mention, it was all done on a fairly challenging course.
"One stage was in the forest, but pretty much the whole race was alpine. Most of the stages were above 3,000 metres, so they were pretty high," he said. "I just had to ride the trails as is. The only thing it kind of compared to that I've ridden before is Top of the World in Whistler. It was like that, except a lot longer.
"It was just really rocky and they're all hiking trails, so they don't really flow that well."
The hiking-trail aspect of the course threw a bit of a wrench at Woolley, as it necessitated that he think differently about his path as he made it through.
"They're a lot more unpredictable," he said. "All of a sudden, there's a 90-degree corner that wouldn't be there if a mountain biker built it. It's really random, so you have to be a lot more on your toes and looking ahead to see those things coming a little bit more."
While Woolley said it's more common to ride similar hiking trails in Europe than in North America, he still felt on level footing with European racers who might be more accustomed to the feeling of facing switchback after switchback.
"The Europeans are a little more used to it, but everybody was not completely comfortable there," he said.
As well, with long, physically demanding stages at high altitude, the race was challenging on the body.
"It's a lot more difficult to recover after a hard effort. My throat was pretty much on fire the whole day," he said. "Since they were quite long, I was trying to stay smooth and consistent and not really try to push incredibly hard anywhere.
"I tried to dig deep on all the pedally sections. My strengths are descending, so I tried to manage that as best I could."
Woolley was speaking from Finale Ligure, Italy, where he will take part in the final EWS contest on the calendar, the Trophy of Nations race. Woolley has raced at the popular destination before, and expects he'll feel comfortable when racing goes down on Saturday and Sunday.
Another Squamish resident, Andreane Lanthier Nadeau, also hit the podium in second place, finishing 31.35 seconds behind winner Isabeau Coudurier of France, who swept the women's series. Lanthier Nadeau, meanwhile, wrapped up the season on the overall podium in third place with Israel's Noga Korem in second.
In the men's race, Whistler's Jesse Melamed wrapped up the season with a seventh-place finish en route to placing 11th overall. Melamed finished in the top 10 all but twice, when he crashed in Val di Fassa and here in Whistler when he was very much still feeling the effects of that crash.
"This was another testing year for me and I'm hanging on by a thread at this point. 11th overall considering my injuries may show how hard I worked but it doesn't show what I'm capable of, and for that I'm not satisfied. But I am proud knowing I left absolutely everything out there and I have nothing left to give," Melamed posted to Instagram after the race.
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