Castlegar’s Shawn O’Keefe (right) rode to a runner-up position, losing to Kelowna rider Wes Booth in the Expert Men event.

Castlegar’s Shawn O’Keefe (right) rode to a runner-up position, losing to Kelowna rider Wes Booth in the Expert Men event.

Greater Trail mountain bikers race to podium at Nakusp enduro

Greater Trail riders went 1-2 at Nakusp Marin Wild Ride Enduro on Sunday

A handful of local mountain bikers braved the elements and breached the wilderness as Nakusp hosted the Marin Wild Ride Enduro last weekend.

The West Kootenay town was the first stop of eight on the Marin Enduro series this season, with the next stop in Kamloops this weekend before heading east to Quebec for the remaining six events.

About 80 racers, including Rossland racer Aaron Finke, Fruitvale’s JT Bjarnason, and Castlegar pedaler Shawn O’Keefe, competed in the event that ranged in categories from age 13-and-under racers to Elite Men and Women.

Racing in the rain on wet and muddy tracks provided some challenges for the racers, but in the end Finke and Bjarnson raced to first and second places respectively in the Junior Men category, with Finke coming in at 11:06.54 and eclipsing Bjarnason by just three seconds after six long stages of racing.

O’Keefe rode through 10 gruelling stages in Expert Men to finish in second behind Kelowna rider Wes Booth, who finished in 19:24.21.

For the 17-year-old Bjarnason, the event was a small departure for the avid mountain biker, who has raced on the BC Cup Downhill circuit for the past three years.

“In downhill you take a chairlift up and go top to bottom, but in this one you actually have to pedal up a designated trail to get to the staging area for the downhill attempt, shoot down … and repeat,” he explained.

Depending on the race category, each enduro is unique and will have a number of different tracks and anywhere from three to 10 stages that riders have to complete within a certain amount of time. Once the riders get to the top, they are timed only on their downhill runs. Nakusp had a 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. window, with four different tracks, which the racers would alternate on, until all their stages were finished.

Bjarnason, who captured the overall BC Cup Downhill title in U17 Sport in 2016, raced in his first enduro on Sunday, and found it uniquely challenging, in a way only enduro riders can appreciate.

“(On the sixth stage) My legs were cramping up really bad when I was about five minutes from the top so that was a little tough. But it wasn’t too bad, it was good fun.”

The trio will continue to race this summer doing a selection of enduro races in addition to competing on the BC Cup Downhill circuit beginning in Whistler, June 24.