Sam Blenkinsop and Claire Buchar Win Garbanzo DH

New Zealand native Sam Blenkinsop, or Blenki, was the fastest man on the mountain today, clocking in at just over 13 minutes. Claire Buchar returned to the world stage of racing in a big way as well, winning the women’s category.

Words and Photos by David Peacock

The 2011 Garbanzo DH is finished, and for another year, the beast will remain dormant. Long renowned for its intensity and gruelling nature, the Garbanzo DH is one of the longest individual downhill races in the world. The fastest of riders, such as Sam Blenkinsop, ride the course in over 13 minutes. This year, the course was completely soaked as a result of a wet winter and unabated rain this month, which provided racers with more than enough challenges. Many of the world’s best, including Gee Atherton, opted not to race today because of course conditions.

The men’s top three were Sam Blenkinsop in first, Marcelo Gutierrez in second, and Jack Reading in third. On the women’s side of things, Canadian Claire Buchar (wife of pro downhiller Chris Kovarik) landed in first, with Manon Carpenter just behind her and local Miranda Miller rounding out the podium.

"That was hard. I hit a tree and it knocked all the wind out of me," said Blenkinsop. "It took me awhile to breath again after I got back on my bike. Compared to this race, the World Cup Downhills feel pretty easy. This is much longer than usual DH races, you can’t ride it 100 per cent all the way down."

The peak of the Garbanzo chair drops riders into snowy territory.

Not too shabby!

The top of the course is littered with scenic vistas and nervous mountain bikers.

The racers had plenty of room to get warmed up at the top.

A lovely mix of slop and snow serves as the groundwork for the upper section.

The ladies’ times were about 3 minutes behind their male counterparts.

The famous Garbo shale.

Claire Buchar en route to victory with a 16 minute time. Congrats Claire!

Miranda Miller from Squamish nabbed third spot, proving that local knowledge is a valuable asset.

Canadian National Junior champion Remi Gauvin is still looking for his break out race in the Elite division.

Even from this point it’s a long way down to the Whistler Village.

There are so many opportunities for riders to sprint throughout the race that it becomes a game of picking your spots in order to survive.

The jelly legs begin to set in somewhere around here…10 minutes to go…

Rocks, roots, mud. Three words that define the Garbo DH.

Kyle Sangors of Kingston, ON has been making waves in the Canadian DH scene but didn’t finish at the top today. Soon enough…

The light was fairly in and out, going from moody and dark to sunny in the span of a few minutes.

Marcelo Gutierrez is riding on the CG Brigade this year, and managed to score his best result of the season on the long track…he must be on CG’s training program!

Cam Cole was one of the few top riders who decided to race. Notable absentees were Danny Hart, Troy Brosnan, Brendan Fairclough and Gee Atherton.

Although he’s having a bit of an off year on the World Cup, Sam Blenkinsop is always a threat.

Blenki’s plate reads #5, but he was actually the last rider on track which made for a dramatic finish.

Left to right: Manon Carpenter, Claire Buchar, Miranda Miller.

Left to right: Marcelo Gutierrez, Sam Blenkinsop, Jack Reading.

That’s all we’ve got from the Garbanzo DH, congratulations to Blenki and Claire on the wins! We’ll be back with more from Crankworx tomorrow so stay tuned to Bikemag and remember to chime in on the Ridemonkey Live Thread.